Why do teenagers steal?

  • Sometimes they just want what someone else has got, and don’t think before they take it. They may have developed some sense of entitlement – often because they have not had the opportunity to contribute in their household or work for money.
  • Many teenagers steal because they feel they are unloved or that they don’t belong. They think they have a right to hurt other people because they feel hurt inside. They are trying to make up for the pain they feel in what can be seen as an attempt to ‘get even’, so it is important to make sure that if a child is stealing you go to extra lengths to help them feel loved, important and wanted.
  • It could be because of jealousy – if they feel you favour one child over another. It is useful to listen attentively to the emotions behind what they are saying and discuss their feelings in a positive non-judgemental way.
  • It may be because they want to pay for gifts for friends or family to feel accepted
  • Or they could be doing it out of a sense of danger or bravado in front of peers, or perhaps encouraged to steal by peers, or wanting to fit in with a group or gang where stealing is normal.
  • It could be to fund a habit such as gambling, on-line gaming or funding cigarettes or alcohol. Sadly parents now need to consider carefully if their teenagers could be stealing money for drugs. (Please don’t rule this out as a possibility despite your initial doubts. Just be vigilant.)
  • It could be out of a fear of dependency – they take what they need so they will not feel dependent on anyone or obliged to anyone –particularly if there is resentment or bad feeling towards the people they rely on.
  • Or they may just feel jealous that other kids have what they want
  • It may be that they are unable to trust others or form close relationships
  • Or it could be due to demands from a bully for money or items
What you can do about it?

Download the FREE guide to understand WHY your teenager might be stealing – get some invaluable information for free by entering your email below.

Consider all the following possibilities and choose which ones might work for you.

1. When you discover something is missing, if you can, collect your evidence. Get your investigators hat on – find out which child is spending more than usual. It is best if a conversation about stealing is done when there is no doubt.

2. When confronted with the evidence, if your child insists they got the money elsewhere tell them you will make inquiries in a couple of hours to check their story, to give them a chance to think about it and come clean

Have a serious talk with them.

3. Ask them why they are stealing. What is it that they wanted?

4. Then say ‘Now I need to explain my side…’

  • Stealing is wrong –there is always a victim.
  • As a parent, it is your job to instil morals. If you let this go, you will be failing as a parent to stop them from stealing. If this is the first time you will deal with it at home, but next time there will be much harsher consequences.
  • Stealing is illegal. It is a crime and the child could get a criminal record which will affect their chances of future employment and their reputation.
  • It is difficult to shake off the label of ‘thief’ once caught. If their friends and school find out it will damage their reputation and you don’t want that for your child.
  • The habit of stealing is hard to break and often extends outside the home, where police are much more likely to get involved.
  • We can’t have everything we want. We need to work for it.
  • Tell them what it feels like to be stolen from Hurt, let-down, shocked, disbelieving, sad, upset, disrespected, privacy invaded, devastated
  • Tell them what it feels like not to trust your child: expected better, feeling more distant, distrusting in other things, worried for the future, like a bad parent, wanting to search their room when items go missing, stressed, pained, not sure what to do, how to stop them & how to help them learn, but knowing if you fail what the consequences could be.
  • Explain that trust is the basis of all relationships. We need to trust people to feel close to them. When trust is broken it is hard to re-establish.
  • Tell them what you will do the next time valuables or money go missing such as a visit to the Police or local Youth Offending Team (This would be for a chat, but don’t threaten anything you won’t follow through on)
  • Make it clear that it goes against your family values and the expectations of your community
  • Tell them how disappointed you are in their behaviour. Tell them they have let themselves down and they have let you down.
  • Avoid predicting that their future is in prison or referring to a child as a thief.
  • Explain how important it is that they never steal again
  • Tell them that somehow they must pay back ALL the money that was stolen and what the consequences will now be (choose your own or pick one or more from the list below)

Consequences for stealing
For the first-ever episode of stealing:

5. Insist they return the stolen object (or money) & apologise.

6 Find a suitable way to make amends for the distress caused.

7. Check your child is able to accept what they did was wrong. Help them find ways to make amends then ask them what they have learned from the mistake. Can they now forgive themselves? Then put the incident behind them and know they have learned from it.

8. Be sure that any consequences you plan fit the crime. For instance, taking biscuits or borrowing something is not the same as stealing money from your purse or wallet.

9. If the child cannot return what was stolen take the equivalent money they have stolen out of pocket money or savings. Make sure they don’t benefit from the theft in any way.

10. Do jobs to pay for the missing money.

11. Grounding – no sleepovers, going out with friends, having friends round or days out.

12. Have consequences such as banning  TV, phone or computer time– or their exclusion from a family treat.

13. Remove personal possessions such as their mobile, computer, TV or games console for a fixed period of time.

14. Tell your child what additional consequences have been earned if they lied about the theft.

When stealing has been a problem more than once:

15. Talk to the police & ask for their advice. The police can talk to your child about stealing. This will be preferable to being arrested later on for shoplifting.

16. Maybe visit a young offender institution or youth detention centre

17. Encourage them to get a job to pay the money back such as a paper round /cleaning out stables / doing odd jobs for people/babysitting.

18. If serious amounts of money have gone missing one powerful consequence could be to take everything from your child’s room except their mattress and seven outfits –one for each day of the week. Then for your child to sell their things on e-bay –starting with their most valuable possessions until they have enough money to give back what they stole.

19. Does your child need counselling or to talk to someone they trust?

20. Ask your child how they feel you could re-establish a more trusting relationship.

21. Explain that if the police are ever involved they will take the full consequences. If your warning does not stop them, they still have a choice to listen or not. You can’t control their behaviour.

22. Only tell people who really need to know – you don’t want your child’s reputation damaged. However, if the property of relatives start going missing, there will be no alternative but to tell them.

23. Once the incident is over and they have done what you decided was appropriate the theft should not be referred to again. Don’t give your child a label which they may live up to! Give them a clean slate but no uncertainty of what would happen if they ever steal anything again. But let them know that you do not expect them to steal again and that you trust that they will remember their values.

If you have a few children and no one owns up

24. If you are not sure who has stolen it, offer a way to return the money – Put an envelope on the table or on your bed and go out for a fixed length of time. Explain that if the money is not in there by the time you return you will call the police.

25. If the money is returned explain that next time money or valuables go missing you will call the police straight away.

26. Have a talk with all the children about stealing using the guidelines above.

If the money is not returned

27. Serve only value food for a week. Explain the money was for food, and why everyone will have to eat only the cheapest meals until the money is returned.

28. Cancel family treats and special outings in the next week. Consider other consequences for everyone.

29. If other children’s possessions or money is also going missing consider putting locks on the children’s doors and your bedroom door or provide a locked space for their valuables in their rooms.

In the long term, to reduce the likelihood of them stealing again

30. To encourage a sense of contribution in the home agree with your child which jobs they will do ‘for love’ and jobs where they can earn for what they want.

31. Encourage outside activities especially D of E, volunteering, scouts, sports or music – something good for their self-esteem.

32. Also, encourage them to mix with friends that you feel are good for them.  Allow these friends to your home and supply soft drinks, snacks and food to encourage the friendships. Be accepting of any friends you child wants to bring home, but insist that you are around when they have their friends round and engage with them. Make sure your child takes responsibility for their behaviour when in your home.

33. Explain that they can talk with you about what is going on and establish a way to make it safe – (where you won’t lose your temper), having a code word for when they need to have an important conversation with you sometimes helps.

34. Make sure you never act dishonestly yourself. Make a point of being honest when someone gives you the wrong change for instance or by handing in any money or objects you find.

35. Don’t leave money around or make it easy for a teen to have access to valuables / your things. Keep a proper account of your money, and keep it hidden.

