How do I get my 3 year old to stop stealing and understand why he is doing it?

Question: My three-year-old son is strong willed and is without a father. He has one younger brother that is 2. He is very sneaky and leaves his room at night to take things mostly from the kitchen, even though he is well aware of the consequences.


I also don't understand why he is taking food when he is well fed. I have been consistant with the discipline, but he will not stop. I have resorted to prevention by locking him in his room at night, but he managed to get out and do it anyway.

Answer: Children at this age are still learning about the difference between stealing and taking something they think is for anyone to have. This may be especially difficult to understand in relation to food in the kitchen, which he generally has access to during the day.

I would focus more on why he is trying to get food in the middle of the night and whether there may be an underlying issue.

Sometimes if the quality of food a child eats during the day does not meet nutritional needs, the child will constantly feel hungry. It's the body's way of trying to get what it needs.

So, even if the child may have eaten an entire pizza for dinner, if there weren't a lot of vitamins consumed the child may still feel hungry later. Pizza actually has a very small amount of vitamins as the dough is refined flour and most children don't eat vegetables on it.

Getting a high quality vitamin supplement is one way to help this, as well as increasing raw fruits and vegetables. High fiber foods will help him to feel more full and should also be eaten regularly throughout the day.

You may want to consider keeping a food journal for him to see exactly how much he is eating and to keep track of nutritional consumption.

Another possibility may be that he is taking foods he is not allowed full access to during the day, such as cookies, cakes etc. This could be solved by putting all of these occasional treats in a locked cabinet or not having them in the house (consumed at restaurants as a special treat). Children are still learning self control and high sugar foods are addictive to everyone not just children.

The other possibility is that if he has a diet full of fruits and veggies and eats large amounts, but is still constantly hungry then you might want to have him checked for Prader-
Willi Syndrome.

The features of this disorder includes short stature, characteristic behavior problems, and an insatiable appetite. It can be diagnosed with a blood test that identifies a specific gene associated with the disorder.

Return to Behavioral Questions page


Return to Home page

Click here to post comments

Return to Ask a question.

Return to Home page