When you first catch your teen stealing something from you, you might not know how to react.
You feel like you can’t trust them anymore.
At the moment, you probably feel overwhelmed by a wave of negative emotions.
How can someone you love so much betray you like this?
You need to address it, but what’s the proper reaction?
There are a lot of reasons for kids to start stealing. The reason behind your child’s theft should help you determine what to do when your teen starts stealing your money. No matter the reason, you need to address their behavior quickly and let them know that it is not acceptable.
Why do teens start stealing money?
When kids are little, they tend to steal without meaning to. They don’t understand the concept of theft. If they see something they want, they pick it up and walk away with it. It’s not malicious; it’s just impulsive. It’s our job as parents to teach them that they can’t just take whatever they want. Fortunately, most kids stop stealing pretty quickly when they understand why it is bad.
As teenagers, though, they should understand what theft is. They know that if they take someone else’s money, they’re stealing.
So, why do teens start stealing money?
Poor impulse control
Some kids remain impulsive much longer than their counterparts. They don’t start to develop impulse control as they should, so they still do whatever comes to mind. If this is the case, your teen needs to start working on his impulse control immediately. They might benefit from seeing a doctor to determine if they have ADD or ADHD and get the appropriate treatment.
While all teenagers are a little self-centered, some focus on themselves far too much. They might know that it’s wrong to steal, but they don’t really care. In their mind, it’s worth it to get whatever they want. They might need the money to buy something that you wouldn’t otherwise get for them, so they feel justified in stealing your money.
If your teenager has made some negative friends, they might be influencing your teen to start stealing money from you. Their friends might also steal from their parents, or their friends might know that they can pressure your kid into stealing for them. In either case, your kid needs to find better friends and how to set boundaries with them to prevent peer pressure from influencing their decisions.
How to respond when your teen starts stealing from you
When your teen does something egregious like stealing from you, you’re going to be hurt by it. However, it’s important that you don’t react in anger. When we’re angry, and we react too quickly, we tend to overreact. Keep your reactions in check and give yourself a little time to think before doling out any punishments.
Once you’ve cooled down, have a conversation with your teen about why they stole from you. Try to find out why they thought that behavior was acceptable and what they hoped to achieve. This will help you determine the next steps in addressing their behavior.
Depending on the reasons for your child’s actions, your responses could include:
Implement immediate consequences related to their behavior. If they wanted more money to buy things they wanted, maybe they need to start applying for jobs. If they already spent the money they stole from you, they may need to do extra housework to “pay off” what they stole from you.
Help them earn back trust. By stealing from you, your child has broken your trust. They shouldn’t expect that you still trust them the same way that you used to. If they are genuinely sorry for their actions, work with them to develop a plan to earn back your trust.
Set consequences for future behavior. If you’re worried that stealing could become a pattern, set consequences for their future behavior. Let them know exactly what to expect moving forward.
Get outside help. If you are worried that your son will impulsively steal again or that he doesn’t see a problem with stealing, you may need outside help. Teens who don’t have control over their actions can accidentally get into much bigger trouble in the future. Teens who focus only on themselves and don’t see a problem with stealing can hurt more people as they grow up. In either case, your teen could benefit from talking to a professional doctor or therapist to address their behavior.
If your teen needs to stop stealing your money, he could see progress by attending a therapeutic boarding school for teen boys. While in school, he would still earn high school credits, but he would also get one-on-one treatment from trained therapists. For more information about our school, call us at 866-640-1899.