I discovered my kid is shoplifting, what do I do now?

Date: 04/24/2024

You suspect that your teenager is shoplifting. Let's talk about that today on Tips on Teens.
My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in
helping kids, teens, and families live happier lives. I lead two organizations, Teen Therapy
Center and the nonprofit 501c3 organization, Child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland
Hills, California. Every Wednesday noon, I jump onto Facebook Live to answer your parenting
questions. Let's answer today's. Hi, Kent. Hello. I noticed some stuff in my 16 -year -old son's
room last week that I'm pretty sure he didn't have the money for. This made me very suspicious.
I didn't want to accuse him of shoplifting right off. I searched for some evidence in his text
threads with his friends and got my confirmation. I haven't addressed it yet because I'm totally
furious with him, And I know I'll just lose my beep. How should I approach the situation? And
how do I make sure it doesn't happen again? Thank you for

your question. My heart goes out to you. This is a really tough situation. There are three main
top parts of this I want to address. Number one is your anger. Number two is he's shoplifting.
Number three is that you went through his text messages. Number one, his anger or your anger,
I'm sorry. You had to find before you address this with him, you have to find some way to deal with
your anger so you are calm and you are the mature adult in the room. If you can't do that, there's
no sense of talking to him because it's just gonna create a huge fight and argument and blow -ups
and insults and it's not gonna go anywhere. You need to do what you need to do to make sure that
you have, you are calm and rational and are thoughtful. Secondly, he's shoplifting, you know
he's shoplifting. Actually let's go to the third first. Let's go to the text messages, you've
gone through his text threads, doesn't sound like he knows about that. If you do tell him this,
now you've betrayed his trust, right? If

you anytime you go through a kid's text messages, and they don't know you're going through it,
it's a violation of trust. And you've got to figure out how you want to deal with that. Now you
can tell him, you know, he's shoplifting without going and talking about the text threads.
Now you can say, Hey, listen, you have all this stuff. I know you don't have the money for this.
I don't think your friends are giving this to you. I think you're shoplifting. And and just say
it directly. Now he may deny it, but start talking about what are the ramifications of shoplifting?
Like you should already know if he gets arrested, what are you going to do? Do you, are you going
to kind of let him sit there for a while and kind of stew at, you know, at LA, you know, PD for a bit?
Are you going to go save him right away? You know, you have to figure out what's right for your
family. There is no one right answer. I think you need to communicate with him. This is what I
was going to, If you get caught shoplifting,

this is what I'm going to do. But also it's about empathy. It's like, I care about you. I'm worried
about you. What is going on in your life that you need to do this to feel alive, to feel, you know,
usually when I talk to kids who are shoplifting, it's gonna raise a sense of power, sense of empowerment,
you know, alive, I'm doing something. And how do we find a way for this kid to find that, that sensation
without shoplifting in a legal way? You know, I've had a couple kids who got into rock climbing
because it gives them that rush. And that helps actually, for a couple clients, help get away
from shoplifting and into something more creative, more stimulating in a positive way. I'm
not saying that's gonna help with every kid, but just a couple examples, I know of some kids who
utilize that. Some, it's like martial arts. Some, it's running. Some, it's drawing. You know,
it's finding, or a part -time job also. You know, does he just feel like, hey, I don't have enough
money, I wanna buy

stuff. Okay, how do we help you get a part -time job at the local sandwich shop so you can actually
buy some things? Do you have some financial responsibility and freedom? It's a big topic. There's
a thousand of reasons why your kid may be doing this. The most important thing that I think you
need to do is be calm, be patient, offer. Maybe he needs to have someone to talk to, you know, maybe
because he's whatever's going on. There is no one quick paintbrush answer that's going to paint
over this and make this all better. There's no one thing that's going to happen that's going
to assure you that's never going to happen again. But I think addressing it with him from a calm,
dispassionate, compassionate place is going to pay more dividends to you than coming in with
a lead hammer and just, you're in trouble and this is going to happen because that's not really
going to help him shift his gear. Again, empathy. If he can feel empathy for you, maybe he can
start having empathy for others, whether

that's the local store that he went to to buy steel stuff, or the big chain department store.
It's finding a way to have that compassion, teach compassion, even when you feel wronged. And
I think if you can set that example for him, at some point he will be able to follow. Thank you for
your question. It's a big topic. If you have more questions, you can always call me here. Our
number's down below. But if you want me to answer your questions here on Tips on Teens, email
us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com or you can direct message us right here on Facebook
or Instagram. We love your questions. Thank you so much. Again, my name is Kent Toussaint with
Teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit Child and Teen Counseling. And I'll see you guys all next
week. Bye -bye.

Finding out that your child has been shoplifting can be a stressful and nerve-wracking experience for any parent. It’s important to approach the situation with calm and empathy, as being the adult in the room is crucial. Take a moment to compose yourself before addressing the issue with your child, ensuring that the conversation is constructive and positive. 

By expressing your care and concern, you can work together with your child to understand the root cause of their behavior. Collaborate with them to find alternative ways to experience a sense of empowerment legally, guiding them towards making better choices in the future. Remember, a compassionate approach can help in resolving the situation effectively and strengthening your bond with your child.

There’s a lot more to say about it, and we steal the show in this Tips on Teens:

“Hi Kent. I noticed some stuff in my 16 year old son’s room last week that I’m pretty sure he didn’t have the money for. This made me very suspicious. I didn’t want to accuse him of shoplifting right off. I searched for some evidence in his text threads with his friends and got my confirmation.  I haven’t addressed it yet because I’m totally furious with him and I know I’ll just lose my s**t. How should I approach the situation and how do I make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.