- Have clear house rules: you wouldn’t expect your son or daughter to be rough with toys that belong to another child, and vice versa. That sort of mindset is taught and often has to be repeated over and over to have it ingrained. The same can be said for stealing! Your child wouldn’t want something of theirs to be stolen, and that same concept can be applied to other people’s personal property. If your neighbor lends you a tool to use, let your child see and know that the tool is on loan - it’s not yours, so you’ll treat it gently and use it as needed before returning it safely to its owner.
- Have clear consequences: this will look different for each teenager; after all, how do you discipline a child that lies and steals? Taking away car keys might work for one teen, while another might be more distraught if you remove their cell phone for a day or two. Whatever the consequence, you must follow through with it when you lay it down for your child. For example, if your teen has stolen a significant amount of items that equal a high dollar amount, having them get a job to help pay for the damages is a great idea. This works for younger children, too, especially if they are doing yardwork or can help out around the home. Whatever the case, follow through with your word and have your child connect their actions with potential consequences - hopefully before the actions occur.
- Follow through, every time: it can be hard to drive your teen back to the grocery store after you have noticed that they have stolen something. However, having your child return items while apologizing for stealing can often be enough to set the record straight on why theft is unacceptable. Likewise, if you tell your teen that you will take away their car keys for a week (and then they’ll have to ride with you to school or hop on the bus), then follow through with that consequence if need be - even though it might throw off your schedule for the time being. Your teen must know they can’t call your bluff and that you mean what you say.
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