36. Talk to your teen about money. Could they have pocket money (maybe linked to responsibilities in the home) or an allowance to pay for all their own essentials such as toiletries, clothing, travel and social events?

37. Regularly bring up and discuss stories you have heard from the news or TV programmes where stealing has been an issue.

38. Treat your children fairly. Don’t have favourites.

39. Help each of your children feel loved, important and accepted in the home. Make this a priority.

40. Make sure all your children know what the rules are regarding belongings and what the consequences will be for breaking the rule in advance, with the clear indication that you never want to use them.

41. Give your child or children the expectation that they are honest and trustworthy and that you expect them to respect other people’s possessions.

Still not sure what to do? Want private expert help?

Contact Elizabeth to arrange a 90 minute one-to-one session

Contact Elizabeth

How To Confront Your Teenager About Stealing
How do you confront a child who you know has been stealing? What do you say?

  • How to confront your teenager about stealing
  • What to do if you have no proof?
  • What will happen if you let your child off too lightly?
  • What if you’re too severe?
  • What are the right consequences for stealing?
  • How can your teenager make amends?
  • How might your teenager react when you confront them?
  • How to prepare for the conversation.
  • How to get your teenager to admit to anything else they’ve stolen.
  • What if your teenager has been shoplifting?
  • How to more likely your teenage won’t steal again
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here

71 Responses to 41 things you can do if your teenager steals from you

  1. Rashidah says:

    Thank you, this helped tremendously

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Rashidah, thank you so much for leaving a comment, and I am so glad you found it useful

    • LEGIT says:

      So, hi. I’m in a different situation. I’m actually a kid, and I think my mom is worried that I’m stealing. I’m not, though. Money will go missing, she’ll freak out and accuse me of theft, and then realize that my dad just put it away for her. Apologies, and then she’ll do it all over again. I’ve never stolen anything from anyone, which she knows, so I think her reactions are irrational. She does too, and she says so every time it happens. Does anyone know why? Everyone in my home knows I wouldn’t do anything like this!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Thank you for leaving your comment. And good for you! It’s good that you can see that your mum is jumping to conclusions without any good basis. I get thousands of visitors to this blog every month, from parents who genuinely have children who are stealing. But you are one of the children who has a really good moral standing, and confidence that you don’t and won’t steal! I hope you are really proud of yourself, and good luck – the future is bright for you! Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  2. Lstartrek says:

    Some intresting idea’s here that I am going to try

  3. Brian says:

    My 13 year old daughter has been caught taking money from my wife and I, a bit here and there over a 2 month period which added up to nearly £30.00. I did not want to jump into this without thinking first, and this article was a tremendous help. It has shown me that there are other issues (that we are aware of) that contributed to why she has done this. I now know how to handle the situation confidently, will help her to sort these isues and should prevent an escalation of the problem. Thanks so much for a well written article.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Brian, it is always difficult when you discover that your child has started stealing. But I am pleased the article has given you some ideas on how to handle it. Good luck! Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  4. Sherry says:

    I just wanted to say that this article has been very helpful in trying to figure out how to handle my daughter stealing 2 expensive electronics from a relatives home. I was so upset when I first found out because not only did she steal the items but she also lied about how she’d gotten them!!! I hope that I can figure out which way is the best avenue to handle this situation and that whatever I decide, hopefully it will be enough that it won’t happen again. Thank you so much once again for all of your help and for writing such an awesome informational article!!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Sherry, firstly I am sorry that this has happened. It is always a big shock when you find out your child has been stealing. A mixture of shock, disappointment, and ‘where did I go wrong?’ Please rest assured it is very common and does not mean your daughter is a bad child! The most important thing is to deal with it quickly and effectively and make sure that your daughter knows what the consequences will be if she ever decides to do it again. It would be good to get her to make amends to the relative she stole from. Once she has done that make sure you never mention the incident again so she doesn’t think of herself as a ‘thief’. You don’t want her to be thinking that! It was a mistake, and she needs to learn from it. Good luck! Elizabeth

  5. Brandon says:

    Lol im stealing from my mom right now because i deserve it

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Brandon – I think that because you have posted this comment at the end of my article, you are clearly looking for ways to stop stealing. Often teenagers have a sense of deserving more from their parents because they feel their emotional needs are not being met. It would be good if you could find an adult to talk to about your stealing or find ways within yourself to stop. At the moment it feels like a game – as I am sure it does to many teenagers – but I’m guessing deep down you want something more meaningful than having to take things that are not yours. It would be good if you can share what you need from your mom with her, and let her know how you are feeling. I hope you find the help you need.

  6. Victoria says:

    My 9 year old has started this nasty habit of stealing money, bits and bits which could make up to $100 and we are in Africa so its a lot, strangely she doesn’t deny having it but she will mention other reasons for having it, e.g she was only keeping it for us etc.. she never uses the money but she keeps the money…I am so stressed with this habit and am also glad for this advice, I thought I was the only one with this problem !! I have to print this out and share with her father so we can start helping her, do you think counseling is the best? in my part of country its ok to use sticks on kids, but I have adopted a more ‘western way’ of dealing with her which is frowned upon that I don’t discipline her properly,( we are used to being caned at schools and home when kids and its still going on and its not a biggie for us and surroundings..) she gets the cane sometimes but not as much ..please advice me further

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Victoria. I can see this is very hard for you. And it is so hard to try to understand why children do things sometimes. I completely agree with your reluctance to use a stick. I can tell you that with all the families I see, using physical punishments has never resulted in a good long-term improvement in behaviour or a better relationship between parent and child. Hitting a child just results in a resentful child who will go to great efforts to be more devious. I hope that you find plenty of suggestions of what to do in the article. Good luck!

  7. lisa says:

    Thank you for the tips. My 16 year old son has been stealing from me (his mom, his dad, step-dad and older sister for about a year. He has decided to have a sit-down with all of us. He wrote us all letters of apologies that seemed heart felt. He said he has asked God to forgive him. He also wrote a letter saying goodbye to the thief and welcoming a new him. We took his phone and computer privlidges. We think he should still talk to a pysch because he really doesn’t need the money he was taking. Any other advice? I try to practice love and logic with both of my teenage kids. We are Christians and I would like to think we are instilling proper morals, values and behaviors in our kids, but then this! Thanks

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Lisa. I am sorry that you are having a tough time with your son. It seems he has taken full responsibility for what he has done and apologised to everyone. All children make mistakes. And I’m sad to say that almost all children take something that is not theirs at some point in childhood. It is hard for parents to accept, but it does not mean that your son is going to turn into a thief. Be extra vigilant, and maybe suggest that if you discover another incident, then you will ask for the help of a psych. But the best thing to do when your son has apologised and tried to make amends is to draw a line under it. Allow him to move on, without the label of a ‘thief’ hanging over him.

