When Kids Steal

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

Our children are 21, 12, and 9 years old. My daughter has never stolen a thing.

Our boys are stealing. The oldest stole from his friend’s mom. We’re mortified. We taught our kids to be honest.

We gave him the money to pay the mom back. He’s repaying us and we took his phone. He acts like he doesn’t care.

The younger one is following suit. We just made him write down a hundred times that he should not steal.

They just did something serious and stole a neighbor’s bike. We found them laughing about it. They threw it in the creek so they wouldn’t get caught.

At least the younger brother is remorseful, unlike his older brother.

Mom of thieves

Dear Mom,

We know moral issues are among the hardest for parents to deal with. However, it’s to everyone’s benefit not to label a child a thief.

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, 25 percent of shoplifters are kids; 75 percent are adults. Over half of adult shoplifters say they started shoplifting in their teens.

There are about 27 million shoplifters, or one in 11, in our nation today. More than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years.

Statistically, boys steal more frequently than girls.

Kids steal for many reasons:

1) It’s a cry for help from being abused or bullied.

2) Low income kids are afraid to ask parents for money, because of circumstances, or parents may be strict about spending.

3) It may be peer-pressure, the need to fit-in, low self-esteem, or they’re trying to “buy” friends.

4) Shoplifting is adrenaline-pumping and can become addictive.

No reason justifies stealing, but it helps to be able to combat the problem.

As embarrassed, hurt, or angry as you may feel, try to separate your emotions from their actions.

Let them know stealing is not okay and you won’t tolerate it. (Remember that kids six and under don’t comprehend the severity of stealing). Be consistent with your values and morals.

In order to help change behavior, don’t interrogate them, belittle, embarrass, scare or ridicule them.

Have a discussion with your boys. Find out why they are stealing, if you can. Tell them you love them unconditionally, but it is morally wrong to steal and lie. Tell them you will help them figure out what to do together.

It’s great you’re helping them repay what they steal. Every choice has a consequence. Find ways for them to earn money honestly. It may be delivering newspapers, helping with lawns or collecting recycling.

You may need to get professional help.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri