How Do I Stop My Teenager From Stealing?

How Do I Stop My Teenager From Stealing?

Teenagers are bound to test boundaries, push limits, challenge authority, and disregard guidance at some point during their adolescence. Young people face extraordinary challenges during their adolescent years, all while enduring surging hormones, physiological changes, and a newfound need for autonomy. Teens are known to act impulsively and for some teens, this manifests as stealing. There are a variety of ways to help your teenager course-correct and stop stealing. If you notice your teen is stealing, consider the following suggestions to nip it in the bud:

    1. Keep your cool: do not get angry with them and immediately punish them without giving them a chance to talk about it first.
    2. Take note of what they stole: was it something expensive or of little value? It is worth noting if the item you caught your teen stealing was something they wouldn’t have a use for or something of little value. 
    3. Confront it right away: do not delay in calmly addressing the issue as soon as you become aware of it.
  • Ask them why they stole: if their response is that they had an impulse to or felt that they had to steal, ask them to elaborate further.
  • Ask if they steal often: although they may not answer truthfully, it is important they know that trust has been broken. 
  • Explain the consequences of stealing: your teenager must be aware that actions have consequences and stealing is no exception.
  • Follow-through: impose a punishment that requires positive action from your teenager.

Your teen may be stealing to rebel. If, however, your teenager has exhibited and expressed that his or her impulse to steal is too strong for them to resist, they may be struggling with kleptomania.

Kleptomania

Kleptomania is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as one of the five standalone impulse control disorders. Kleptomania is characterized by a recurrent inability to resist the impulse or urge to steal superfluous, meaningless items that usually have little value. Typically, a person with kleptomania begins showing symptoms in their late teens or in early adulthood. However, symptoms have been reported in children as young as five years old. While the age of onset can vary greatly, the average onset age of kleptomania is 17 years old. Kleptomania is distinguishable from other types of shoplifting because typical shoplifters will plan out their thefts, often stealing items of value that they need or desire but cannot afford. In contrast, a kleptomaniac will usually not plan out their thefts, instead of acting upon impulse, and is more likely to steal things of little value or use. Although kleptomania is a chronic condition, with proper treatment a young person can learn to effectively manage its symptoms.

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Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, in the long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.

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