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Why Kids Shoplift (page 2)

Why Kids Shoplift

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Updated on Aug 6, 2013

Because shoplifting is usually a symptom of a different problem, parents need to compassionately address the underlying cause. But figuring out what, if any, issue is behind your child’s behavior can be a difficult nut to crack. Shulman suggests using the incident to start a conversation with your child and open up a dialogue about his or her motivations. For example, here are some questions which may help get to the root of the problem, without making your child feel shamed or punished:

  1. “Did you do this?” Sometimes a child will try and deny it, but it’s important to get your child to own up to the deed. After he does, thank him for being honest.
  2. “Tell me the details.” Getting your child to think about what happened can focus a confused memory. It also shows that you can get past the incident itself to get the context around it.
  3. “Why did you do it?” Shulman says that a child will inevitably answer this question with a vague “I don’t know,” but that parents need to persist in order to get to the bottom of the problem. Did your child steal because she wanted something but didn’t have enough money? Was it peer pressure related?
  4. “Have you ever been stolen from?” Ask your child how that made him feel, and point out that stores are owned and operated by individuals.
  5. "Do you know that this behavior is wrong? Why?" Having your child formulate a position on shoplifting will help him use critical thinking skills instead of making unconscious decisions.

It’s dangerously easy to think that you or your child has done something horribly wrong to result in a shoplifting incident. But sometimes, especially if it’s the first time your child has stolen, it can fall into the range of the normal “acting out” that occurs during adolescence. "Children these days have so much demanded of them at school and in the home, that they want an escape," explains Rayburn. "For the moment they are doing this, they are not going along to somebody else's tune." The trick, then, is to find a tune that you and your child can go along with together.

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