I suspect my 13 year old is shoplifting...
Written by Dr Helen Wright on 13/02/2010
Q. What should I do if I suspect my 13 year old is shoplifting?
A. First, try to work out if your suspicions are justified – can you find evidence? Do try to do so if you have strong suspicions, as it is always far better (although not impossible) to begin a discussion when you have clear proof that your daughter has taken something that she shouldn’t have taken. With a stolen object on the table, your daughter will not be able to escape the consequences of her actions, and it is really important that she is made to face them, if she is to be dissuaded from this path in the future. She may have shoplifted because of peer pressure, or because she was testing rules, or for the thrill … regardless of the reason, you need to show her that her actions have consequences, and that these are potentially very serious ones, especially if she does it again. You should impose sanctions – removing her allowance for a while, perhaps, or preventing her for going out for a set time; you should also seriously consider arranging for her to take back the item or items she has stolen. Having to face up to the realities of what she has done will almost be extremely sobering for her, and may be the wake-up call she needs. It will be hard for you, too, but if as parents we don’t insist upon enforcing these sorts of boundaries, then we send a message to our children that they are not important; moreover, as teenagers need to test boundaries in order to help define who they are, we risk encouraging them to test ever-more dangerous options. You need to be firm and absolutely unequivocal – shoplifting is wrong, and she must never, ever do it again.