How to Stop Teenagers From Stealing

by Melissa King

    You never imagined that your teenager was capable of shoplifting, but you've just found stolen goods in her room or received a call from the police about her theft. Finding out that your teen has been stealing comes as a shock and embarrassment for many parents. Most teens have the money necessary to buy what they steal, but they shoplift anyway due to the challenge and thrill it presents or because of peer pressure. If you're worried that your teen will continue to steal, you can do and say several things that will help her break her shoplifting habit.

    Step 1

    Learn why your teenager stole. Most likely, she did it because of her friends or simply for entertainment. Teens may also steal because they can't afford something that their friends have. Some teens shoplift because they feel unloved, left out and rejected. Others might even steal to support a drug habit. Ask your teen to be honest with you about her reason for stealing.

    Step 2

    Explain that stealing is always wrong, even if she's taking a small item from a large store. Tell her that the business owner needs to mark up prices on items for everyone else if people steal from him.

    Step 3

    Convey that you are saddened, shocked, embarrassed and dismayed by your teen's behavior. Let your teen know exactly how you feel and how her stealing hurt you. Express that you thought your teen knew better than to steal.

    Step 4

    Explain that shoplifting will go on your teen's record and may prevent her from getting a good job or going to college.

    Step 5

    Ask your teenager to return the stolen item to its rightful owner and confess to the theft. Realize, however, that some stores may prosecute your teen if the item is over a certain dollar value or she's stolen there before.

    Step 6

    Make your teen work to earn enough money to repay the value of the item if she cannot return the item itself. If she's stolen something of considerable value, have her sell her possessions to make up for it.

    Step 7

    Issue punishment, such as grounding or removing privileges. If your teen lied about the theft, consider tacking on an extra consequence to teach her a lesson about honesty.

    Step 8

    Make your teen talk to a police officer about stealing if she shoplifts repeatedly. Child behavioral therapist James Lehman suggests that parents consider taking their teen to the police and pressing charges for repeated or severe thefts. This may seem harsh, but if no other punishment works, it might also be the the only way to get your teen to stop stealing.

    Step 9

    Have your teen do household chores so she can earn an allowance to pay for things she needs. This may be effective if she was stealing because she couldn't afford something she wanted.


    • If your teen won't talk to you about stealing, ask her to talk with someone else, such as the other parent, a close relative, teacher or family friend. Talking with a doctor or psychologist may also help.
    • Find another parent to talk to about your teen's stealing. Other parents who have shoplifting teenagers can relate to you and may make it easier to cope with your teen's behavior.


    • If you steal, your teen may see the behavior and think it's okay for her to shoplift too. Refrain from stealing even small things, such as supplies from your office at work or music downloaded illegally from the Internet.

    About the Author

    Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

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