It's that time of year when the little ghouls get ready to shake down the neighborhood for all the candy they can get.

And you're rubbing your hands together wondering what sweet treasures they'll bring home.

But you'll need a few tricks to get those treats. When the kids return, maybe you could remind them not to eat it all at once — "It isn't going anywhere!"

The thing is, it is going somewhere: your belly. Because under the cover of night, while those sweet souls are sleeping, you'll be rummaging through their bags. And lining your belly with the sweet fruit of child labor.

Don't beat yourself up. When it comes to your kids' Halloween haul, you're not the only one with sticky fingers.

In fact, a new survey sheds light on just how prevalent Halloween candy thieving is among parents. Among the 2,000 American adults polled, a whopping 86 percent admitted to candy larceny, skimming around a quarter of the kids' Halloween stash.

The research, which was commissioned by Crest, suggests parents aren't just taking a little off the top either. They're seizing every moment to go back for more.

In fact, parents exact a secret tithe of about a quarter of a kid's Halloween stash.

Being in the oral hygiene — rather than the snitching — business, Crest also surveyed parents on tooth-brushing habits. Seven in 10 respondents said they made their kids double up on brushing and flossing around Halloween. And 41 percent of parents surveyed claimed to serve healthier dinners over that time. Most parents — 63 percent — also enforced strict limits on how much candy their kids could inhale in one sitting.

The trouble is, in light of their candy-stealing confession, it's hard to know if parents are acting all, you know, parental for the good of the children.

Or for the good of their own insatiable candy lust.

Kids eating Halloween candy Most parents surveyed did limit their child's candy intake — but their motivations for doing so are unclear. (Photo: Roman Samborskyi)

After all, we're not talking about pre-emptive pilfering. You know, when you get those big bags of chocolate bars before Halloween and carefully "sort" through them, keeping the good ones for your own private larder? (Yeah, we do that, too.)

We're talking about stealing from sleeping children. Maybe these paretns do serve healthy meals afterward. Or make the kids brush their teeth with extra vigor.

But maybe that's only to ease a guilty conscience. After all, Halloween tends to make monsters of us all.

Or, as parent-from-hell Margaret White remarked in the 1976 horror classic, "Carrie": "These are godless times, Mrs. Snell."

Stealing candy from children? You're not alone
A new survey suggests nearly 90 percent of parents steal candy from their kids.