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How to behave if you find out that your teenage kid is stealing


What is pushing adolescents to embark on moral standards and begin to steal? And how can you save a teenager from the wrong step!

The charge of theft is a serious matter. After all, theft is a deliberate violation of the moral norm of "not taking someone else's." When it comes to preschoolers, they are more likely to “take things without demand” (because young children do not yet have moral standards and do not quite understand what can be done and what is not). Another thing, if you take other people's things or money starts a teenager. And, nevertheless, no matter what the thefts were caused, it is impossible to immediately hang the label “thief” on the child. This will cause a negative reaction of the teenager. And he can spitefully continue the offense, because in his subconscious mind will take root “anyway, I am a thief, which means I will steal further.”

Theft is manifested in different ways. Sometimes a teenager brings other people's things home and explains this by the fact that they gave him or “a friend gave him some time to vilify”. Or they can simply "disappear" money from the wallet. First, small amounts (so as not to be noticed), then larger. Many parents initially close their eyes to this and seem to not see it. "Insight" occurs later, when this begins to happen systematically.

Sometimes parents will learn that their child began to steal from an outsider: a teacher, a neighbor, the parent of another child. Then the feeling of helplessness and guilt by the parents is felt most acutely. A feeling of shame is mixed with this feeling. And it gives the opposite reaction. Sometimes parents breastfeed to defend their children and begin to blame others for lying. But more often, parental anger falls on the head of a teenager. And it can be truly scary, because the “debriefing” that has begun most often ends with a clarification of relations with screams, accusations and, possibly, beating a child. But the worst thing is that in most cases this does not help, but only exacerbates the situation. Indeed, in such minutes, adults are driven by emotions and the desire to "quickly have this nightmare ended." And the reason for the act remains “overboard” the scandal ...

One of the main complaints regarding theft of children is the theft of money. What is pushing adolescents to embark on moral standards and begin to steal?

One of the most common reasons is the lack of funds for a teenager for their needs. He is still small enough to earn money himself. And he is still dependent on his parents. Often parents believe that the child does not need money at all, or they need it in very limited quantities (maximum for breakfast at school). In addition, the teenager wants to look independent in the eyes of his peers, to manage money himself and decide what and when to buy. However, he still does not have a real ability to rationally spend money. And when the money runs out at the most inopportune moment, the teenager may decide to take a little from his parents' wallet.

Some of the teenagers do not want to lag behind others regarding the availability of goods and things. So a child can, for example, long for a computer (clips), like his friend, or go to a computer club every day with a company. But at the same time, it does not occur to him to consider the material capabilities of his family. It can also push a child to steal money to get what he wants. Many of the adolescents are disoriented regarding the purchasing power of different bills and how much effort is spent on earning them. It seems to the child that the money is always in the wallet of the parents, and does not wonder what the funds are saved for and why they are not spent (or are spent sparingly). He sees that in other families they can easily allocate a large amount without compromising the family budget. This is somewhat confusing (especially for younger teens). And then a child can, without hesitation, take money without asking in order to buy so many attractive things for him.

Also, the teenager and his environment are pushing theft. If a child has less pocket money than his friends, then he can be ridiculed, or much worse - expelled from his company. Sometimes a teenager so badly wants to gain a foothold in his company and be no worse than others that he has no choice but to start “borrowing money” from others (or from his parent's wallet). Most often this happens if the parents of the child adhere to a firm position of “not giving money” or giving it very limitedly and asking for a report on what they spent. And sometimes with the help of money (or things bought for them), a teenager tries to solve his psychological problems, for example, such as raising his status among peers or “buying” a good attitude.

The theft of money or other valuable things can provoke a lack of intimacy and trusting relationships within the family, some distance, or a lack of emotional attention from adults. In this way, the child subconsciously wants to attract attention, even if negative.

Sometimes the reason for theft can be an insufficient hierarchy of social norms in the minds of adolescents. This usually happens with children whose parents have placed many bans on the child since childhood. When there are too many prohibitions for assimilation, he does not have time to assimilate in his head which of the rules are the main and which can be broken sometimes. Therefore, a teenager may stumble due to ignorance or lack of understanding of social rules.

