Some of our pupils may have developed a light fingered approach to meeting their needs. Stealing can often be a sign of a very unhappy home-life. It is possible that the child has not absorbed enough positive comments and experiences in the Early Years. They may see themselves as unloved, unworthy and generally lack confidence. Their self-esteem will be quite low and they may find it difficult to make positive choices. Sometimes the child will seek positive rewards in negative ways.
The first time a child steals, their body is gratified with feel good chemicals. Dopamine (a neurotransmitter in the brain) is released, which increases the feeling of pleasure. Sometimes children have natural issues with low serotonin ( The neurotransmitter responsible for mood and emotion regulation) and may seek to raise this through their actions.
Those feel good chemicals, can be achieved in various other more positive ways. Therefore, as a way forward rather than shaming the child, is better to try to channel their behaviour by offering alternatives and praising them for making those choices. Simple hugs can release Oxytocin in the brain, which has a natural calming/relaxing feeling. Serotonin is also produced. A hug also deepens relationships offering a sense of safety that might be lacking in the child’s life.
For example, in our unit we have introduced ‘Huggy time’. When the hug symbol is up on the wall, pupils can ask each other or staff for a hug. We have observed the positive effects on anxiety levels across the whole Nurture group since its introduction.
It is really important to address this issue in Education and not assume Parents will deal with the issue at home. It is also important to avoid public shaming of the child – they already feel bad- that is why they do it. Left unsupported, a child who steals can develop kleptomania, which has implications on other Mental Health issues. There is also the possibility of getting into trouble with the authorities.
For further reading on kleptomania see this link…