This is a question many parents ask themselves time and time again until it actually happens. And then after the shock and disbelief lets up, they are still not sure how to handle the fact that their own teenager is stealing.
So, do you have a teenager who has a problem taking things that don’t belong to him/her? Would you like to find out ways to deal with the issue of your child stealing things? There are quite a few ways of handling this problem but in order to really understand your son or daughter we must first analyze the reasons why your teenager steals.
Why do teenagers steal?
Often times teens steal just to see if they can get away with it. It’s that invincible belief teens carry around with them. The “Nothing can happen to me.” syndrome along with the self-centered attitude that nothing matters except what they want. The “I want it now so I’m going to have it now.” syndrome. Difficult attitudes for any parent to deal with for sure.
Another reason could be peer pressure. The “I did it and got away with it. Now it’s your turn to try it if you want to be as cool as me.” syndrome. Teens often struggle to fit in and will try anything if they think it will somehow make them more popular.
So, what can you do?
If you can determine that one of these reasons are actually behind your adolescents stealing behavior then it’s important to set strict consequences for the behavior. And make sure to be consistent and follow through on any discipline you set.
Make the discipline fit the situation and make sure your child knows ahead of time what will happen if there is a next time. If there isn’t a next time then one of these above reasons was most likely behind the stealing and your teens has learned his/her lesson.
Here’s another reason for teenagers stealing…
Another more destructive reason for teens to steal is because they consider themselves unloved and maybe even unwanted. They may also feel that they don’t belong either at home, at school or in society at large.
A young teen that feels this way has a tendency to believe that they have the right to inflict harm on other people because “nobody cares about me anyway.” He might even be trying to make up for the pain he is go through or wants others to be as miserable as he is. You can call this observable fact the “revenge syndrome.”
More useful tips on stealing
In order to avoid this situation, you must be committed to spending time with your teenager letting her know that you care about her and her needs. She must feel important to you and loved by you no matter what is going on or what trouble she is in. It is important to find ways to let your teenager realize how valuable they are to you and the rest of the family.
Also, be certain to separate the deed from the doer and impart love while developing a plan to solve the problem based on the same information from the examples presented above. No matter what, your son or daughter must know there are consequences for their behavior and that you care too much about them to let them behave in such a destructive way.
Take your own guilt and feeling sorry out of the equation.
At times, withholding things can contribute to the problem
Withholding things from your child can also lead to stealing. It may appear to them that stealing is the only way that they can get what they want. Some parents extend so much effort trying not to spoil their child that their teen ends up lacking a feeling of ownership. This can make the child feel deprived and unworthy.
However, be careful with this line of thinking. There really is a fine line to follow. Look for the middle ground. Don’t go overboard in either direction.
In other words when your son or daughter asks for things, don’t feel obliged to give them everything they want or on the other hand end up giving them nothing. One way to get around this is to provide the means for them to earn their own money or allowances from you.
You can put together a family system where you can assign each child certain responsibilities while at the same time letting them earn a few dollars. There will be a lower chance that your teenager will steal with this set up.
What about stealing from siblings?
Lastly, if you caught your teenager stealing from another sibling, see if you can find out if there is something behind this type of stealing behavior. One reason behind it might be jealousy. Talk with your children and be prepared to ask open ended questions about the situation and then close your mouth and really listen to their feelings.
You might even ask your children whether they think that you favor one of them over the other. And don’t dismiss their feelings or deny what they see or feel. You should be able to listen carefully and try to understand what they think.
In talking with your children, it is best not to contradict them. Even if they firmly believe that you are favoring their brother or sister and you know for yourself that it’s not true, don’t turn the other way. Listen closely to what they say and discuss how you feel. Always keep the discussion positive and avoid criticizing them.
In any of the situations presented here, a healthy conversation can go a long way in preventing future problems with your teenager stealing. And it’s always a good idea to improve your parenting skills so you have a better understanding of exactly what to do in order to nip these and other problems in the bud before they become major issues or even land your teen in jail.