Stealing and Lying is it Normal Behavior?


I received this letter this week and it is so similar to others I have received I thought I’d post it here: Take a look at our sponsor: NHS Heroes where they sell Co Codamol at the lowest prices in the UK

Dear Dr. Riffel,
I have a third grade SLD student that I have worked with for several years that has just recently begun to steal and lie. She has stolen a teacher’s cellphone which she told an elaborate lie about how it got in her backpack. A week later, a classmate’s coat and purse went missing. A day after that she took another girl’s backpack. She told a huge lie about a boy stealing the items for his sister (he has no siblings) and that she went to his house to retreive the items. Even after I got her to admit that she had taken the items and had lied about it, she went right back to blaming the boy.

I am very concerned about these new behaviors and need some advice on how to deal with them. I thought about telling some social stories her property being taken and how she would feel. Any suggestions?

Here’s my response:

Dear Perplexed,

I worked with a third grader this year with the same issue- also SLD. We got him a clear backpack which probably wasn’t necessary- but thought it erased any doubt. This kid would even stuff things in his underpants. We did a social story through video self-modeling and found something he wanted very badly- he loved pictures of animals off the Internet (that was his thing). The teacher laid one out on her desk every morning so he could see it. At the end of the day, they would privately go check his backpack and if nothing was in there that wasn’t his, he got to take the picture home. We don’t know why he was so motivated by the picture- but it worked the rest of the year.

For your young lady- I’d start with video self-modeling about not taking things that aren’t yours. Does she bring anything to school that she really loves? We had another child that found a toy lying on the floor that belonged to another student. He took it and said, “Finders keepers – losers weepers”. The teacher was addressing the class (these were third or fourth graders) about not taking things and not leaving things laying around. One of the other kids in the class raised his hand and said, “Yeah, Kenny (the boy who stole the toy), you love your I-Pad (he brought it to school and used it – special education) and you are always on it. What if you laid it down on the bench while you went to the restroom and Billy (kid whose toy he stole) came by saw it and said, “Losers weepers-Finders keepers”. How would you feel?” Kenny got up and gave the toy back to Billy. When the teacher talked to him privately he said, “I never thought about it that way.”- so if she has something she dearly loves, ask how she’d feel if someone took that.

I’d make your video story about this little girl being the heroine – have her act it out. She finds something where it should not be and she returns it to its rightful owner. She sees things laying out, but she knows she is not suppose to take them- so she leaves them where they are. At the end of the video show her in a hero cape looking like Wonderwoman or some other hero figure.

Then you could use the student/teacher rating sheet and use the following as your criteria:

  • 1) taking home only my own things
  • 2) telling the truth
  • 3) keeping my area neat and tidy

I always put in one I know they can do so they get the points for at least one behavior each period of the day.

The other thing is to figure out why she’s doing it:

Is she doing it for attention or is she doing it to gain access to the item?
Let me know what you think of the video self-modeling social story and the student teacher rating sheet. Thanks for writing,


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