Many 10-year-olds steal money from their parents so their behavior is not necessarily a reflection on your skills as a parent. Reasons 10-year-olds steal vary, depending on their motivations, problem-solving ability and level of impulse control. However, understanding the cause for the stealing helps parents identify what to do about it.
Lack of Understanding
Although your 10-year-old probably understands stealing is wrong, he may not fully grasp all the ramifications of his actions. Try saying, "Taking this money is disrespecting my things. I don't disrespect your things and you do not disrespect mine." Act swiftly and consistently; parents who fail to punish a 10-year-old who steals inadvertently send a message to the child that this behavior is acceptable.
Use a time out, by having your child sit in a quiet corner. Generally, parents limit the time out to one minute for every year of age of the child so the punishment is not excessive. A 10-year-old would get 10 minutes in time out.
Testing Limits and Boundaries
Ten-year-olds sometimes steal because they are testing limits and boundaries, they think stealing is effective or easy or they cannot control their own impulses. Take the money back and provide a more in-depth explanation of why taking money from you is wrong. Empathize with your child but continue to hold limits. Try saying, "I understand you were frustrated, but stealing is never a good solution." Maintain your power by remaining calm and unemotional.
Your 10-year-old may be trying to get even with you. Explain to her that even though she has a right to be angry, she does not have a right to steal from you. Remain calm to maintain control. Remove privileges or cherished items in a time-limited manner, telling her clearly what she has to do to earn the privilege or item back. Stay firm; this consequence is not negotiable.
Seek Professional Help
Stealing sometimes continues despite your efforts to discuss the matter and set limits with your child. A bad habit is forming if your 10-year-old maintains the behavior despite increasingly strict discipline or the frequency or amount stolen increases over time. Ten-year-olds who are developing a problem take increasingly risky chances to steal and report getting a thrill out of the behavior. Seek the help of a licensed mental health professional to address stealing that appears to have become a bad habit. Both individual and family therapy may be necessary to adequately address the problem.