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Putting a Stop to Stealing - A CBT Game for Children

Updated: Jan 1

Putting a Stop to Stealing is a cognitive behavioral therapy game for children

Putting a Stop to Stealing is a CBT game to help children stop stealing. The game helps to identify the motivation for stealing behavior and to help put together a plan of action to meet needs in alternative ways. The game will challenge children to evaluate self-talk and beliefs as well as introduce cognitive behavioral therapy skills to rescript and challenge irrational beliefs.

Putting a Stop to Stealing gameboard

Children will steal for many different reasons. Many children simply need to learn the consequences of behavior and recognize that they cannot just take what they want. Other situations can be much more complicated. Is this behavior a result of anxiety? Is it a response to trauma? Does the child have developmental delays? It is important to get a feel for the scope of the problem and various issues that may be influencing the behavior. The game will help to identify many of these issues in a non-confrontational way.

Stop and Think cards help kids consider the consequences of their behavior

Impulse Control

The "Stop and Think" cards help children with impulse control issues that lead to stealing. They challenge kids to consider the consequences of their actions and help to develop strategies to prevent acting without thinking. These cards also challenge thoughts that lead to stealing and help children to consider different ways of thinking.

Thankfulness cards help kids focus on what is good in their lives


Attitude matters. The "Thankfulness" cards help kids focus on what they have and what they are thankful for rather than dwelling on what they do not have. A change in attitude can help lead to a change in behavior. They highlight the benefit of redirecting thoughts to the positive to avoid pitfalls.

Empathy helps kids consider how their behavior impacts others.


Kids often struggle to think about how their behavior impacts others. Empathy is key to changing behavior. Many kids have had a casual attitude about taking things from others, but when asked how they would feel if I stole from them, they have a quick change in attitude. The "empathy" cards help them consider how others feel, often resulting in a change in their behavior.


Submerged: A Game About Buried Emotions


Making a plan can help children avoid stealing

Develop a Strategy for Change

The "Making a Plan" cards help children develop a strategic plan for when temptation comes so that they are better prepared to make good choices. There are many interventions to set kids up for success. Here are a few that I have had success with in my practice:

  • Accountability: Check pockets and backpacks daily until the behavior dies out. Kids are less likely to continue stealing if they get caught every time. Some families include the school or daycare staff in this, making sure that nothing slips by. Some parents have sewn pockets shut and/or have provided a clear backpack to make the contents visible.

  • Rewards for Success: If a child feels that they will never get what they want, it can lead to feeling like stealing is the only way. Providing alternative ways to get what they want can help. This might be getting a treat for going a week without stealing. Perhaps it is starting a system at home where the child can get paid for doing chores, offering an opportunity to earn what they desire.

  • Plan for Temptation: Kids are going to face temptation. It is important for them to learn how to stop and think of consequences, consider how their behavior would impact others, think of alternative ways to address the situation and find people who can help. Support figures can go a long way. This might be going to a teacher and discussing frustration that other kids have what the child wants. Just being able to voice the frustration can help. Maybe it is singing a song in their head, thinking of a happy memory, or doing a tapping coping skill to feel better. Using a coping skill toolbox may help as well.

Putting a Stop to Stealing is a game to address stealing with children

While addressing stealing can be complicated and may have other factors at play, this game can help to identify the motivation for stealing. Cognitive behavioral therapy skills as well as coping skills can help kids overcome temptation and developing a plan of action can help set kids up for success. The game is available as a hard copy, a PDF download, and for telehealth.


Other Helpful Resources:

A CBT counseling game for stealing


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