Theft is widespread yet unacceptable action, often practiced by troubled teenagers. While certain extreme instances of theft may suggest a psychiatric condition, they are regular habits that usually come and go most of the time.
Almost every kid has taken something that does not belong to them at least once in their lives. But the motives for stealing vary depending on their ages. Younger children, for example, may not fully comprehend yet what it means to pay for something in a store. Older children and teens can fully grasp the concept of ownership, but they may still struggle to control their impulses. Here are some tips on understanding teen stealing behavior and what you can do about it.

Why Do Teens Steal?

Teens steal for various reasons: they want something they can’t have, peers heavily influence them, or they cannot control their behaviors. Teenage negative behavior is something parents tend to expect in adolescence. Stealing may indicate mental issues such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or kleptomania. Your teen may unintentionally steal from you, their friends, or even malls — they feel the need to grab and keep something that is not theirs. If you discover your teenager has been stealing, contact us. We’re a teen treatment program in Los Angeles, and offer a wide range of therapy for adolescents who struggle from stealing, to depression and mental health related issues.

Another reason for stealing is the desire to be superior to others. Their self-centered attitude makes them want to rise above others, even when they know their unacceptable behavior. Furthermore, teens may be influenced by peers. A social group can influence someone’s decision-making abilities. This is particularly concerning when a teen is encouraged to commit crimes with another. They may think that being “partners in crime” strengthens their friendship or is the only way to maintain their bond.

Prevention Strategies: What Should You Do if Your Teen is Caught Stealing?

It is normal to feel disappointed if you find out your child has stolen from someone, but you have to control your emotions. Your teens are going through different surges of emotions, and getting enraged will only make things worse. To discipline your child after getting caught stealing, you may want to consider the following strategies:
  • Encourage your teen to contemplate the consequences of their actions
  • Your teen might have made a mistake, and that is perfectly normal. You are here to guide them and help them understand the consequences of their actions. Separate the wrong deed from the doer and do not make your child feel alone. Remember that you know your kid more than anyone and that one mistake does not define their entire personality. Instead of focusing on what’s been done, help them figure out how to overcome this issue.
  • Give your child responsibilities 
  • Some teens steal because they are bored. If your child has many tasks on their plate, they are much less likely to consider stealing. Having a good set of challenging and rewarding responsibilities will be positive for their mental health.
  • Discuss the consequences of stealing and make yourself clear
  • Warn your child about the grave consequences of stealing, like school suspension or expulsion, jail, or fines. They must understand the implications of their actions.
  • Provide the appropriate punishment for your child
  • Try having your child spend their time participating in outreach programs. This can help them see how other people live and practice introspection. Grounding them can also be effective, especially if your child spends a lot of time with negative influences.
  • Talk to your teen about financial responsibility
  • Give your child a daily or weekly allowance and teach them to budget their own money. Let them buy their essentials such as toiletries, school needs, and clothing. Your child will learn the importance of money and that they should not steal it from anyone.
  • Treat your children fairly
  • If you have two or more kids, make them feel loved equally; do not have favorites. Some teens become rebellious when their parents do not appreciate them as much as they do their siblings. They may be stealing as a way to elicit attention.

Substance Use: Risk of Stealing in Teenagers

Your child might be stealing because they want to buy something, so ask them what they want to have. If you think that these items are necessary, you may want to provide them with the means to acquire them. However, being secretive about what they want could be a sign of substance use. Your teen may engage in harmful conduct, including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. They may need a lot of money if they are already addicted to these substances.

What to Do When Your Child Denies Theft?

Teens often know that stealing is unacceptable, so they will likely deny doing so in front of their parents. The issue worsens if they deny theft despite being caught on the spot. Stealing is an example of dishonest behavior, and lying about it is on another level.
The best way to make your child speak the truth is to talk to them more openly. Discuss the consequences of stealing, whether at home, school, or society. Although you are their parent, do not assume responsibility for their misconduct. Let them learn from their mistakes. Stealing and lying are serious concerns that must be acted upon immediately. If they get used to these actions, they may escalate into something worse when they grow up.

Consequences for Shoplifting

Shoplifting is one of the most concerning issues that supermarkets and malls have dealt with for a long time. This got worse when teens started getting more confident as time went on. If your child gets caught stealing, it is best to talk to the police. Your teen may get arrested or be required to undergo community service. Also, they may be asked to pay the necessary fines. To pay the money back, encourage your teen to look for jobs like babysitting, waiting tables, or cleaning yards and pools in the neighborhood.

Wrapping Up

Teenagers stealing things is a serious concern, but it does not always have to be a big deal. For first-timers, the best way for parents to intervene is to talk with them. Have a serious conversation with your child and ask why they did it. Afterward, tell them that stealing is against the expectation of your family and the community and that they must never do it again.

Inform them of the severe potential consequences, such as getting jailed or fined. If your child finds it hard to stop themselves from stealing, it is best to seek professional help. They might benefit from programs for out of control teenager, especially if they have a mental condition and teen impulse control disorder such as kleptomania.

You may consider looking for rehabilitation centers if your teen gets caught more than once. Key Healthcare aims to help teens get back on their feet after committing crimes like stealing or shoplifting. Reach out to us today, so we can restore your child’s former life and ensure a brighter future together.