How to Stop a Child from Stealing

Instructor: Shannon Orr
As a teacher, you have the power to help create productive, law-abiding citizens. This lesson discusses why teachers should address issues of stealing within the classroom and gives suggestions for prevention, as well as how to handle situations in which stealing has occurred.

It Is Everybody's Problem

As a teacher, you may never think about what type of adults your students may become, or you may simply assume that every student who crosses your path will ultimately become an upstanding citizen. No one wants to admit that he or she taught the most wanted criminal, but the reality is that every criminal was once a student sitting in someone's classroom. What if you could help create law-abiding citizens? Well, you can! Encouraging positive behavior in the classroom can help plant the seeds of positive decisions throughout life. Every individual who plays a key role in children's lives can help shape the individuals they ultimately become.

Preventing the Problem

Stealing is taking someone's property without permission. The first step in preventing students from becoming thieves is addressing the situation before it becomes an issue. Teachers should include a section about respecting others' property into the class rules and be sure to introduce the rules at the beginning of the school term. In addition, teachers should review these rules throughout the year. Teachers should present various situations and allow students to offer ways in which they would handle them. For example, students could be asked what they would do if they saw a $5 bill on the classroom floor. After students have given their opinions, the teacher should explain what is expected of the students in his or her classroom so that every student knows how to respond to that event.

Students should also be advised not to bring certain items to class so the potential for having items taken is eliminated. Students should avoid bringing electronic devices, as well as large amounts of cash. Cash amounts exceeding a few dollars and/or electronic devices should be left at home or taken to the office so that they can be secured until the end of the school day. Students should also be encouraged to tell a teacher if they see or hear anything suspicious. If students think about how they would feel if their property was taken, they may be more likely to make good decisions.


How to Handle the Problem

Some problems aren't created in the classroom. Some students deal with one or both parents not being there, lack of money or food, and even physical and/or emotional abuse. As the teacher, you must strive to reach every student and help them become the best person they can be. When faced with a situation in which a student has violated his or her trust with you as the teacher or with another student, it is easy to want to push that student away. The student's actions, however, may actually be a cry for help. For example, the student may be going through a situation at home or being bullied, and their actions are actually a cry for help. Some students want attention so badly that even negative attention is sought. Other students may simply lack the understanding that what they are doing is wrong. They may simply feel that they haven't done anything wrong because their intention is to return whatever they have taken.

Just like addressing the issue is an important part of preventing the problem, addressing the issue is essential to responding to the problem as well. As soon as a teacher discovers that someone's property has been taken, it is important to find out who the culprit is. Once the person has been identified, verbal correction needs to occur. The student must be told that their actions are unacceptable in order to eliminate the possibility that the student is unaware the action was wrong. Parents or guardians should also be notified and proper disciplinary action should be implemented.

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