  8. Thakore says:

    Hi, I’m facing similar incidence of stealing money by my son as written above in other emails. Since last two years he is doing the same and we were just unaware of it. He is now in 5th standard. I asked to his school principal and she said she was aware of it but my son always said that his mom, aunt or grand parents are giving him money.He stole other things like pencil, ereaser etc. also from the school. He is my adopted son. last three years back I adopted him when I married to his mother. Since his habit of stealing is so old now, I really need some suggestions to help him quitting this habit. Pl. help me out. Thanks and Regards.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Thakore
      Thank you for leaving a comment. It sounds like you are finding this really difficult to deal with, especially as your son is not your birth son, which is always difficult.
      I think the time may have come for you to have a discussion with the three of you (your son, you and your wife) about why he feels the need to steal. Really listen to his responses – you may find other ways for him to earn money or get things he wants by honest means. Please don’t demonise him – stealing is very common in children – but try to help him understand how it is making you feel. There is nothing worse than not being able to trust your child. And it is best to work to help him accept that he has made a mistake and work out how he can make amends and find other ways (preferably extra jobs around the house) to earn the money he wants. Good luck, Elizabeth

  9. Andrea says:


    My 14 year old son is stealing money from us. Just recently he took nearly $200 dollars from my bank account. This comes after he just got in trouble for being disrespectful to me and his stepdad. He said he used part of it on a gift card, which he claims he lost the same day, and the other part on food for his “friends.” I really do not know what to do. In the past, a few years ago, I had issues with him taking things that did not belong to him. I suppose he never really stopped? I really do not know what to do. I’m at my wits end with him–and just feel like giving up. I cannot trust him at all. He seems to not only steal, but lie about everything. When you talk to him he’s very logical and rational about it, which worries me even more.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Andrea
      What a shame that you are having to go through this. At least your son has admitted taking the money. I think that now you need to embark on ‘operation payback’. Detail the full amount, and list all the jobs that he can do around the house (with you or his step-dad at his side). Spend the time working alongside each-other, and don’t mention the money, or any other problems. Use the time to re-build the relationship he has with you both. At the end of the day, calculate how much he has earned, and strike that off the balance. If he refuses to work to pay back the money, then you go on a parental strike. No lifts, no pocket money, no activities. All the while you should stay friendly and positive. But be absolutely firm that he needs to set time aside every day to work to pay the money back. If anything else goes missing, add it to the account.
      Good luck,

  10. Lita says:

    Im 17 & I have a compulsive stealing and lying problem that started earlier this year.I only do it to my mum. I dont know why? It can be large amounts and I never can recall what I use the money on. Theres a lot going on. I just hate myself now. My mum hates me to

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Lita
      Thank you for leaving your comment, and for being brave enough to let me know what has been going on. Lita, I’m going to ask you to do something even more brave. Please can you talk to your Mum about it? Your Mum already knows what is going on. She can’t trust you, and she doesn’t know what to do. I don’t want you to hate yourself, or to think your Mum hates you. Deep down there is a lot of hurt – but I know you still love your Mum, and I can assure you she loves you too. She just doesn’t know what to do about the stealing. Start by telling her you need to discuss something important, and ask her when it would be a good time. You could just have a long chat or even go through this article together, and see how you can tackle the stealing and re-build the trust. Good luck Lita. Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  11. Steveej1965 says:

    I really didn’t realise that my 17 year old son could do what he did and that was to steal an iPad from his sister and to delete and give to his girlfriend for a present. I was mortified and totally gutted and dealt with it in a lot of these ways. I will use some more of the items in the list now I have read the article and hopefully he will not re-offend. Thanks

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Steve, thank you for posting this. It can be devastating when a child you think you know is so deceitful.
      What is interesting, is that he didn’t steal for himself – he stole to give a present to his girlfriend.
      I think it would be really good for him to make amends by doing something for his sister – maybe helping to decorate her bedroom? Or making something for her? Don’t force him, but it would be good to suggest some way he could make up for what he did.
      Also it would be good if you could give him a list of jobs that you would pay to be done around the house. And offer him the chance to earn money for the next gift he gives to his girlfriend. He will feel so much happier if he is giving things that he has earned rather than stolen. All the best, Elizabeth

  12. alyssa says:

    Hi. I have a 13 year old step daughter. She has been hard work most of her life. She has stolen so much for e.g money, my laptop, my nintendo ds that she lost loads of money, make up, food, pretty much anything she gets her hands on. Evidence of receipts and my possessions have been found and confronted her about it. Asked the right questions before telling her what we found and then lies about it. She has broken into our house, run away from home on numerous occassions, police has been loads of times and got to the point I have now got a lock on my bedroom door!!! She is constantly grounded but never learns her lesson. We have given her so many chances to start fresh but still does it. We have informed her school, she has a truancy card that she must bring home everyday to show us. She recently stole a ring from her babysitter and denied it even though she had it the whole time and people saw her wearing it! We have tried to give her a wake up call with youth offenders, police, prison but nothing phases her. Running out of hope. And to make it worse she is making it difficult for me to build a mother daughter relationship with her. I despise thieves and liars. Please help. 🙁 thank you xxx

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Alyssa
      I am so sorry to hear about what has been going on for you. It seems your step daughter is really pushing you. And that must be very hard. It is so difficult when you can’t trust a child in the house.
      I suspect that your step daughter is also feeling very low, and that her self-esteem is not good. No-one who has to steal to get things they want can feel truly good about themselves. They often steal because they don’t feel connected, and are angry -often because they think they deserve good things, but can’t work out how to ‘earn’ them. The stealing is almost like trying to ‘take’ the nice things they want in life. Not a good strategy, but at 13 she isn’t thinking straight!
      What your Step-daughter really needs is a chance to break the habit. She needs to have a chance to connect with you and her Dad on a deeper level, and eventually she may begin to open up about the stealing, and how out-of-hand it is.
      I completely agree with your strategy to keep valuables away from her.
      One thing that may be useful is to give her opportunities to earn money so she can buy things she likes. Work out a list of jobs that she could do, and work out a rate of pay (£4 an hour would be a good rate for a 13 year old.)
      Also, if you can, time spent with her, understanding her world, and empathising with how difficult life can be would be well-spent. It is when children least deserve love that they need it the most. She’s an angry young lady, and she is hurting the people who are closest to her. If you can get past that, you may be able to reach out to her and help her. I wish you the very best of luck – Elizabeth

  13. niki says:

    Thank you for the article, I am going through this at the moment, have 3 children so not entirely sure which one it is but I do suspect one above the others. Have tried grounding, removing electrical items and letting them know how disappointed I am on earlier occasions, have also taken to locking our money away but then last night £5 was stolen again.
    I will print this article out and go through the points with them, I do need to get to the bottom of why this is happening as it is coming between my partner and me, who is stepdad to the two eldest children

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Niki
      It can be very difficult when you don’t know which child is stealing! Sounds like a job for Sherlock Mum!
      In the meantime, I would make a big thing of having less money for food this week. Don’t buy the little treats you would normally have in the house
      And buy a couple of ‘value’ meals. Make the point that you are down on money, and so sadly you’ll need to be economising this week.
      Even if it doesn’t flush out the culprit, there will be some important messages that you are giving – that stealing affects everyone!
      (And it is possible that the child who complains least about the ‘economy meals’ could be the one responsible!)
      Hope you get things sorted – all the best, Elizabeth

  14. Donna says:

    Hi, my 12 year old daughter has been stealing money off me and her stepdad.We are at our wits end and don’t know what to do. We have tried grounding her and taking away her phone and tablet but she just goes back to her old ways after the punishment. When asked why she is doing it says I don’t know. Where do we go from here?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Donna – I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. It sounds like your daughter has just got herself in the habit of taking things, and may not feel she is getting enough love and attention – so she is taking what she wants. I would do two things. Firstly help her draw up a list of things she wants, and then set up a ‘price list’ of jobs she can do around the house to earn the money to buy them. And secondly – I think your daughter would benefit from finding a way to help other people. Can you look up ‘volunteering opportunities in your area. Particularity helping small children or animals. I suspect that once your daughter has a better understanding of how she can earn to buy things, and how she can help -and focus- on other people’s needs, her self-esteem will go up, and she may not feel the need to keep stealing. good luck – Elizabeth

