Prevent Your Teen from Stealing

shoplifting.fwBefore you think that this blog does not pertain to you or your teen, you should know that teen shoplifting is a rising problem nationwide. There are approximately 27 million shoplifters (or 1 in 11 people) in our nation today, and 25% of them are juveniles (age 17 and under). Teens may call it “five finger discount”, “lifting”, “jacking”, “racking”, “nicking”, or “boosting”, but no matter what they call it, stealing is a crime.

Here are some statistics on shoplifting:

  • 55% of adult shoplifters say they started shoplifting in their teens.
  • 89% of kids say they know other kids who shoplift. 66% say they hang out with those kids.
  • Shoplifting affects more than the offender. It overburdens the police and the courts, adds to a store’s security expenses, costs consumers more for goods (as retailers charge more to cover their losses), and costs communities lost dollars in sales taxes.
  • Men and women shoplift about equally as often.
  • Shoplifters say they are caught an average of only once in every 48 times they steal. They are turned over to the police 50% of the time.

Information and statistics provided by the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) a nonprofit organization that shapes, promotes and supports comprehensive community action in shoplifting prevention efforts…because shoplifting steals from all of us. Contact NASP at 800-848-9595 or visit

Why Do Teens Steal?

Reasons teens have given for shoplifting are:

  • They wanted to appear cool or daring.
  • They wanted to see what they can get away with. Some teens may steal as a way to challenge authority or be rebellious.
  • They were seeking a thrill. Some teens get a rush out of doing something risky that has the potential to get them in serious trouble.
  • They wanted things their classmates have (such as designer brands or high-end electronics) but couldn’t afford them.
  • They use stolen items to help fund their drug habit.
  • They felt bored.
  • They felt peer pressure. Some teens steal because their friends do, or their friends “dared” them to do it, and they want to be part of the group. This can even affect a ‘good’ kid.
  • They were seeking attention. Teens may steal as a cry for help because of abuse or stress they’re enduring.

Parents should consider addressing some of these issues to help prevent their teen from engaging in this crime.

Is Stealing a Big Deal?

“Is shoplifting a candy bar or nail polish the same as stealing?” Yes, it is. No matter how small, stealing is stealing. If you excuse one small theft, you are teaching disrespect for authority and that they can get away with illegal behavior. Stealing is a criminal act, and your child should know that it is unacceptable behavior. Even one small theft deteriorates a child’s character and honesty because they create excuses and justifications for their behavior. If they learn that stealing a candy bar is okay, then they could also cheat on a test occasionally, or lie to you or others. Experts say that a teen’s developing mind does not understand the nuances of morals, and parents should make morals more black and white: stealing, lying and cheating are never okay.

In addition to impacting your child’s character development, stealing may very well impact their future. What might have seemed like an innocent prank can instead leave your teen with a criminal record, which can then impact their chances of going to college or getting a job. It can also cause your teen to lose their self-respect, as well as the respect of others. Parents should take the time to discuss the consequences of shoplifting with their teen.

What Can Parents Do to Prevent Shoplifting?

Here are some tips for helping your child to stay on track:

  • Be a positive role model. Kids are smart, and they pick-up on things we may not even think about. For example, if you are undercharged for something and you are aware of it, go back to the store, and let them know. If the cashier forgets to ring up an item and you notice it, point it out. Use these situations to be a role model for your child.
  • Stick to the facts. Remind your child of the immediate and definite consequences of shoplifting to others, herself and her future. Reinforce why stealing (in any form) is wrong, and how her life will be better when she doesn’t compromise her honesty and integrity.
  • Be aware of your teen’s possessions. Parents need to be aware of their teen’s possessions, and notice any new items of clothing and/or devices they have. Don’t be afraid to ask your teen where they obtained their new treasures. Being observant allows the teen to know their parents care and are paying attention. This might reduce their need to steal.
  • Be a loving parent. Be open and understanding so your child will come to you with difficult issues or with mistakes she made without feeling you will be unfairly judgmental or punitive. Help give her the self-confidence to resist peer pressure when temptation or opportunity arises.
  • Know your child’s friends. By staying involved with your kids and their activities, by knowing where they are going, what they are doing, who they are with and when they will be home goes a long way toward keeping your kids from becoming involved in shoplifting (and avoiding other risky behaviors as well).
  • Encourage your child to be involved. Encourage your child to participate in sports or other group activities that introduce her to a different group of kids and keeps her busy.


Final thoughts…

Involving teens in wholesome, constructive activities is a critical component of avoiding a variety of risky behaviors, including shoplifting. Keeping your child involved in activities that interest them can prevent a number of bad behaviors.

Parents should try hard to implement the above behaviors to prevent shoplifting since it is much easier to prevent than to remediate a shoplifter. Once a teen has experienced the “rush” that goes along with getting away with stealing, it’s much harder to stop the behavior, though it can be done with professional help. If parents discover that their teen has been shoplifting, they should not make any excuses for them. They should receive appropriate consequences and parents should reinforce this lesson to help guide their teen toward becoming an honest citizen of our communities.

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