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Caught red-handed: Your teen’s a thief

When your teenager has been caught stealing, is it simply rebellious behavior or a cry for help?

Teen stealing from mom's purse

Don’t risk your youngster shutting you out completely; instead learn how to deal with teen behavior when your child has been caught red-handed: Your teen’s a thief.

A cry for attention

Whether stuff goes missing from your home or your teen is caught stealing from a store, it may not be an accident that your young adult has been caught red-handed. “Teen stealing is often an expression of the teen feeling deprived of love and attention,” explains psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman M.D., “The object stolen represents taking something that he feels he is not getting enough of at home. It’s also a way of rebelling and getting negative attention from parents, which seems better than no attention at all.” Regardless of how big or small of a deal your teen’s behavior may seem, it may be a red flag of a deeper issue, so don’t ignore the signs.

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Surrendering to peer pressure

Growing up is tough, especially when your youngster is yearning to fit in with the popular crowd. When your teenager sees friends around her stealing and encouraging her to do the same, she may feel the risk of getting caught holds less consequences than the risk of being rejected by her peers. Or, with the spotlight on so many name-brand clothes and high-priced gadgets, your child may feel like it’s the only way he can keep up with the Joneses and cave in to the temptation of pocketing possessions that he wouldn’t otherwise have. While the consequences of these thefts may be the same, the motivation behind the illegal teen behavior may be very different.

Confronting teen stealing

As tough as the conversation will be when confronting your teen’s rebellious behavior, confronting teen stealing is imperative, advises David Simonsen M.S. LMFT, “When parents knows their teen has stolen they must have a direct conversation with them and clearly lay out consequences for them.” But, it doesn’t mean that your youngster is expected to sit quietly and take a verbal lashing. “It would be helpful if the teen is able to participate in that conversation and even give some ideas on what they are going to do to make things right. If they are completely unwilling to make things right then unfortunately the authorities may need to be involved.”

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Whether your teen’s been caught red-handed by you or another source, writing teen stealing off as rebellious teen behavior is the worst thing you can do for your child. “If a parent does nothing then they can expect their teen to take more risks related to stealing,” warns Simonsen. However, armed with these parenting tips here — and a whole lot of patience — you can get to the root of your teen’s stealing before it becomes a lifestyle.

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