How Can You Stop A Teenager Who’s Been Stealing? (Raising Teenagers #21)
How to Stop a Teenager from Stealing
There are several ways that a teenager might start stealing, whether its money from their parents’ bags, supplies from school or even shoplifting from a department store. Depending on the value of what was stolen there are legal penalties that may be associated with the act of stealing. However, regardless of the value, stealing engenders feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt for both the teenager and the parents when it comes to light. There are steps you can take to stop your teenager from stealing again so he can avoid landing in serious trouble.
Punishing Your Teen For Stealing
Explain the consequences of stealing.Perhaps you discovered your teen was stealing money out of your wallet, or you found stolen goods in your teen’s backpack. If your teen is a first time offender and has not been charged with a crime, it’s important that you sit your teen down and explain how taking other people’s property is illegal and could lead to jail time. Don’t downplay the seriousness of the situation or coddle your teen into believing stealing is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Be clear and forceful with your words as you explain the serious, potentially life altering consequences of stealing to your teen.
- Use legal terms to explain the possible jail time associated with committing larceny (which is when you steal property from someone, like a purse or a bicycle) and committing a felony (which is when you steal with the intent to deprive someone of money, such as taking someone’s wallet or writing a bad check).
- The value of the stolen property will determine if the crime is considered a felony or a misdemeanor. Regardless of the level of the crime, your teen could be fined a steep amount or serve several months or years in jail if they are caught stealing.
Show your teen the consequences of stealing.Another method is to show, rather than tell, your teen what could happen if they are caught stealing. If your teen has stolen money or goods from you, some parents recommend calling the police and having a police officer mock arrest the teen. The officer may hand cuff your teen and place him in the back of the police car so he can explain what a felony charge is and how it can affect your teen’s future.
- This may seem like an extreme tactic, and it should only be done if your teen has stolen from you directly as you are the one who will decide whether or not to press charges against your teen. However, this tactic can scare your teen so much that he may never even consider stealing again.
- If they have not stolen from you, try showing them prison documentaries or interviews with inmates. This will show them exactly what happens in prison and that could be them one day.
Impose a punishment that requires a positive action from your teen.Rather than enforce a physical punishment or a shaming punishment that causes your teen to become more angry and resentful, focus on creating a punishment that requires your teen to make up for stealing with a positive action. This will reinforce the damage stealing does to the relationships with those around you, and allow your teen to learn the value of honesty.
- For example, you may have caught your teen stealing money from your purse. You may then punish him by having him pay back all the money he stole from you. This may take time, as he may need to get a job or do odd jobs to earn back the money. But he will learn the consequences of his actions, gain more responsibility by getting a job, and understand why it’s wrong to steal.
- Another option is to have your teen pay back the money with doing extra chores around the house or cooking dinner for the family for a month. This way, he will be doing positive actions for others to make up for his mistake.
Preventing Your Teen from Stealing Again
Ask your teen why they feel they need to steal.Your teen may be motivated to steal due to other issues or problems. Identifying the root cause of your teen’s actions will help you prevent your teen from stealing again. Teens tend to steal for several reasons, including:
- Peer pressure can be a big motivator for your teen’s stealing. He may want the latest smart phone or the cool, new sneakers and feel the only way to get them is to steal them from others, or steal to money from you to buy these items. A big part of adolescence is fitting in with your peers, and your teen may feel pressure to have certain items so he can blend in with the other teens at school.
- The need for attention is also another possible reason why your teen is stealing. Any attention from others, especially authority figures, can seem better to your teen than none at all. Your teen may be stealing because he knows it will get your attention and make you notice them.
- Embarrassment or anxiety around certain items, like condoms, tampons, emergency contraception, or a pregnancy test, could lead your teen to steal these items. Your teen may be too embarrassed to go to the clinic for these items or to ask you for money for these things, so he feels his only resort is to steal them.
- The thrill of wrongdoing could also be a motivator for your teen. Often, teens enjoy the thrill of doing something wrong and participating in risky behavior. Most teens are interested in things that are off limits or considered wrong. So stealing may be one way they are pushing the boundaries and trying to see how much they can get away with.
