Young children often don't understand that taking something they want is wrong.

How to Know if a Child Stole Your Money

by Chelsea Fitzgerald

The suspicion that your child has stolen money from you is hurtful. The concept is a foreign one to many parents who want to believe that their child is incapable of such behavior. But, take heart and understand that young children have little impulse control. If they see something that they want, their impulses tell them to take it without much thought. Also keep in mind that the brains of toddlers and preschool-aged children aren't developed to fully recognize the differences between right and wrong, according to the Empowering Parents website.

Watch for the missing money when cleaning your child’s bedroom or playroom. Young children are not adept at hiding objects well. Discovering the money in your child’s jean pocket or tucked in his underwear drawer likely means he took it. Another telltale sign is if he asks for a new toy and he suddenly has a way to pay for it.

Ask your child directly if he took money from you. Search his facial expressions for tension or anxiety. Is he avoiding eye contact with you?

Watch his body language when you question him. If he starts fidgeting or squirming uncomfortably, this is a sign that he either took the money or saw someone else take it.

Listen to his voice when he answers. If it is a higher pitch than normal, this is a common signal that he is telling a fib. Stalling and long pauses also indicate guilt.

Kneel down to your child's eye level and place your hands on his shoulders. Calmly explain that lying about stealing the money is just as bad as doing it. Tell him if he is honest with you, the punishment will be adjusted accordingly. If he fears being yelled at, he might lie just to avoid a harsh situation.

If he blames the theft on others, tell him you are going to speak with others who may have been involved. If he is guilty, he will likely cough up the truth when he knows you will involve others.

Thank him for telling the truth if he admits to the theft and insist on an apology. Caution him that in the future, you will be watching him closely. Explain that once trust is gone, it is difficult to earn back.


  • Stealing money may not be as simple as wanting it and then taking it. Your child may be dealing with issues that cause him undue stress, such as overhearing an argument between you and your spouse, bullying, or difficulty in feeling a part of his playgroup. He also may have stolen the money in an effort to get attention. Spend more time with him if this is the case. Get to the root of the problem and resolve it, particularly if he has stolen money before.

About the Author

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.

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