How To Stop Kids Lying and Stealing: A Parents' Guide


  1. Why is my child lying and stealing?
  2. Can lying and stealing be genetic?
  3. How do you deal with a child that steals?
  4. What do you do when your teenager lies and steals?
  5. How to punish a child for stealing money


It’s natural to be worried if you discover your child is lying and stealing. If you are unsure of how to help them stop this behaviour, here is our expert guide to help you understand and navigate this difficult situation. All while being a supportive parent to your child.teenager and parents arguing

Why is my child lying and stealing?


❇️  To get out of trouble.

❇️  To impress someone due to peer pressure.

❇️  To protect a friend.

❇️  To test boundaries with parents. 

❇️  To escape punishment.

❇️  To get parents’ attention.  


👉  Misconstructed Truth 


🔥 Expert Tip : “Sometimes kids don’t even know they are lying,” says Wells-based Elaine Hutchinson, the director of Creating Calm  and a creative play therapist. “They only remember their version of the truth.”

This is particular for kids with ADHD, as they can be extremely forgetful or just misunderstood. 🤯 

Often younger kids lie to explore the boundary between fantasy and reality. 

So they might make statements like – “fairies exist” or “I have a pony”, which isn’t true. 

🔥 Expert Tip : “Childrens’ lies can often tell us about their innermost desires and wants,” says Hutchinson. 

So believing in fairies can very well mean that kids are hoping for a miracle from a difficult situation. While telling their friends they have a pony can suggest they are looking for popularity amongst their peer group.   


👉  Mental Health 


Hutchinson also says that sometimes kids have high anxiety, so to “control” the situation they lie – again constructing the desired version of their truth. 


Can lying and stealing be genetic? 


It’s possible that pathological disorders (that are often genetic) can lead to kids stealing; like kleptomania (the recurrent urge to steal) or lying. Though Hutchinson says it's “very rare”. 

It’s best to seek mental health support and therapy if you feel your child has a compulsive lying and stealing pattern without any gain. 🤔 

Though these mental health conditions are different from child development stealing where it is “normal for a very young child to take something which excites his or her interest”

Stealing should only be considered when the child is five years or older and is mature enough to understand why stealing is wrong. 


How do you deal with a child that steals?


👉 Be Gentle 


Whether it’s a young child or a teenager, Hutchinson advises parents to be “gentle” in their questioning, when they feel their child is stealing or lying to them. ❤️

So instead of saying to your child– “Are you absolutely sure you are telling me the truth?”, a gentler approach would be – “Are you absolutely sure this is what happened?” 

Hutchinson feels that an empathetic approach will allow children to trust you and talk about why they are stealing and lying. As opposed to just disclosing the act. 

🔥 Expert Tip : “Another considerate way is just to give children another opportunity to tell you the truth,” says Hutchinson.

This way kids have time to reflect and also gather the courage to open up!  


👉 Identify The Cause 


🔥 Expert Tip : “Every behaviour is a communication pattern,” says Hutchinson. “Including lying and stealing.” 

Through lying and stealing, parents should try and see what kids are trying to tell them. 🗣

Most commonly kids and teens are just craving attention from parents or they are troubled and disturbed about something. 

Addressing those root causes can prevent further lying and stealing. 


👉 Set Family Rules 


🔥 Expert Tip : “When kids are young make telling the truth the rule in the family,” says Hutchinson. “To encourage honesty, parents should be role models as well.” 

Though Hutchinson adds that it’s important to have more nuanced discussions like truth v/s lying and compassion v/s honesty. 

Which means that if Grandma gave kids a rather itchy knitted jumper on Christmas, they should know that it’s more considerate to show appreciation than being honest that they’re unlikely to wear it! 😀  


👉 Discuss Consequences 


Hutchinson feels parents should let kids know one of the most serious consequences of lying and stealing: it makes it difficult for people to trust you. 

Knowing this consequence will encourage kids towards a genuine apology, promise to change their behaviour and be more honest in the future. 👊  

🔥 Expert Tip : “Sometimes, kids are harder on themselves than parents,” says Hutchinson. “So they will make efforts to change their behaviour if they are aware of the consequences.”


What do you do when your teenager lies and steals?


Just like for younger children, challenging behaviour in teens like lying and stealing also reveals a communication pattern.  

🔥 Expert Tip : “Parents must take care not to attack their teens for lying and stealing,” says Hutchinson. “Instead take a step-back and listen to them. Try and come up with ways together to help fix the problematic behaviour.” 


What to do when your grown child steals from you? 


Hutchinson advises parents to “reduce opportunities” for your grown child to steal from you. Which means consciously not leaving money and change lying around in the house. 💵 💵 💵

🔥 Expert Tip : “Kids are less likely to take money from parents’ wallets or purses,” she says. “As that requires more effort and feels far more wrong.”   

Hutchison also adds that usually kids steal money because they might be being bullied (including bullying on social media online).

So when they steal, children are often motivated by the fact that there are deeper consequences from the bully if they don’t steal, than from parents if they do steal. 

So getting your grown child to open up about those fears will help prevent further stealing. 


How to punish a child for stealing money?  


When kids are stealing money, Hutchinson advises against punishment.  

🔥Expert Tip : “The problem with punishment is that children will lie or steal more to escape it.” 

Instead, she says introduce “natural stealing consequences” to kids. 

So if the money that kids stole was reserved for family expenses – let them know that now the family can’t have a fun day at the local fair.

This way the onus is put back on the child and they are more likely to stop their stealing behaviour. ✊ 

For Hutchinson lying and stealing by kids is “extremely natural” so parents need not be too alarmed. 

Though no matter what your parenting style, Hutchinson feels you should let kids know that as parents “ you are always there to listen to them” and help them through the most challenging of situations. Much like GoStudent does when it comes to students’ academics!🚀

Through this supportive approach, you can help your child navigate right and wrong and prevent behaviour like lying and stealing!     Start your kid’s learning journey