A lesson that benefits children is that trust gets them a long way, and stealing makes it very hard for others to trust them. If a child steals determine if it is a pattern or a one-off incident.
If your child is a pre-schooler explain that it is wrong, and that others are hurt, annoyed or upset by it. It’s important that your child return the item, and that they apologise or pay for it.
School-aged children generally know that stealing is wrong and need to practise restitution (i.e. return or pay back the item) and apologise. Discuss how stealing violates the issue of trust.
Teenaged children sometimes steal for the thrill or excitement that it brings; to fit in with peers or as a form of rebellion against tight control.
Some also steal due to peer pressure. Have an appropriate conversation about trust, peer pressure or other issues you’ve highlighted; practise restitution and avoid over-reacting.
Sometimes stealing can reflect other problems and can be a call for help. Find out if there are underlying problems and address these.