Attitude to money and property in our country also affects the consciousness of the child. What do you think, what can be delayed in the mind of a child if every day on television he hears that they are stealing by the millions, that they are stealing the country, and no one gets punishment for this, and they “don’t find” the perpetrators? After all, not caught - not

There are also dangerous reasons for theft. One of them is when other, older children (or adults) extort money from a teenager. Not every child will tell their parents about this. But some of the deferred amounts and things from the apartment will begin to disappear (and sometimes from friends' apartments). Moreover, the teenager will try to do this as inconspicuously as possible, because the ransomware will not stop, and therefore he will have to steal constantly ... But even if pressed against the wall, the child who is giving money will not immediately tell the reason that prompted him to steal. Confessing to him is much worse than continuing to "pay tribute." Teens can also steal when they need money to buy drugs or alcohol.

How can you protect a teenager from the wrong step?

Calculate with the teenager how much he needs a minimum of money per week, and give him a little more. This will help him plan his budget and save him from constantly “begging” money for trifles. But, giving funds for personal expenses, do not force the child to report for them (how much and what has been spent). That's why they are personal money.

We have already said that a good method to give a teenager the opportunity to have his money is to give him money. If you can help him with this, then this will be one of the best solutions. Having his own personally earned money, a teenager will begin to treat them more carefully. He will know how hard they are getting and is unlikely to want to “take” them from others. Let your child’s life principle be “earn”, not “take hold”.

Tell your child about your family budget and how you plan it. Include a teenager in discussion and shopping planning. Get together as a family at the beginning of the month (when everyone gets their money: salaries, pensions, scholarships) and decide together how much and what money will be spent this month. This includes the payment of an apartment, transport, food, purchases of things, and personal funds for each family member. For clarity, everything can be arranged in envelopes. Taking part in such discussions, the teenager will see where and what finances are spent on, and, therefore, learn the real attitude to money. This can save him from the desire to take a certain amount without demand. After all, he will know what it is postponed for.

If the child began to bring other people's things home, then it is not necessary to arrange proceedings; the teenager found them or stole them. It would be more correct to simply prohibit their use by a teenager. Sometimes a thing is really allowed to be blasphemed by friends. Among girlfriends often occur "exchange of blouses." This creates the illusion of the child that the wardrobe is constantly changing despite the fact that nothing is bought. Such things must be returned to their owner. Try to convince your child that things are personal to use, like a toothbrush or comb. Each must have their own. You can, on occasion, take something from relatives, but not from strangers. And agree with him: when he wants a new thing, let him say it. There will be money for it - you will certainly buy it. Or take on the rule: every season (and there are only 4 of them per year) to buy your child one new thing (naturally of his choice). This will save the teenager from the eternal "mom, buy me ...".

Be attentive to the needs of your child. Adults usually buy for themselves everything they need. Teenagers are deprived of this opportunity due to material dependence on their parents. If a child really wants to buy a thing, start saving money with it for buying it. After all, then the child will see that the parents sincerely help his dream come true (even if not as fast as you want). Then he is unlikely to have a desire to upset his relatives with a “stolen contribution” to this matter.

Develop a child’s sensitivity to the requirements of the social environment in which he is. Indeed, social disorientation can cause many problems: from the inability to properly build relationships with others to a gross violation of social norms (including vandalism and theft).

Remember that most often the fact that children are stealing, adults themselves are to blame. Insincerity, deceit "in the details", an atmosphere of distrust and untruth in the family - all this leads to dishonesty of the child himself. He begins to believe that living this way is the only right thing. And with such an internal attitude, morality is not far from a crime. And at the same time, the teenager will not feel remorse, because in his family everyone lives like that.

Try to be as honest as possible with your children. A child who has grown up in an atmosphere of trust rarely drops to theft. After all, he knows that he can tell his parents about his needs, and they will calmly listen to him and help him. Take time to communicate with the teenager, talk with him about the problems that concern him, consult with him, include as much as possible in the life of the family.

What to do if the child has already stumbled?