  15. Casey says:

    Thank you for your article as well as your quick response to postings. I’ve found them helpful. My wife and I have a 17-year-old daughter that we first caught stealing shortly after my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer 8-years ago. It’s been an on and off battle ever since with issues related to clothing, money and other personal items. She targets my wife and older sister. We’ve attempted 2 different counselors who identify the theft with connection to “fear of loss” but just when we think we are making progress she does it all over again. She is now extremely resistant to any formal intervention. We’ve tried the “tough love” approach and a multitude of cause and effect punishments. I fear that she is now displaying symptoms of depression as she is extremely withdrawn and elicits statements related to hating her life, not wanting to be at home and not caring. She remains committed to school, has a boyfriend (first year away in college) and is a starter on the varsity BB team. I have a history of suicide in my family and she knows exactly how to “push my buttons” with comments, verbal aggression and insults. She turns 18 in 5-weeks. We feel like we are at a point where we can no longer trust, relate or connect. The level of stress in the house is palpable. We feel like we are losing her. She wants to be left alone at a time when we think she needs us the most. It’s a tough thing for a parent to witness.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Casey, as you have seen from all the other posts under this blog, stealing is a very difficult issue – and it can be devastating for any family.
      On the other hand, as you can see- it is really common. Most children steal at some point in their lives. Sad, but true
      In your daughter’s case, there appears to be a lot more going on. And as your daughter is 17, and nearly 18, punishments are probably not appropriate now.
      I would suggest that you work on building up your relationship with your daughter. Let her know you love her – no matter what. Notice every time she does something good – or just OK. Listen to her – really listen – to what is going on for her. And be there to support her. What your daughter probably needs right now is unconditional love. Someone to be there alongside her.
      When the relationship between you is stronger, start exploring why she still feels the need to steal. Is it the need for attention? Could it be the feeling she isn’t loveable or loved? What is it? If she can’t answer – try to guess. Was it feeling alone when your wife had her operation – and wanting to find something to fill the void she felt inside? Was it anger at the unfairness of feeling that she wasn’t important at that time? Was it just wanting something nice to happen in her life – and she felt she needed to take it. Not everything is rational with children. It was a very difficult time for your whole family. But your daughter developed the habit of stealing from the people she loved the most. And she probably hates herself for it.
      No matter what, keep in mind that the relationship is more important than the stealing. And working to keep that strong, will hopefully keep your daughter supported until she is 18 and ready to move on. All the best, Elizabeth

  16. LINET says:

    I have a 17 year old son, and i know for a fact that in the past he has stolen before, first time I found out was money from his father, which his father never told me about, I later found out, he was about 14 at the time, Im remarried and my husband has been in my son’s life since he was 9 years old, we go to my husbands family home in new hamphire in the summers and after we would leave , his family would notice things missing, we would be asked but, defend my son because I didnt raise my son that way and would never think he did that, I would ask him and he would promise and look straight in my face that he didnt do it. After that my son never wanted to go again, in the last couple of years he has taken my husbands playstaion and replaced his broken one, and thought my husband wouldn’t notice, then we would find him in our room and he would say he was just looking for something but would never say what, I have no clue as to what else he has stolen, but this past week we found under his pillow an ipod of his 8 year old sister that has been missing for a year that he helped look for, and lied to our face that he never found it. I had to restore it and and he erased all her songs ,apps and pictures, he states that he found it 3 months ago and because she had a new one , there was no reason to tell us he found it, I was beyond hurt, embarrassed,i cant stop crying, he doesnt seem sorry, his little sister forgave him, but my husband and I cant! i had to make him say sorry, He is a charmer and can lie to your face, he does not hang around his friends anymore, he recently got in trouble in school for cheating. I think my son is a sociopath, I dont know what to do!! im scared, hurt and afraid that he will continue and afraid to find out what else he has stolen, my husband doesnt want him alone at the house anymore and wants to put locks in our bedroom doors. pls adv his is my only son im so heart broken, i cant sleep, eat I dont want my husband to hate him, he cant even look at him now, his father is no help!!.I love my son! what do i do!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Linet
      I am so sad to hear about your son. Stealing is such a difficult issue- especially when your son is 17, and nearly a man.
      It sounds like your son is now in the habit of stealing and can’t seem to find a way to stop himself. Could I suggest that you use the CALM process of helping him to learn from his mistakes? or
      CALM:Talk to your son about his stealing when both you and your son are calm
      ADMIT: Your son does need to admit what he stole and that it was a mistake.
      & MAKE AMENDS: He also needs to find a way to really make amends for the things he has stolen. I would suggest in his case that you draw up a job list of jobs he can do around the house to earn the money to pay for the things he has stolen. If you can – find jobs you can do together. This is not a punishment – more a way to make up – so you don’t need to be punitive or distant.
      LEARN: What can your son learn from this? What would he do differently next time? And finally let him
      MOVE ON: Your son needs to forgive himself and know the matter is now over. And you need to stop reminding him of the stealing or the mistakes he made so he can move on.
      However – please protect yourselves. If your husband wants to – lock precious things away. And help your son understand that if you ever find that he has stolen things again, what the consequences will be.
      Keep your relationship with your son strong, and make sure that he knows that despite everything you still love him. However if the stealing continues – then I would suggest that at 18 he should be encouraged to leave home. Hopefully by working on your relationship now, the bond will still be strong if he needs to leave the family home. Knowing that you still love him – you just won’t put up with his stealing.

  17. Lanay says:

    My 18 yr old son, who is a senior in High School this year, this past summer, he refused to get a job, just wanted to hang out with his friends. He never asked me for money, did the odd lawn mowing job, and I was a fool, I believed him. Here he was taking money from my bank account bit by bit until 1500 was missing and a check I wrote bounced. I confronted him, he said he blew most of it on gas, liquor and pot.

    I am such a fool. He was basically under house arrest from August until just a couple weeks ago. I took his car and told him he couldn’t have one of my vehicles again until he could pass a drug test cleanly and had a job to start paying me back. I relaxed house arrest a couple weeks ago, he has applications in at several businesses but haven’t given a vehicle back. He told me recently he couldn’t pass a clean test. My next stipulation was to see a therapist. He was very upset, saying people cant get addicted to pot and even more scary, how pot helped him with his homework and helped him sleep.

    I’m at my wits end, wondering where he got the money to pay for this pot he has been smoking; he says a friend gives it to him on occasion, (which I do not believe).

    Tonight I found my heirloom pearls missing. These pearls and bracelet are irreplaceable and passed on to me by my mother before she died 20 years ago,. I know he has taken them. I don’t want to think so, I want to be wrong. But I cannot find them anywhere. I went to look for them after I was told by a family member my son was trying to pawn the watch his grandfather had given him and now I am sick to my stomach that this is where my mom’s pearls have gone.

    How do I even start this conversation without bawling? Where do I go if he denies the theft? I hate that my first thought upon missing my pearls are that my son has taken them. The pearls might be irreplaceable but my son is even more so and he is heading down this path of destruction.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Lanay. I felt so sad reading your comment. Thank you for sharing it.
      There is no easy answer with a grown up son. The only thing I can say is that you are quite right – your son is irreplaceable. He is making some big mistakes – and yet he is still your son. To try to limit the damage your son is causing you, you may need to protect yourself from further thefts. Until your son is able to take responsibility for his own actions, one possible way to deal with it is to ask him to leave the family home. You can still support your son emotionally – and meet up with him and be there for him on the phone. But you don’t need to put up with your precious things going missing. There is a choice.
      However, no matter what you do, remember that your son – and his relationship with you – is one of the most precious things in the world. Never lose sight of that. If you are asking him to leave your home, then do it calmly, and with love. And let him know that you still love him – and are there for him – just not willing to put up with your possessions and money going missing. Good luck, Elizabeth

