A teenager who engages in stealing or shoplifting presents some shocking and frightening behavior for any parent. Although minimizing the issue may be tempting, theft is serious and needs proactive discipline to help your teen stop the behavior. Left unresolved, your teenager could experience a negative impact on character and integrity, warns social worker James Lehman, with the Empowering Parents website.
1 Monitor your teenager’s behavior to catch theft if it occurs. If you discover your teen has stolen something from a store or a person, insist she return the item and accept responsibility for the theft, recommends the KidsHealth website.
2 Discuss the stealing problem with your teenager to communicate your distress about the behavior, recommends the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Starting with the premise that stealing is morally and ethically wrong, advise your teen he cannot continue stealing because it is not acceptable behavior.
3 Seek professional help for your teen if the stealing doesn’t stop. Because a teenager intellectually understands the difference between right and wrong behavior, it’s probable your teenager is engaging in this behavior due to underlying issues that need resolution, Boston Children’s Hospital suggests on its website.
4 Cooperate with any recommended therapy for your teenager and work with professionals to resolve the issues. The issues may involve trust and intimacy in close relationships, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry warns. You may need to participate in family therapy, and you may also need to encourage the teenager to choose positive ways to resolve negative emotions.
- Although stealing is often a symptom of other emotional issues that exist, it’s important to separate the issues and hold your child accountable for stealing, Lehman advises. Relieving a teenager of responsibility for stealing just because he’s emotionally upset about something else does not teach accountability. It may even reinforce a victim-mentality that could perpetuate itself in escalating proportions later.
- Stealing could even be a symptom of a drug habit in an attempt to support an addiction, KidsHealth warns. In this situation, your teen would need intervention to address the addiction as well as help to address the anti-social stealing behavior.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images