As already mentioned, coercive measures are only the way out of negative emotions, fear and impotence of adults, but not the way out of this situation. After this punishment, the teenager moves away from the parents. And his thoughts begin to occupy not the moral side of the act, but the amount that needs to be stolen the next time, but so as not to be caught. The child’s bitterness in this case can lead to repeated theft, as a way of revenge for humiliation. Sometimes a teenager chooses the criminal path for this, attracting even more trouble to himself and his parents. Try to restrain your first outbursts of anger, no matter how difficult it may be for you.

Understanding the motive that moved the teenager during theft will help you choose the most appropriate decision on how to behave in this situation. A serious conversation with the child about his action is best done when the first wave of indignation and anger subsides. Indeed, in a fit of anger, you can break a lot of firewood. In this conversation, it is important to make it clear without unnecessary emotions and harsh expressions that the misconduct greatly upset and disturbed the parents. Try to find out from the teenager the reasons that prompted him to stumble. Talk with him what needs to be done so that this never happens again. The main thing in this conversation is not to intimidate the teenager, but once again to convey to his consciousness what can and should not be done.

In such a conversation, do not throw the child phrases such as “now you will become a thief”, this can involuntarily program him for further offenses. Better use the phrase "I'm very upset about how this could happen to you, an honest and good person." Such a statement will show the teenager that to him

continue to be well treated and do not stigmatize. In addition, a similar phrase expresses your attitude to what happened. And remember: your words may sound condemnation of the act, but not of the child himself!

If a child has taken a significant amount from the family piggy bank, then the “restriction of all” method is suitable. The teenager is told that the money he carried away was postponed to such an event (or the purchase of something), which is significant for the child. Therefore, for some time, until the amount is collected again, the whole family will be forced to abandon ... (and then list what the family refuses). A prerequisite should be the tangibility of this "deprivation" for the offender. For example, refusal of weekly joint exits on rollers, or payment for access to the Internet (if only the teenager uses the Internet), etc. The child must understand that his misconduct concerns not only himself, he offends his whole family.

Theft in adolescents

As a child enters adolescence, the reasons why they can steal become more diverse and complex. Many teenagers steal in the store in the presence of their friends to impress them, as in most cases the most risky behavior is the most impressive among peers. Some teens use theft as a way to defend their independence in a world where adults rule. Teens can also steal from boredom or if they are looking for thrills. They may feel that theft, like all other forms of misconduct, is the only way to attract parents' attention. They can also steal in order to take revenge on someone who has hurt them or treated them unfairly. Well, of course, teens can steal for practical reasons, for example, if they want a thing that they can’t afford.

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I found a video game in the closet of my 12-year-old son, I know that it does not belong to him. I’m sure that he stole it at the store. He has everything he wants. Why would he steal? I do not want to think that he has the makings of a kleptomaniac *. What should I do?
—Karen, mother of two, Louisville, Kentucky

"Come on, put this in your satchel. No one sees."
"I could never pay for it."
"Let's take it all. It'll be so cool!"

*Kleptomania- pathological impulsive desire for theft with the irresistible need to satisfy him. - Note ed.

Briefly about the main thing.
Parents' reactions to theft of children can be either destructive or productive when they help children figure out what is good and what is bad. The best response is one that not only helps the child realize your hopes for honesty, but also understands why it is so important.

One of the situations that is guaranteed to shock even the calmest parents is when it is discovered that the child has stolen something. Be sure that theft is much more common than you can imagine, especially among younger children with not yet formed ideas about property. Usually, children begin to understand the ill effects of theft at the age of five to seven. As soon as they understand that theft violates someone’s rights and can lead to serious legal actions against them, they look at it more seriously. One thing is certain: children of any age should understand that it is impossible to take anything without permission, this can have serious consequences.

What to do?

If you find out that your child is stealing as a teenager, it is very important to find out what the reason is for you to deal with both her and the fact of theft. Here are some tips you can use if your teenage kid steals.

If your child has stolen from a store or from another person, plan how you will return this item or pay for it. Make sure your child is involved in the process. In addition to the consequences that the other party will identify, add your consequences, which will relate to theft (for example, housework for a small fee, until the child earns the value of the item that he stole, and then donates the money earned to charity) so that your the child understood how seriously you take this situation.

