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Ask Dr. Ed Wilfong Your Own Question
Dr. Ed Wilfong
Dr. Ed Wilfong, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1528
Experience:  Twenty-five years treating all ages; Specialities: psychopharmacology & diagnosis, MMPI-2, testing.
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My six year old grandaughter has been stealing items from her

Customer Question

My six year old grandaughter has been stealing items from her stepmother's jewelery box and also toys from her baby half brother's cot. Some of the items of jewelery were quite expensive. Is stealing attention seeking or is it caused by jealousy. I wonder if the behaviour is because she feels outside this family unit (she lives with her mother) and she visits fortnightly and in holidays. Her stepmother has been very good with her so far and gives her lots of attention as does her father but her behaviour is causing trouble in the family. She is a very bright little girl and can suss things out quickly. What do you think?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Ed Wilfong replied 7 years ago.
Your theory of attention seeking and jealousy are both good ones. Also being able to cause problems and disrupt a family is a very powerful thing for a 6 yr old to be able to do. At a time in her development when she is exploring (quite naturally) her control over her world (a developmental stage called mastery - she is trying to learn what she can control and how). Unfortunately she has found a very powerful tool.

I highly recommend two books - either is fine, by Dr. Rudolf Driekers. They are old but still the best I have seen.

"Children the Challenge" and
"A Parent and Teacher's Guide to Natural and Logical Consequences"

These should give great strategies to deal with this, but everybody needs to get on board with them. The books are readily available at major books stores or at
Customer: replied 7 years ago.


Yes, thank you, XXXXX XXXXX do children steal and how should this behaviour be dealt with?

Expert:  Dr. Ed Wilfong replied 7 years ago.
Honestly, I think your ideas on jealousy and attention are not far off. There are many variations in the entire family dynamics that could contribute. I honestly believe the books will give you many more ideas and options for this than I can, even if I type for a couple hours. The books are very sensible and practical approaches to many problems like this. If I had a better answer, I would give it to you. I will tell you that these are the only two books on this topic I ever recommend. Even if I could tell you why and how to address it, who knows what behavior will happen next. The books are a good guide for dealing with all behavior with a consistent and constructive approach.

On a practical level, the family may want to place valuables where she cannot get to them until this passes.