  18. Julie says:

    My daughter was 15 (now 16) when she stole several things from me. I found a dish from my closet in her room, that had contained money. I found a coin purse from my closet that contained money, in her room, empty. I found my coin collection under her bed. I have no way of knowing how much money is gone, or if all the coins are still there. In addition, she stole a bottle of Vicodin. I am pretty sure there are other items that I didn’t realize were gone. Meanwhile I had about $200 of her money that I would hold for her and deduct from when she needed something that she was supposed to pay for herself. After I found out that she had stolen from me, I told her that she wasn’t getting her money back, since she had to pay me back and we don’t know how much she took. She lied many times before she was finally forced to admit she had taken it (she admitted it in therapy only). She does not accept my rationale. She shows no remorse. I wonder if I am interpreting the article correctly if I say that the $200 I am not giving back is because she stole and she lied.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Julie. It is very hard to know what has already gone missing, but from now on you should make sure all your money is locked away and be able to account for every penny. Regarding the money that belongs to your daughter. I would suggest that you hold it in safe-keeping for her. Otherwise she will think that what you are doing is also stealing! It would be best to try and work out the value of what she has stolen, and she should do jobs around the house- at a fixed rate of pay, until she pays back the money in full. Then you can return the money that belongs to her. I hope that makes sense! Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  19. mrs lowe says:

    Hi Elizabeth my sons 16 nearly 17 this is the 4th Time he’s stolen from another house apart from stealing from us the police have spoken to him he has got ADHD and moderate autism but he has a problem he steals sex toys and soiled ladies soiled underwear and other ladies things I’ve asked for help from s/services but they don’t want to help they Said call police . I know I should but his life will be ruined.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Monique. I’m so sorry to hear of the difficulty you are having with your son. It is a very hard thing to do to deal with an issue like this. Unfortunately, what you are trying to tackle is more than stealing. And sadly I would agree that you may need to get the police involved. The ladies concerned will feel that your son has violated their privacy. And that’s not OK. If you were not able to stop your son after the first or second time, then you have not been able to impress on him the seriousness of what he has done. Who knows where it might lead? I would have a confidential chat with a community police officer and ask their advice. Elizabeth

  20. Spalva says:

    Hello Elizabeth,

    Last night, while cleaning up her room before a week-long class ski trip, my 13 year-old daughter suddenly volunteered to take out the trash, phrasing it, “Is it there anything I can do for you? The trash looked full.” I did think it was odd. She tied up the trash and, on her way out, stopped in her room, saying out loud “Is there anything in my room to throw out?” She never has been the most discreet of sneaks. I didn’t want to pry, figuring she had something to throw out that embarassed her. However, I couldn’t help wondering because, well, we do have trust issues.

    This morning, after she left for the trip, I headed down to the building’s basement to check the trash. Underneath our trash bag I discovered two copies of the current Shakespeare play being read in class. One is brand new and belongs to the girl she will be rooming with on this trip; the other does not have a name written in for this year. My daughter’s copy is in her bookshelf.

    Besides the obvious “we revere books in this family and do not throw them in the trash” and “those books would go to a landfill” and “how do you think it feels to face the teacher and tell her your textbook has gone missing,” I’m not entirely sure how she should repair the situation. Taking them to the teacher would be highly mortifying for her (she is already suffering depression — I recently discovered a suicide note and she is seeing someone). This child has always struggled to make friends and has suffered some fairly bad bullying throughout her school years. I suspect she took the books out of anger; something may have happened between her and two girls at school. There happens to be a note in one of the books in which my daughter writes that she won’t ever trust “you” again and that she “highly doubts you will keep it a secret.”

    What could be a logical consequence here that wouldn’t compromise her reputation, as you say? What should I ask her to do to make amends?

    Thank you very much for any advice.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Spalva
      Despite the sadness you feel at making this discovery, you have a good opportunity here to help your daughter.
      You know that your daughter isn’t a bad kid. She has just made a poor choice. The fact that she has been bullied is making her do things to ‘get back’ at other children. And inadvertently she is bullying them. Causing them embarrassment and difficulties, because of something they’ve done to her.
      And you have some time for a serious think while she is on her trip.
      I would wait until she is safely home and settled back then tell her you have something serious to discuss with her.
      Just confront her with the evidence. Don’t be apologetic for having found the books. And don’t tell her that she accidently led you to them. Show her the books and ask her to explain. If she lies, tell her you know the truth, and you would like her to be brave enough to say it for herself. Show her the note. Tell her you will be going, with her to see her teacher the following day to sort it out.
      When children are first caught, that is the time to tackle it head on. I’m afraid you will need to see the teacher with her. Despite her embarrassment. She needs to accept that what she did was wrong and own up. It would be best if she could explain to the teacher why she did it. You can appeal to the teacher’s better nature to ask to keep it to him or herself. But they need to know. And the books need to be returned to the girls concerned.
      I’m going to say good kids sometimes do bad things. Everyone makes mistakes. Please don’t think that punishment is going to help your daughter. This will be her nightmare. Her parents finding out that she has been ‘bullying’ other children. She will be so upset that she has been caught. And will want to do everything she can to wriggle out of the blame. Be prepared for that. Just insist that you know the truth, and you’re waiting for her to be brave enough to tell you herself.
      Then you’re going to need to do a lot of work to help re-build the relationship with her. She needs to be loved- unconditionally- just for being who she is. She needs your understanding and love. More now than ever before. She needs to feel she can trust you with the truth about what’s going on for her. And you are going to need to make sure you have the skills to deal with that. If you can, find some help locally. If not, please book a one-to-one Skype session with me, and I’ll show you how you can do that. I wish you all the best. Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  21. sara says:

    Hi, Elizabeth,
    My 16 year old son has recently stolen $200 from envelopes my husband and I use for household budgeting. He is on a team that requires each player to sell 16 “discount cards” at $25 each. He is very introverted, has low self esteem and finds this type of requirement difficult and we were thrilled when he told us he’d been around the neighborhood and sold 8 cards. Imagine our devastation when I had to confront him about it since I’d noticed money missing from our envelopes. I don’t know which is worse, the lying, the stealing or the complete lack of remorse. What road do we head down now? I’m so incredibly hurt since I’d praised him and told him how proud I was of him for tackling a tough job and earning the money. Like others who have sought advice from you, we have always instilled proper morals, values and honesty above all else in our house and are baffled at how this can happen.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Sara
      I am so sorry that this has happened to you. It is a very difficult situation to deal with. And I can only imagine that your son’s self-esteem is now at rock-bottom.
      Sara, there is an e-book that normally costs $5, but you can get it free of charge if you type in the code stea1ing. The link is: https://parent4success.com//confronting-stealing/ I think it will really help you. Please remember, just because he stole something, it doesn’t mean he will turn out to be bad. He needs a chance to prove himself. And I would definitely draw up a list of chores so he can pay bay the money he stole in lots of hard work (preferably working alongside you), to re-build your relationship.
      Good luck Sara,

  22. Susan says:

    My son is turning 20. Don’t make the mistakes I have made. My son has stolen thousands and thousands of dollars from my husband and I over many years. I constantly return, make him sell, or cancel orders he’s made. He goes months at a time he does not do it. Then boom it happens again.
    I wish I handled it better when it started. I should have sent him to jail. The police came one time but we did not press charges. We thought it would scare him. We kicked him out, but hurt us so much and we let him come back. I personally kicked him out in the middle of the night after seeing new purchases and ignored his calls for hours till he begged and cried on the phone. He has seen psychologist and I even went to be told he will do it again. We threw him out another time and on way to driving him to auntsee house he said he was going to kill himself so I committed him to psych hospital. He was there for 9 days. I change passwords so much I forget them myself. I’m so tired. I don’t know what to do to help him. If I send him to jail he will have a record that will haunt him. I’m scared to read or hear what the answer is and so many people criticize the mistakes I’ve made raising him. I get it …it’s my fault the way I raised him. So to anyone that has a child that steals t h e first time it happens you better handle it because if not I don’t think it will ever stop.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Susan
      I can’t tell you how sad it is to read your story.
      You clearly love your son, and want to do what’s best, but you continue to be a victim again and again with your son stealing from you.
      My heart goes out to you!
      The answer is almost certainly in your son not living at home, whilst you try to have the best relationship you can with him. He clearly can’t control his stealing habit.
      I do hope things work out for you.
      Thank you for sharing your story so other parents realise how important it is to stop stealing early on.
      Warmest wishes,

