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Why Does My 12 Year Old Keep Stealing?

By: Sarah Edwards - Updated: 30 Apr 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Why Does My 12 Year Old Keep Stealing?

Q.

My 12 year-old son has been found stealing things from family members in the house, not least money, foodstuffs, DVDs, games etc. We have tried to discourage this in a variety of methods, all without success and he carries on stealing from us at every opportunity he can.

When we have challenged him about the stealing, he either denies it or, when confronted with incontrovertible evidence, simply says he doesn't know why he does it.

Do you have any suggestions about ways we can manage this behaviour? Should I be consulting with our GP with a view to treatment? I am concerned that this will progress to stealing outside the house.

(D.F, 4 February 2009)

A.

Children steal for a number of reasons, sometimes because their friends have dared them to do it and they want to appear grown up and part of the 'in crowd', sometimes because they genuinely want something and don't have the money to pay for it, or sometimes because they want attention.

Often teens and pre-teens steal because of peer pressure, to either be a rebel, or to get things that their friends have got. If a child is being teased about not having the latest trainers, they may well go and try to steal them. In this case, because your son is stealing from family members, he might be under pressure from his friends to do it, because they are doing the same. Perhaps your child is stealing to sell the items and get money for whatever it is he wants.

The best way to handle a pre-teen who is stealing money from a parent is to give them options for paying back the money. For example, you could ask your son to do extra chores around the house. It is also important to find out why he is doing this and if he is unhappy or angry about something that is happening in his life.

If stealing from you is becoming a habit with your son, think about talking to his school, or your GP to try and find a reason for this change in behaviour. If necessary, your doctor will be able to refer you to a specialist counsellor for more help and advice. It's also important to keep a closer eye on your child's behaviour, and keep him away from situations in which stealing is a temptation. He also needs to know that what he is doing is wrong and that he will get into serious trouble if he continues.

The last thing you want to do is push your son away from you, though, so try to stay clam and rational so that you can get to the bottom of whatever it is that has changed in his life and is making him behave in this way. The last thing you want is for your son to end up in court on a shoplifting charge, so this needs to be nipped in the bud – before it's too late.

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