Four steps to stop theft

Существует четыре основных правила поведения родителей, помогающих остановить воровство независимо от того, маленькие у вас дети или постарше. Эти четыре шага позволят вам добиться устойчивого изменения поведения.

Шаг 1. Подойдите к ситуации спокойно и оцените намерения ребенка

Шаг 1 заключается в попытке найти ответы на пять основополагающих вопросов: Что произошло? Где and when это случилось? С кем был ваш ребенок? Почему он украл? К сожалению, прямой вопрос "Почему ты это сделал?" ведет в никуда. It’s best to start with your reaction explaining what you think happened and how you feel about it. For example: “Tim, I was upset when I found a video game in your closet, because it’s not yours. How did it get there?” If there is no answer, you can directly ask: "Have you taken it?"
It is important to remember two "not" in parental behavior. First of all, do not react too sharply. Of course, you will be angry and upset, but try to stay calm. Secondly, don't blame child in theft and do not call him a thief. The charges will never solve the problem, and the child may start to cheat in order to avoid punishment or disapproval. Instead, acknowledge the problem and deal with it together.

Step 2. Explain why stealing is bad

Tell your child your views on honesty. Right now, try to let the child understand why stealing is bad and why it undermines the moral principles of your family. Be laconic and stick to the theme of the harm of theft: “Taking without your permission what is not yours is very bad. We never take other people's things. We need to trust each other. I hope that you will respect the property of others and will always ask permission before you borrow something. " Remember that it is often difficult for children to understand the difference between “borrow” and “borrow”, so you will have to explain to your child the idea of ​​ownership and respect for it.
If your child is older, you can discuss with him the possible consequences of theft, such as losing friends, a bad reputation, loss of people's trust and problems with the law. Remind him that some stores have a zero tolerance policy. In such stores they do not forgive the first violation if you return the stolen item, but immediately call the police. Remember that a conversation about honesty is far from enough for sustainable behavior change. Talk with your child more often about honesty for several weeks so that he not only understands what you want from him, but also makes virtue a part of his usual way of acting.

Step 3. Make comments and reflect on the situation.

Children often do not think about the ill effects of theft. Try to put the child in the place of his victim and make you feel how offensive it is when you steal your things. If the child is small, act out the situation with his favorite toy. Allegedly having stolen his toy, ask: "What would you feel if you stole your toy? Would that be fair?" You can ask an older child: “Imagine that you are a victim of theft - you find that all the money has been stolen from your wallet. What will you feel? What would you say to the person who stole it?”

Step 4. Demand justice

And the last step is to make sure that the child really understands why steal badly and what needs to be done to rectify the situation. The best punishment is to demand that the child apologize to the victim and return the stolen item. (It is better if you accompany the child at the same time.) If the theft occurred in the store, talk with the owner of the store first so that the friendly seller forgives the child what he had done. If the item is damaged or can no longer be returned, the child must pay its cost. You will probably have to give your money, but the child must return it over time from his pocket money or at the expense of additional daily duties. REMEMBER: before you go with your child to the store, find out if the store usually requires police intervention. And then decide what to do best.

