Most parents are appalled if they find that their child is stealing, but taking something that doesn't belong to him is fairly common among children. That doesn't mean you should let it go, however. If your teen has stolen something, it's crucial to take action immediately to let your child know it's wrong and won't be tolerated. Immediate intervention also reduces the chances that your teen will repeat the behavior in the future.
Why Teens Steal
While younger children will take something without really understanding that it's wrong, teens should know the difference between right and wrong. When a teen steals something, it might be because she enjoys the thrill of doing something bad or she might do it because she sees her friends doing it and wants to fit in. Teens might also steal as a way of rebelling or getting attention or because they really want something they can't afford. Less often, a teen might steal as a cry for help because of emotional or physical abuse, according to KidsHealth.
You don't need to ask him why he stole, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics, but you do need to remind him that stealing is not acceptable and that you won't tolerate it. Ask your teen to return the item he stole and apologize to the person he stole it from. This can be embarrassing, so you need to stay on top of it and accompany your teen if necessary to ensure it gets done. While you probably don't enjoy the idea of your teen being embarrassed, it's often enough motivation to prevent the behavior in the future.
Often, teens will stop stealing if they know how disappointed you are in their behavior. Even as almost-adults, teens still want to please their parents, and a frank discussion with you about why stealing is wrong and how disappointed you are with your child's behavior is often enough to stop it from happening again. Monitor your child's activities, too. If your teen has stolen from the mall, don't allow her to go the mall without you. If she steals from your wallet, keep it out of her reach. Continued talks with your teen about why she steals will help her deal with the issues because she knows you support her and want to help.
Often, if it's your teen's first offense and he stole from a store, the store will accept an apology after the item is returned or restitution is made. Other stores are not so tolerant; be prepared if the store decides to press charges against your teen, according to KidsHealth. Don't use physical force as a way of punishing your teen. It's not effective and can often cause your child to engage in additional bad behavior, the KidsHealth.com website reports. If your teen continues to steal, seek professional help. A counselor or family doctor might be able to determine the reason why your teen can't stop stealing.