Finding out your child has been shoplifting is a disheartening experience. It’s important to approach the issue carefully, especially if your child is still young and fails to understand the gravity of the situation. KidsHealth.org offers the following information so you can have a constructive conversation with your child about shoplifting.

Use age appropriate tactics

If your child is very young, he or she may not yet understand that stealing is wrong. If so, sit down with and explain how stealing hurts people in simple language. You can also ask your child to think about how he or she would feel if someone stole from them. With older kids, return to the shop or store where the incident took place and have your child make a formal apology. Also, highlight how stealing impacts store owners, employees, and even customers when prices go up.

Be wary of using punitive measures

You may be tempted to punish your child for misdeeds. However, this is often ineffective when it comes to stealing, and may even press your child to continue committing the offense. Instead, use the above tactics and refrain from yelling or arguing about the matter. You can also have the child do chores to payback for the item stolen, which highlights the monetary costs of stealing.

Know when to seek help

Some kids will continue to steal even after you have a discussion. In this case, getting professional assistance is recommended to treat any underlying mental health issues that could be causing this behavior. Kids sometimes act out for attention, and this is usually the case when there are other issues going in on their lives. A small percentage of people also suffer from kleptomania, which is a compulsive disorder that causes people to steal without reason. A counselor or therapist can help you and your child get to the root of the issue.

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