Continued From: “Help! My Teenager was Caught Stealing. How Should I Handle the Situation?”
Parents have you ever received a call from mall security or the police department letting you know that they just caught your teenager stealing? If so, you aren’t alone and you aren’t the first parent who has had to deal with this type of behavior. It is important that you handle the situation in a calm and loving manner so that you don’t push your teenager away. In fact, if you do find out that your child is stealing or suspect that they are it is important that you find out the underlying issue that is motivating them to steal.
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.
Why Do Teenagers Steal?
Teenagers steal for a variety of reasons and you should expect to hear one the following reasons, as their excuse for stealing, when you confront them for their actions: they really wanted an item but didn’t have money for it, they felt that you wouldn’t buy them the item that they really wanted because you usually say no to their requests (don’t give into everyone one of your child’s wants because you don’t want to create a sense of entitlement but you want them to realize that you understand that clothes and electronics is important to them), they did it out of boredom and wanted to create some excitement, they wanted to assert their sense of independence(even though it was a bad choice), they wanted attention from their parents, that they gave into peer pressure or their friends dared them to do it, or they wanted to get revenge or harm someone else.
Parents if You Are Suspicious that Your Teenager is Stealing: Confront Them Immediately
Sometimes your child will be lucky and they won’t get caught stealing; however, as you are going through their room you happen to find an item that you didn’t buy them. If this happens, confront your teenager so that you can determine where the item came from. Your child may have borrowed an item from a friend or they have stolen something from a store, it is important to explain to them that this is stealing and that you will not tolerate it. Make them return the item that they borrowed from their friend and if they took something from a store, it is best to make them take the item back into the store it came from and pay for it, even if it was a package of gum or candy.
Never Use Name Calling; Instead, Focus On your Teens Unwanted Behavior
When you are confronting your teenager, you don’t want to call him or her a liar. Instead, you want to confront them about their behavior. Don’t ask them questions that you already know the answers to, but it is important to give them an opportunity to explain their actions. Use this experience as a learning experience, especially, if this is their first offense. If you are called to a store or business, it is important that you go and be there for your child even though you maybe furious with them. Not going to support them, might do more harm than good and might make them feel as if you don’t care about them or feel like you have abandoned them during a difficult situation. Never lie or cover up what your child did, especially, if the police are involved. Instead, make your child own up to their actions and accept the consequences.
Set Clear Consequences and Follow Through With Them
If your teenager is caught stealing, it is important that you set clear consequences and that you enforce them. Not following through with the consequences will send your child mixed signals and they will begin to feel as if they got away with this behavior. If the police department was involved, this alone may be enough to prevent your child from repeating the situation. However, it is up to you to clearly explain to your child that stealing is unacceptable and it affects other people around you. Explain to them that if they steal from a store, it drives prices up because the store has to make up for the loss.
Take a Close Look At Your Teenager’s Friends They are Hanging Out With on a Regular Basis
Peer pressure can be difficult for some kids to handle and will do things around their friends that they normally wouldn’t do. If your child is hanging around the wrong crowd, you can discourage him or her from hanging out with this group of friends. However, it is more important to teach your child how to say, “NO.” Learning how to say no can save your child from getting into trouble.
Lead By Example
Before confronting your child for their actions, you need to step back and take a look at your own actions. I realize that this may be hard to do but if you aren’t setting a good example, your child could be doing some of the same things that you are doing without you even realize that your are doing it.
When Should I Seek Additional Help
If your child won’t talk to you or is caught stealing on multiple occasions, you need to see the advice from your local mental health agency, licensed counselor, or psychiatrist.
Has you teen gotten in trouble for stealing? How did you handle the situation?