  23. Kristi says:

    My ex husband just found out that my son got a hold of a business credit card that was entrusted to him for an organization that he belongs to. $600 in purchases in about a week. Because of the nature he has had to file a police report and also ine with the bank. We have been waiting for police reports, but we are certain that it is our son and his friends. We have not confronted him yet. This is a serious crime along with a list of other problems. I am scared for him. Not sure what to do.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Kristi
      I’m so sorry to hear about the credit card. I think it may be good to confront your son. And to explain that the police report has had to be filed. And offer him the chance to come clean. Explain that if he is found guilty he may be charged with a serious crime. But if he admits what he did, and offers to pay back the money, it would be easier on him.
      Sometimes Kristi, it takes something like this to make a teenager stop and think about his actions. I understand your concern. Nobody wants their son to be in trouble with the police. But it may be better this way than your son gets caught by a shop owner or police stealing from someone outside the family, where the situation could be a lot more damaging. As a criminal record may affect your son’s possible career prospects.
      I do hope things turn out ok, and that this is the shock your son needs to stop him stealing.
      Warm wishes,

  24. Kristen says:

    I have tried everything besides police to get this resolved I have 3 older children ranging for 10 to 14 yrs old .We had issues of them stealing in past .then it stopped till this last month I need some advice can you private email me please

  25. me says:

    My son stole keys. Lots of them. I found a set with a name tag and number. I rang the number. The owner had lost his job after the apartments he minded were broken into. He called to my house and asked me to report the incident to clear his name. I did this. My son was on CCTV with his friends. The police gave my son a caution with myself present. I didn’t bring him up to behave as he did that day. He was as rude and “stupid” in his manner as he could manage to make out it was ultimately my fault. Damages needed to be paid as they had trashed the vacant apartment and as he was under 18 the cost fell to me. Himself and his friends were already stealing from me whilst I was out working.

    He rarely attended school although I drove him there (often with his friends who I’d have fed breakfast to). He’d walk out as soon as I drove off.The police would call, tell me to collect him from the station.I’d leave work and collect him, he’d jump out at the first junction or hit me. The school called in the social services who appointed him a worker. I had changed the locks on the house to stop me being burgled every day but they insisted I give the keys back to him. I had to work. They went through everything. Stuck chewing gum above the headboard in every bedroom.

    I was young when I had him to a very abusive man I thought loved me.It took me 3 years to escape this man and I told no lies when he was given no access or parental responsibility for my son. This is the man that tried to drown him in the bath at 6 weeks old, never mind what he did to me. I got out, moved country, got a job, house, car, traveled many countries with my son and supported us fully.I hadn’t banked on there being facebook. I don’t do facebook etc.I thankfully met my life partner (the one that you have to wait for).We set up home and put my son into his chosen college course which he left within 2 weeks.We offered him a job within the company, driving lessons,a car. We told him on his 18th birthday that if he wouldn’t help us he would have to go (money provided via birthday for flat).He moved in with foreign girls for a while. Told them he was an alcoholic that needed help(he couldn’t drink a pint).I constantly got calls for money. The answer was work for it and I’ll give it to you.He returned to the area and again I offered his bed in return for help. He visited me for a weekend with a girlfriend.I felt sorry for her, like looking at myself with his father.He rang me a week later saying he was getting new “stuff”. I asked him how he could afford it.He said he’d been smart.My partner came in at this moment to tell me he needed me to look at something. There on the PC was an article published by a leading national newspaper and a podcast of an interview on the local radio.My son had signed on to indigogo(an american donations site)and in order to get as much publicity to his cause had contacted the media. 32,000 people read my son’s story before I had it taken down. Thousands left terrible comments about me. The radio station broadcast the 20min interview twice and released a podcast. He said I’d made him homeless at 15 and how he slept under bridges etc. and would have attended school etc. if he could have done. All his life he got away with playing the victim at my expense – without me even knowing.Do you know how many expensive clothes I put on his back, how I gave him what he wanted/needed?And even now I don’t begrudge him that as that’s what I needed to do for me.He knew my weaknesses as I knew his. Having been manipulated I didn’t do it to him.I told him I was proud of him.He repaid me by going to every person I ever knew (friend or foe) and killing me.He said he wants me dead, threatened to do it in detail- I am to be despised as a failure.I should have sued the newspaper/radio. I didn’t.I would now but it’s too late-it took me this long to process it all.I had a position where you’d recognise me-now I’m afraid.I’ve been treated terribly by strangers who believe him. I never told him how bad his father had been.Children are two halves of their parents and I didn’t want him to carry what his father had done. I did however think that in the future he would need to know his father. I just said that I wanted him to be able judge for himself when the time came and need nothing.I hadn’t planned on there being facebook.His half siblings and himself started chatting and this could well have been contributory to the problems.I blame myself, have no friends (they’re just nosy and believe him as it’s a better story) and hate my son. That’s a lot of stuff inside a mild mannered human being like me.If I could go back I would never have had him.I’d have given him up to social services rather than mind and lie for him.He is still torturing me via family and past friends.Facebook allows him to say this stuff and there natural reaction is to feel sorry for him. This is his method. I did love my son, did my best (I am only human).

    • Elizabeth says:

      I’m so sorry to hear your story.
      I would only say, your son has developed a life based on his ‘fictitious’ sense of being a victim.
      Now he is over 18, please don’t let what he says or does define you.
      You now have your own life to lead.
      Do it with integrity, honesty and love. And live the life you now want to lead.
      When you think of him, send him blessings and hope for the best. Your son is not happy. All the things he has said and done will be eating away at his self-esteem.
      But now he is an adult, he will have to make his own choices in life and suffer the consequences if he breaks the law.
      It’s so sad. But it’s important to move on. And find some way of finding meaning and happiness in your own life.
      Warmest wishes

  26. May says:

    I have just had a bad experience with my late teen son. His friends parents turned up at my house saying that he had stole an expensive piece of jewelry from their house. My son admitted it and gave it back. It was a shocking and awful moment for me and all. He had stolen money from me when he was little but I thought that it was a one off thing and he felt so bad that I though it had learnt his lesson. Unfortunately all his friends are very wealthy and we aren’t and he always wants to be more than we are. He is such a good kid in all other ways but somehow fees the world owes him more. The whole situation has been awful and people are starting to gossip. He has lost his girlfriend over it and should have learnt a lesson from the whole terrible experience but I am left wondering if I should get him counselling.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi May
      I’m so sorry to hear about the experience you just had with your son.
      It’s a gut-wrenching moment when something like that happens.
      I have written a book Stop Your Teenager Stealing that I think may be very useful for you to get.
      You can download it to a kindle, and should be able to read it in an hour or two.
      It contains some really useful information that you could probably use right now.
      Good luck!
      And do get back in contact if you use the techniques and suggestions and it doesn’t’ solve the problem.
      Warm wishes,

  27. Roy says:

    Hi, same stories as above. Numerous times cash has disappeared from my wallet, or my daughter’s room, but my son is clever ,always there is some monies left behind. We have talked to him many times, he always denies it, we have gone both routes, calmly and full on yelling and fighting, nothing works. Today, we found out money was from missing from a person he plays soccer with, the person saw my son with his wallet, but checked later and found out monies were missing …same way…not all the money was missing… we’re planning on talking to the police to see if they can talk to him, and “scare him straight” Nothing we have done has worked. I do need to say my son traumatised as a young child, has seen a psychologist, has ADHD. HE has a “woe is me/victims mentality since all this happened.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Roy
      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. it’s a really tough one for any parent to deal with.
      Please could I recommend you get my book: Stop Your Teenager Stealing?
      It’s on Amazon, and you can download it or get a paper-back copy.
      It has a lot of ideas that I think you will find very useful.
      Good luck, but please get back in contact if you try out the step by step strategies in the book, and they don’t work.
      I believe it’s the only book to show parents exactly what to do to stop their children stealing.