Provide other sources of income for your teen.If your teen is stealing because they feel they cannot afford items their peers own, have your teen get a part time job after school or take up odd jobs to earn some money. This will help him learn responsibility and money management, and allow him the freedom to purchase items he wants, rather than steal them.
- You want to suggest your teen create a budget and learn how to manage his money so he develops good money management habits.
Get your teen involved in healthy extra curricular activities.Encourage your teen to focus his energies on improving his skills and abilities with others in a productive way through joining a sports team or a club at school. This may help him connect with peers who are interested in other things besides material objects or the latest must have items.
Spend quality time with your teen.Stealing can be seen as a cry for attention from your teen. Don’t ignore this. Instead, try to spend quality time with your teen on a consistent basis. Show your teen you care about him and what he’s interested in by suggesting you do a favorite activity together or you both go see a band he likes.
- During this quality time, you may want to discuss contraception and condoms with your teen if you find out embarrassment or shame was his reason for stealing. Let your teen ask specific questions and provide these items so your teen does not have to feel embarrassed about having them. Talk to your teen about sex if this is part of his motivation for stealing.
Speak to a family counselor or therapist if your teen keeps stealing.If you catch your teen stealing again, it may be time to reach out to a family counselor or a therapist. Some teens steal due to deeper issues that may require hands on therapy, with your family or at an individual level. Don’t let your teen’s stealing become a habit, as this can lead to more serious consequences and a skewed moral code for your teen.
- Some teens can develop kleptomania, a rare compulsive disorder where the person feels anxiety or tension before stealing and then feels relief or gratification after stealing. Talk to your doctor or a therapist if you suspect your teen may be developing this disorder.
QuestionI'm 14 and I steal to fit in at school. I don't want to because it hurts my family, but I don't want to be an outsider from my group. I've tried to stop, but I always feel the urge to do it.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWhat you are going through is okay. Maybe you should try to stop it for one day, then two days, then 3 days, then a week until your mind tells you that there is no need. If you are stealing because of peer pressure then you shouldn't be hanging around with them. I'm sure there are plenty of other people who want to be friends with you, the real and natural you. Consider seeking professional help if you can't kick the urge.Thanks!
QuestionI'm 16 and I have been stealing and I don't know how to stop. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you've tried to stop and you can't, you might be experiencing compulsive behavior that requires professional help. Talk to a parent about what's going on.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I suspect them but I don't know?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk them, and if they deny it, search their room, bags, etc. when they're not home. If you find something incriminating, confront him/her about it and provide evidence.Thanks!
QuestionHow should I approach my son if I suspect him of stealing money for betting?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerComing from an experienced mother, you should confront your son face-to-face. Let him know that you are concerned that he has been stealing and betting, but try not to be accusatory, as that would most likely just make your son angry and less likely to cooperate with you. Ask him if he's been taking your money, and if he says he hasn't, then point out any known betting behaviors as part of the reason that you suspect him.Thanks!
QuestionIf it happens again, can the privilege be revoked for 50 years?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, it can't. However, it can be revoked for as long as you live with your parents.Thanks!
QuestionMoney has gone missing from my purse several times. I believe my son is stealing it, however, when confronted he completely denies it. How do I confront him when he says he didn't do it?Stefani ChristenotCommunity AnswerYou need to sit him down and ask him where your money has gone. Do not get angry with him, let him explain himself. Tell him to be honest and go from there, using discretion. Too much anger will scare him off.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I punish a 12-year-old who stole money from me?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTake away a privilege like their phone, computer, television, etc. for a period of time. Tell them if it happens again, the privilege will be revoked for a much longer time or indefinitely. You could also ground them at home for a week or two.Thanks!
QuestionHow long do you punish a teen who keeps stealing after being caught repeatedly?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPunish the teen for as long as you feel is appropriate. This will be different for every parent. It can be helpful to decide the length of the punishment based on how many times the teen has stolen or on how much the teen stole.Thanks!
QuestionMy step daughter is stealing many items from the mall. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk her about it. For example, how she is acquiring so many new items. If she admits it, you can have her return the items to the stores.Thanks!
QuestionI don't know how to stop my son. He is stealing from school and from stores as well. Should I take him to jail or should I do something with him?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTake your son to the police station and report to the police that he's been stealing. Hopefully he will be scared enough to stop.Thanks!
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