Phase Change Plantroubled child behavior

If you want the children to be honest, give them an example of honesty in their behavior, so that they know exactly what you expect from them. Start by evaluating examples of honesty in everyday life. For example, did you take, without paying, candy or fruit in the grocery store, or a small “souvenir” from a restaurant or hotel (an ashtray, soap box, etc.) that you weren’t supposed to take, or stationery from work home? If so, consider how this could be an example for a child. Promise yourself to improve.
Now is the time for action to change your child’s behavior. Use the Diary of a Phased Change in Problematic Child Behavior to record your thoughts and plan for Change.
1. Refer to step 1, as the most important element in changing a child’s behavior is to identify factors that encourage theft. To better understand this, talk to adults who know your child well and whose opinion you trust. Although children often steal to see if they can get away with it, this behavior may indicate a deeper, unmet need. Of course, many factors should be considered here, here are examples.
• Have there been any changes in the family, such as divorce, a new child, a new job, etc., due to which the child lacks attention?
• Does the child show impulsiveness and does he require the fulfillment of desires immediately?
• Maybe he is indifferent and therefore does not realize the resentment inflicted on the victim?
• Maybe the child did not understand concepts such as honesty, property, and the need to ask for permission?
• Maybe your family has strict rules regarding property?
• Maybe peers put pressure on him, and he needs to be accepted in this group?
• Maybe the child is angry or envious and thus tries to take revenge on someone?
2. Once you understand why the child is stealing, ask yourself how to get rid of this problem. For example, if you think a child is stealing in order to gain peer recognition, help him find friends who will help him cultivate character and teach him how to resist peers. Write down what you intend to do to solve the problem, and contact them to follow along with the child.
3. Reread step 2 and consider how you can help your child learn to respect the property of others. For example, will you create situations that help you understand the concept of property, or read stories and tales of honesty, or use appropriate educational moments on a daily basis? Do not be fooled into thinking that the child has already learned the rules of honesty. This virtue must be taught constantly and often repeated about it.
4. Think about what you should do to get your child to understand the consequences of theft. Steps 3 and 4 will help you develop a change plan. The most important task is to ensure that the child understands not only that stealing is bad, but also that in the end he will be responsible for his actions.
5. If theft becomes a frequently recurring behavior, consider consulting a specialist. This behavior must be stopped immediately.

Change commitmentstroubled child behavior

How will you use the four steps and a phased change plan for problematic behavior to help your child? Write down what you will do in the next 24 hours to begin the process of phasing out your child’s problem behavior.

Phase Change Resultstroubled child behavior

Correcting behavior is hard, painstaking work that must be carried out sequentially and based on consolidating the results through parental encouragement. A child’s movement toward change can be slow, but be sure to celebrate and encourage every little step along the way. It will take at least 21 days for the first results to appear, so do not rush to give up. Remember that if one approach does not work, then the other will work. Record your child’s behavior weekly using the sample below. Daily celebrate successes in the Diary of a gradual change in the problem behavior of the child.
Week 1

Offer support

Offer your support, but do not try to cover your child if the police are involved. Your child must understand that the consequences of his actions can be very serious. For most adolescents, a meeting with representatives of the law will be enough to no longer even think about the theft.

Let him know that this is unacceptable

You need to make it clear to the child that you will not tolerate theft in your home, and clearly communicate to him the consequences of theft in the future. If this happens again, be sure to bring to life the consequences that you promised him. However, do not forget about the presumption of innocence, so do not rummage in the things of the child until you have accurate evidence that he began to steal again.

Bad Company

Many teenagers begin to steal and commit other similar misconduct in the company of friends, without which they would not even think about such actions. If your child is stealing in the presence of friends, you should discuss this issue with him. You might consider stopping your child from hanging out with these friends, but you must remain realistic - a similar strategy usually works in the opposite way and makes these friends even more attractive to the teenager. Instead, you should work with your child on the ability to refuse. Teach him to say: "You can do what you want, but I no longer want trouble, so I will wait outside."


Help your child understand that the consequences of theft are much more serious than just his personal punishment. Talk with your child that shoplifting is causing prices to go up, or what a society will look like in which there are no laws prohibiting theft. This kind of discussion not only develops empathy in your child and improves his mental skills, in addition, the time and effort that you spend on your child will yield results in the future, regardless of the topic of the conversation.

Role model

Make sure you are a good role model for your child. You should not do anything that could be interpreted as theft, regardless of the seriousness of the action. Be careful not to send hidden signals to your child with statements such as: “This is a big company, they won’t even notice the loss” or “He is a disgusting person, he deserves to lose this thing.”

Golden mean

When it comes to your child and material wealth, try to find a middle ground. Understand that things such as clothing or technique play a very important role for a teenager, as they act as a way of demonstrating both individuality and belonging to a particular group that is important to him. Do not give the teenager everything he asks for, as this can create feelings of permissiveness and lack of respect for the property of others. Instead, let the teenager earn the wealth of their choice through long periods of good behavior, and you can help them find a way to make money on their own.