  28. Chani says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I was wondering if you could advise me how to confront my 11-year-old daughter. She’s been bringing home expensive pens and school supplies and when confronted will deny stealing them. She’ll say that she found them or that someone gave them to her. It’s obvious she’s taken them from her school, some from classmates and some from art class. She’s asked me several times not to look in her backpack. When I did, I found things that did not belong to her. Once she brought home a cake that she said was leftover from a birthday party the class had thrown for her teacher. When I said I would call the teacher to congratulate her, she began changing her story. She eventually admitted she had taken the cake from the classroom (where it had been put for a parents’ night).

    When I give her a chance to tell me the truth she gets very defensive, acts hurt that I don’t trust her and starts to cry. Eventually she’ll admit she took the item in question and promises not to do it again, but I keep finding things. It hurts me to admit that I no longer trust my own daughter.

    She has a tutoring job where she earns a respectable amount per week (I keep the money for her), but, interestingly enough, when she wants something we can’t afford and I suggest she uses the money she earns, she never wants to do so. She also takes candy and treats that I keep hidden; she searches out my hiding places and eats them. It took me a while to discover this, as she’ll leave some of it.

    My husband had bought some expensive chocolates that we were going to share with the family for a celebratory dinner. The night before, we went out with the other children. My daughter said she was tired and wanted to stay home. When I returned I had a sneaking suspicion and checked my hiding place. Sure enough, the chocolate was gone. At first she denied having taken it, but after several hours she admitted it, after watching me look again and again in the hiding place in case I had missed it, and then watching me search the trash cans for the empty package. I had made it clear to her that I knew she had been the one to take it since I was the only other person in the family who knew where I had hidden the chocolates. (I hid them from my husband because he can’t resist chocolate. The other children didn’t even know there was chocolate in the house.) She finally told me she had eaten it and then taken the empty package out to the public trash area so I would not find the evidence. I made her take the money from what she had earned and go out to the store to replace the chocolate. I thought we were finished with stealing, but today I once again found expensive art supplies in her backpack. Do you have any advice what I can say to her that will not trigger the cycle of lying, crying and denying?

    I want to take her to see a therapist but she already told me she has no intention of talking about these kinds of issues with total strangers.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Chandi
      First, I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s stealing. It is a hard problem to handle, and I’m glad you are searching for help.
      Your daughter is in the habit of stealing now and is finding it difficult to stop. It is important you tackle this now, so it doesn’t develop into a life-long habit, and get her into serious trouble.
      One of the things I recommend in situations like this is to tell her now you have had a chance to think about it, you’ve decided what to do.
      1. Firstly, ask her to tell you about anything else she has stolen. Tell her this is her chance to come clean.
      2. If she has taken anything from anyone else, it is to be returned.
      If she has taken anything from a shop, she should take it back.
      Anything she has taken and doesn’t still have (such as all the chocolates, etc.) she must pay back every penny from her account. If she doesn’t have enough money, she should earn it at £4 an hour doing household jobs.
      3. I want you to explain to your daughter, that to make up for taking the money, she must do 15 hours of housework to make up for it. Over the next few weeks.
      I would like you to choose something you can do alongside her. Perhaps cleaning the kitchen, bathrooms, hoovering, dusting, cleaning the car.
      She can do it with you or her dad, but not on her own.
      I want you to be firm about making sure she does the full 15 hours. Use a timer if necessary.
      While you’re working together, I don’t want you to mention the stolen money. I’d like you to use the time to reconnect with her.
      Ask her about school about her favourite music, about her friends, about her interests. Anything, so this doesn’t feel like a punishment. This is making up for a poor choice she made.
      Tell her that after she has done the 15 hours’ work, the slate will be wiped clean.
      4. Tell your daughter, if you EVER discover anything else she has stolen, she will need to do 30 hours’ work to make it up, so it would make sense to tell you about anything now, and it will be included in the 15 hours.
      If you discover she has taken anything, and hasn’t told you. Or if she takes anything else, then she does 30 hours work along the same lines.
      5. I would strongly recommend you buy the book ‘Stop Your Teenager Stealing’. Available on Amazon. I know your daughter is only 11, but it has lots of useful tips and is a short succinct guide for dealing with the problem of stealing.
      6. When there is a problem, such as stealing, there is a break down in the relationship. Many parents don’t understand how to repair the rift and get family life back on track. If your daughter is stealing, you’ll want to regain the happy, calm family life you want and deserve. Just six 90-minute Skype parenting sessions can transform family life. To find out more click here. Or go to: https://parent4success.com//services/one-to-one-coaching/
      I hope that helps, Chandi
      Good luck!
      Warm wishes,

  29. Anne says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I would like to ask some advise on how I can talk to my son who is 14yrs of age now. His been stealing from me and my parents too. When he was 12 he went to a friends house and he stole the mobile phone of his friend. When asked he admitted that he took it. And was jealous of why he can’t have and the friend would let my youngest son play more time that’s why he stole it. When the mother of his friend found out it was missing they accused my youngest son stole it, but it was my eldest who took it. If they don’t return it the next day the mom would be reporting it to the police already. I told him to return the phone and he said he will. Then school called me again coz the mother of his friend called up and asking about the phone where he told me he gave back already which it’s not true. He actually destroyed the phone and threw it. I looked for the phone and when I saw it my heart sank. I need to buy a new phone for his friend just not to get him into trouble. Then one time I kept money in my wallet to pay for their school fee on the next day. Then while on the payment counter in school I just found out 300 was missing from the money I kept. He didn’t admit that he took the 300 but he said only 50. Then my dad kept his old phone inside his cabinet in their room. It went missing again. When asked he say he never take. Then when I was cleaning our room I found it inside his bag. The recent one was I found my ATM card outside my wallet inside my pants pocket where in I never used it. I had the feeling that he used it. Finding out the next day half of my salary gone. Because he used it online gaming. I asked him to save up. And pay me every month for the same amount he used. The following week my dad lost 40 in his wallet. He denied that he took. I asked him several times. At the end he took it. Hid it under my bed and used up 10 . My brother found a Google playcard in his possession. Which he say he bought with his angpao money. But I scared he stole it from a shop. I’m scared of him getting into trouble outside . What should I do? I talked to him already but still do. It hurts me a lot already my parents too. It’s scaring me so much already

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Anne
      Firstly, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Your son’s stealing is clearly causing you a huge amount of stress and upset.
      Anne, I am going to suggest that you buy a book on Amazon, called Stop Your Teenager Stealing, by Elizabeth O’Shea
      It’s not very expensive, but in your case, I think it will help a lot.
      Stealing is a difficult habit to stop, and you need to use a structured, logical approach, to help your son, before he gets a criminal record.
      Good luck Anne.
      Warm wishes,

  30. Jill nelson says:

    Hi Elizabeth

    I’m so upset this morning. I received a call from a co-worker and friend that after my 17 year old daughter babysat for them a couple gift cards and an old iPhone went missing. I went through her things and found the gift cards but no phone. I confronted her and she denied stealing the cards and didn’t take a phone. After talking to her for over an hour she admitted taking the phone too and recovered it from the place she had hid it. I’m so upset because now I’m thinking back on little things that have popped up like a sweatshirt or costume jewelry that she has told me were given to her. I feel like she is constantly lying and I no longer trust her at all. I’m making her write an apology letter and return the items she took as well as the babysitting money she received. The phone is also cracked so she has to make restitution for that as well. I just don’t know what to do now. Should I take her for counseling or just do what I’ve listed above and drop it. She’s almost 18 and I don’t want to lose complete control. Thanks

