My younger sister is 15 years old. We grow up in a single parent family. She has the bad habit of stealing money, which began when she was very young and still continues.

We punished her - sometimes we will hit her - and we told her very grimly that she can not do this again, but to no effect. After a few days, she forgot. She loves lying to us after she stole money. I know that the physical and verbal punishment is not effective, so I'm going to tell her the worse consequence is taking her to the police the next time she does it.

We have tried asking her why, but she did not tell us. She was always silent. We give her a limited amount of money to spend every day, but she wants to buy many things she likes.

How can her behavior be stopped?

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    What have been the past consequences for her stealing? Has she suffered consequences at all? Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 16:42
  • We punished her, sometimes we will hit her, and told her can not do this again very grimly, but no effect, after a few days she forgot. She loves lying to us after she stealing money.
    – TEO
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 8:36
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    @TEO beyond enjoying lying and stealing - why do you think she does it? Is it for attention, an adrenaline rush? Her history of continuing to steal after physical and verbal punishment demonstrates that she is willing to withstand the punishment because the reward for stealing still outweighs her consequences. Ultimate goal: Discover the WHY and address that WHY. Stopping theft behavior is probably merely treating a symptom. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 13:48
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    I have to mention also that it bothers me to hear that a child is being struck as punishment for wrong-doing, but I know that is legal in some countries. And I had the thought that in countries where it is legal to strike women and children, it may be harder for her to find a legal way to EARN money rather than stealing it.
    – MAA
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 17:23
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    Have you considered that she does not tell you why she is stealing because she is afraid of being hit again or "punished" (abused?) in a worse way? Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 18:20

4 Answers 4


There are many reasons people may steal and the key to resolving the issue would be first to identify for the cause. For example, does she still for;

  • monetary gain

  • attention

  • lack of impluse control

  • ethical dilimemmas or lack of ethics.

These are a few examples of many. In same cases, you may be able to simply ask someone why they steal to identify their motivation.

Once motivation is identified, you will have to determine how to change the perceived outlook.

Provide more details on the motivation and I can provide solutions.


If she's bold enough to steal from you and family then she's old enough to have her personal items taken. She's 15. She's going to sass and be grumpy anyway. May as well dish it right back. I'm not saying it's right but sometimes the shock factor is enough.


Sometimes, the best way to make kids understand some things/habits is not by explaining them what's right or wrong but by telling them what's cool or not. You should tell your sister casually that "stealing is not cool", even if it's from your father. Instead, earning money for what you want is cool. In fact, it makes that thing you want even more precious for you when you buy it.

Lastly, you should assure your sister that you live and earn for your sister herself and that she doesn't need to steal as she will never be refused to be given money (till the demand is reasonable).


Just give her money. She would not have a reason for stealing. Later you can explain to her why stealing is not good.

I'm pretty sure this would work much better then punishment or earning money etc..

  • Downvoted because the OP states that she receives money. Therefore, why would giving her more money work? Can you explain? Common sense indicates the contrary. How every parent wishes “give kids what they want and they will leave you alone” would work, but it doesn’t. They just come back again and again with their hand out.
    – Jax
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 20:13

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