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My Son Has Started Stealing

by Jasmine
(Calgary Ab Canada)

My son who is turning 14 is starting to steal. My roommate has brought to my attention that there are a few things that have gone missing. There has been food, money and materials.

I am about to confront him but I am having troubles with it because I would like him to understand that it is unacceptable but I do not want accuse him of anything.

Any suggestions??

Comments for My Son Has Started Stealing

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Confronting A Teenager Stealing - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Jasmine,
That's a really hard one, you need to be really sure it is him before you accuse him. But if you are pretty sure then you are right, you do need to deal with it and both to figure out why he is doing it, and for him to make amends for his actions.

I have to confess, I was about 13 and I started shoplifting. To this day I am still not sure what on earth possessed me to do it, but partly it was an adrenalin rush of excitement - with a friend, and partly it was at a time in my life when my parents were divorcing and I was unhappy. There was also an element of peer pressure involved, as I wanted to impress my friend. I didn't steal things I wanted or needed, it was usually things for someone else or just random items. Needless to say I got caught and was totally mortified and ashamed.

So what can you do? - firstly you do have to confront him, and you need some very specific examples as evidence, and maybe your roommate needs to be involved since it is his/her belongings that are being taken. However I would not do the big confrontation in front of your roommate, but your son does need to offer some sort of apology and offer something in return to make amends. Your roommate needs to feel his/her belongs are safe and that their privacy is not being invaded. He/she may even decide they want a lock on their bedroom door to ensure this.

Moral Development

So, the other thing is what is going on with your son right now? Teenagers are learning about moral issues, and it is one thing to eat someone else's chocolate biscuit on impulse, but a bigger step to pinching money. Of course he knows it is wrong, but teens have the boundaries a bit blurred about how their actions affect others. Learning empathy and realizing the result of his behavior is a hard lesson but one he needs to learn. If your roommate can share how he/she feels about having their belongings taken, or their privacy invaded - feelings like not being able to feel safe where I live, disappointment at a friendship or relationship being disrespected, loosing trust, embarrassment at having to bring the issue up with you - basically sharing how he/she feels.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Confronting A Teenager Stealing - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Then the other thing is for your son to have a chance to say how he feels - maybe he resents having someone else sharing your home? Maybe he feels left out? Maybe he wants you to himself sometimes? Maybe he has other issues going on at school or with his friends?

This may well be an issue that is highlight some other unhappiness or needing more positive attention.

Teenagers start moving into relationship with peers as being the most important people in their lives. They do have to be more independent and learn to move towards being an adult. But there are a huge number of changes at this stage - both physically and emotionally and teenage-hood can be a roller coaster. We absolutely need to keep the lines of communication open and create lots of opportunities for conversations and time together, not just confrontations and discipline. Make sure you are making time to hang out with him - go grab a burger together, go for a walk, listen to his music, find out what is important to him. Parents often slip into a policeman type relationship with their teens. Our kids start wanting to spend their time with their friends instead of doing family stuff, they spend a lot of time on phones and computers and it can be hard to have much quality time with them. But they do still need us, and they do need our boundaries and some consequences when they push too hard.

Making Amends

In terms of punishment - I would suggest you get him to come up with something to pay back your roommate for his actions, and negotiate with him/her as to what is acceptable. It maybe something like washing their car every week for two months, or doing their share of some chores. Maybe your roommate wants all the money paid back, or some other kind of repayment. If your son can actually offer something in return, that would be a good learning for him, taking responsibility for his actions instead of punishment being imposed on him.

Don't loose sight of your belief in him and that you know at heart he is a good kid. Of course you are disappointed, and he needs to know that, but he also needs to know you love him and you trust him to fix this up.

Good luck,
Annie D :)

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