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Jill
      What an awful shock, to discover about the stealing like that, where your co-worker is also involved.
      It sounds like you are doing the right thing to help your daughter make up for it.
      It also sounds, however, that the stealing may have become a habit, and this is just the first time your daughter has been caught.
      As your daughter is nearly 18, I do think that it would be useful to repair the upset she caused you, by doing 15 hours of jobs alongside you, unpaid.
      Talk to your daughter and see if she is willing to do that. If she is really sorry about the upset she caused, she will probably be happy to make amends.
      As she is nearly 18, and could leave home soon, discuss this with her. It is really important to maintain your relationship with your daughter, whilst at the same time, let her know that stealing is not OK, and how much she has let herself down, and you.
      If you are still worried, or you don’t feel on top of the stealing, I would suggest you get hold of a copy of my book, Stop Your Teenager Stealing, available on Amazon.
      Good luck Jill.
      Warm wishes,

  31. Julie says:

    I am sitting at my desk at work in an open plan office and I am crying my eyes out!
    My 17 year old son has stolen – again – from the family. This time from his sister’s purse and not for the first time.
    He has stolen money from all of the family in our home at one point or another and even from his grandmother when she came to stay.
    He has also sold all of his possessions – mostly gaming equipment and computer stuff. He even sold his Christmas presents without even taking them out of the box. Gifts we struggled to get as we have had a bad year financially.
    We found out last year that he was regularly smoking cannabis and sold a lot of his belongings to fund that.
    We grounded him and he just accepted it. He seemed fine without the drugs so I did not think he had an addiction.
    We allowed him to go out with his pals again following an emotional breakdown he had which resulted in him losing his place on an apprenticeship. I thought he needed hid friends’ support. This is when he sold his Christmas presents!
    We grounded him again!
    I have just recently started to let him out to walk the dogs – trying to give him a purpose and a chance to earn some money. But he has started being out longer and longer with the dogs, not answering his phone and now he has stolen again.
    When I talk to him he promises not to do it again – but it keeps happening.
    This is now beginning to affect me at my work and I don’t know what to do!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Julie
      Firstly, I just want to say how sorry I was to read your story.
      Many people who read it will hopefully be inspired to act soon and get their child’s stealing habit sorted, before it escalates.
      It is never easy to tackle stealing, however it is even harder when you have a 17-year-old, who has promised repeatedly not to steal, and yet has taken money, again, from his sister’s purse.
      It can help when you realise that he can’t tackle his stealing habit on his own.
      He doesn’t even value things that are given to him. He’d rather sell them, almost certainly to buy drugs.
      I’m going to suggest a few thing you should do.
      1. Buy my book: Stop Your Teenager Stealing, available on Kindle, so you can get it today from Amazon. Read it from cover to cover, then plan exactly what you are going to do.
      2. Get your son help with his cannabis addiction. That is what is driving his stealing. He won’t be able to stop stealing until he stops the cannabis habit.
      3. Explain very calmly that you will now involve the police. Either do it today, or give him one more chance. He needs to believe that you will, in fact, call the police. If you know you will never get the police involved, don’t tell him you will. You need to say it and mean it.
      4. Start talking to your son about moving out of the family home. Be utterly calm and supportive, but explain that you now need to seek alternative accommodation for him. Contact the YMCA for help finding him suitable accommodation. Take your son along. Remember, your relationship with your son is hugely important. He will still be your son for the rest of your life. However, stealing is not fair on you or your family.
      Julie, I’m so sad about your situation.
      I hope this helps a bit.
      Warm wishes

  32. Luis says:

    I’m very disappointed in myself at the moment. And quite frankly, deppresed. I just stole around £17 for a game I wanted with my dad’s credit card. My parents have not yet foun out. Physiologically, I think my brain is telling me to do it, my parents smoke and long story short they are completely addicted. Nothing will help. I have also been pretty bad at school at the moment (not grade wise) it helps me be distracted from everything else at home but then only backstabs me because of what I have done. Please answer as soon as possible. Thanks

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Luis
      It sounds like things are pretty bad for you at the moment.
      Stealing the £17 for your game is clearly playing on your mind.
      And I can tell that you are fed up with your parent’s smoking, and feel a little bit ‘entitled’ to the game. But it’s still playing on your conscience.
      I would suggest that you choose the parent you get on best with, and ask if you can talk to them about something.
      Explain what you’ve told me. It will be much better to come clean than for your dad to discover it.
      Have a plan for paying back the money. Offer to do some extra work to pay it back.
      Stealing is a hard habit to break, so you’ll need to be determined to stop it now.
      Try to get a job, or agree with your parents to do some work around the house for money. It feels so much better when you can afford to buy the things you want with money you’ve earned.
      Good luck Luis!
      Warm wishes,

  33. LUCY King says:

    My 12 year old son has stolen money for online gaming via credit cards. This is the 3rd time now. Ordinarily he is a great kid although he does have a hard time listening the first time around. He doesnt talk back disrespectfully but it does take being asked several times before he listens and does what is asked. The amount is never over $50.00 and its always for some online game. I want to ground him from his computer for the amount of time it takes him to repay his debt and then have him do household chores at $5.00 a chore until its paid off. Also have him write a list of how it affects his family when he steals and maybe start counseling. Then after his punishment get him a prepaid card for his allowance so he can use it to buy his online games. What do you think?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Lucy
      It is a shame you are having to deal with your son’s stealing. He sounds like a good kid, but he clearly gets carried away with his online gaming.
      Thank you so much for your comments. I think your chosen strategy is really good.
      The one thing I would add, is that it would be good if you could work alongside your son, while he is doing chores, to rebuild the relationship. \
      Focus on your son, finding out more about his life and his opinions. That will help you feel closer to your son, and will make it much less likely he steals again.
      Good luck Lucy!
      Warm wishes,

  34. Ayesha says:

    My son is 17 now, he started stealing at a young age and I did everything I could, paid the money back to people he stole from and sat him down spoke to him, told him never to do it again but thats the thing he always does it again! Last night he asked me that he felt bored and wanted to go to the local mall and I took him there, he shoplifted got caught and I had to pay triple the price of the things just so the police wouldn’t get involved! The country I live in wouldn’t give him a record he will be sent back to our home country annd there is no one there!
    He is an excelent student but, his attitude that he is the best and habit of stealing is going to ruin him! I don’t know what to do anymore! He always crys and sincerely apologizes and then ends up stealing again!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I am so sorry to hear your story.
      What you describe is a ‘Stealing habit.’
      Many children, despite wanting desperately to stop, can’t help themselves in the moment.
      I would strongly advise you get my book, Stop your Teenager stealing, available on Amazon.
      The stakes are too high, for you, to not deal with this properly.
      Although I normally only deal with parents of teenagers up to the age of 16, I would be happy to do some Skype sessions with you, to make sure you stop your son stealing.
      It sounds like if your son can’t stop, he will end up in prison, or being deported, which is just too big a price to pay.
      Let me know if you would like to do that.
      Warm wishes,

  35. Monja says:

    Hi Elizabeth, I have 2 step daughters aged 13 and 15. Things are going missing in our house and no one takes accountability. The oldest one takes my things (pens, bobby pins, combs etc) small things, but she takes it from my bedroom and when confronted, acts all innocent and sometimes very offended. I also caught her taking things that I sell, perfume and cellphone accessories, and she always denies it vehemiantly. I am so tired of this constant battle of locking away everything. I don’t even feel safe in my own house anymore. Tonight I caught her again using one of my pens and I did not even have the strenght to confront her about it.

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