Help! My Teenager was Caught Stealing. How Should I Handle the Situation?

Shopping mallMost teenagers enjoy hanging out at the mall for several hours on the weekends so that they can spend time with their friends and window shop, unless they have money to spend.  In fact, I remember doing this when I was a teenager, I enjoyed roaming around the mall and catching up with my friends.  Most teenagers can be trusted and won’t cause trouble when they without parental supervision.  However, some will go against what they were taught and will cave into peer pressure or they really want something but don’t have the money to pay for it.  So they will come up with a plan to steal or shop lift the item that they really want.  Most kids aren’t thinking and don’t want to wait until they have the money to purchase it the right way.  Instead, they decide to steal it and hope that they don’t get caught.  Instant gratification will cause problems with the law and with a teens parents.

Disclosure:  The story above is fictional and was used as an illustration so that parents can understand how to deal with a similar situation.  Please seek help from a licensed counselor or psychiatrist for additional help.  This post is for informational purposes only.

Example of a Teenager Caught Stealing/Shop Lifting

Johnny decided that he couldn’t wait until he had the money for a t-shirt that he saw on a rack at a local store at the mall so he decides to go to the dressing room to try it on.  Once he has the shirt on, he decides to keep the shirt on and put his regular clothes back on over it.  Then he walks out of the dressing room empty handed and the clerk peers over to see if he has come out of the dressing room with the merchandise that he took into the dressing room to try on. Of course, Johnny has no clue that the clerk was on to him because he was talking to his friends and acting normal.  The clerk walks back to the dressing room to see if he happened to leave the item in the dressing room or on the rack near the dressing room that holds the items that customer’s decide that they don’t want to purchase after all.  The clerk doesn’t find the shirt in the dressing room or hanging on the rack.  So she goes back to the register and calls mall security. Johnny and his friends decide to move on to another store and as they are heading towards another store, they notice that mall security is following them around.  They begin to chuckle and they begin to wonder why they are being followed.  Johnny’s friends have no idea that he just stole a shirt from the previous store. The security guard taps Johnny on the shoulder and asks to speak to him.  His friends just watch as the security guard begins talking to Johnny. The next thing Johnny is being escorted to the security office and he is searched.  The security guard quickly figures out that Johnny has on the shirt he stole underneath his clothes.  The guard places handcuffs around Johnny’s wrists and they tell him to sit down in the chair.  Next, the security officer begins asking Johnny a series of questions. After Johnny answers all of their questions, the security guard calls Johnny’s parents and informs them of Johnny’s actions.  His mom answered the phone and was devastated that her son decided to steal from a store, especially, when she had plenty of money to purchase the shirt if Johnny had only asked her.  The security guard contacts the local police department.

Continue Reading: How to Handle Your Teenager Stealing in a Calm, Loving Manner



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18 Responses

  1. Unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with this personally. It’s a tough situation. Especially when you have a child that doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. Good post.

    • Christy says:

      I am sorry that you had to deal with this. When I was doing research on this topic, habitual stealing usually has an underlying problem and the stealing is basically a cry for attention. April, I hope that your child will learn from his/her mistakes before it causes greater problems in their life.

  2. Sara says:

    I hope to never be in this situation! When I was younger I can remember going to the grocery store with my mom and throwing a pack of gum into the grocery cart. She didn’t notice so when we got home she thought that it had been stolen and made me bring it back to the store and apologize. Even though it was unintentional on my part the lesson stuck with me for years. If it were me I would try to be understanding but firm with my child.

  3. I agree- find out why they stole in the first place. It’s disappointing but probably not the last mistake they will make.

  4. Your advice is wise, whether stealing or any other issue. Keeping an open line of communication makes all the difference in the world… though in tough situations, that’s hard to do. I know firsthand… my teen went to bed angry tonight. :(

  5. Tom Holmberg says:

    Wow this would be a tough situation for any parent. This is great advice for all the parents out there. Great post!

  6. This post although very serious brought back a moment not too long ago that made me chuckle. My young grandson, age 3 was grocery shopping with me. As most stores do, this one had the gum and candy display handily at the check out low enough for even a crawling infant to reach. I wasn’t paying attention while paying for my purchase until as we exited the store I notice him chewing on something. We stopped, I searched only to find he had taken a candy bar, opened and eaten it. We marched right back inside, I made him tell the clerk and hand him the money. Winking at me, the clerk squatted down and with a straight face proceeded to tell my toddler that it is wrong to steal. We must pay first then we can eat our food. My grandson has never taken another item from the store. Lesson learned.

    • Christy says:

      I remember my mother doing the same thing Carla when me,my brother, or even my own children accidentally took something we were marched back into the store and pay for it.

  7. Katrina says:

    I have mixed view on this. I was the child that stole and was caught and feared for my life. I told the cop that I was a “dead” kid if my parents found out. So they called them, Dad followed through and I had to deal with the consequences of my actions. Never did it again. Lesson learned. I think that kids need to realize that what they do has an impact. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

    • Christy says:

      Awww I can understand your fear of upsetting your father. However, he followed through and enforced the consequences so that you wouldn’t do it again. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  8. Sharon O'Day says:

    I’ve lived in countries where children stole out of need … hunger being the major one. That’s almost understandable. But what motivates a child to steal when he or she can afford the item? For the thrill? The challenge? The adrenaline high? For attention? So many possible reasons … all of which need to be addressed constructively.

  9. This is the part of parenting I’m glad to have missed…yikes…

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