At what age did you steal something?

Caught stealing - now what?

When teenagers or even children steal something, it can have a wide variety of causes: Maybe they don't have enough pocket money to fulfill certain wishes, maybe there is a desire for recognition or a test of courage. In any case, parents must seek a conversation. Accusations and punishments are usually out of place.

The horror scenario

The doorbell rings, you open it and you face two policemen who are accompanying your child. It stole something and was caught doing it. How are you feeling now? No question about it, you want to sink into the ground in shame, you are angry and reproach yourself for having failed in bringing up your child. You should master all of these feelings as much as possible and take the situation as calmly as possible. If that doesn't work at all, the offspring has to go into the room. We'll talk when I can think clearly again. It does no harm to your child if he cooks for a while and gives you the opportunity to calm down to some extent. The theft itself will mostly be a trivial matter. Mostly children steal CD's, DVD's, toys or cigarettes, and less often items of clothing or jewelry. The first thing you should ask your child the following question when talking is possible again:

Why did you steal?

When children or teenagers steal, it is rarely about a real need. Usually there is something else behind it and you should find out what it is. It works best with a simple question. However, the sound makes the music here. Your child knows himself that he has done something wrong. If you now behave angry or even aggressive, your child will remain in a defensive or defiant attitude that will not help you either. Make sure you try to react sensibly and understandingly and show your child through words and gestures that you may be pissed off, but still ready to hear their view of things. Reasons why your child stole could include:

  • Thrill to remove boredom
  • Test of courage to be recognized in the clique
  • Reduction of frustration, consolation through something "beautiful"
  • Get parental attention
  • Rebellion against parents

As a rule, it is pointless to explain to the child that they must not steal, they know that well enough. Rather, once you have worked out the cause with the child, you should think about what could “replace” the stealing. Is your child looking for a thrill? Then maybe you should try a bungee jump (and save on it yourself). Wanted to get the parents' attention? Then you should think about where and why your child might feel neglected.

The right punishment

Of course, theft must not remain without consequences. However, it is important to choose the punishment carefully. Pocket money deprivation or house arrest are not particularly cheap, as they can make the child angry and possibly lead to another theft - simply to get revenge, to reduce frustration or to confirm one's own power. If you yourself caught your child stealing, the appropriate punishment is for them to return the stolen items and apologize. If your child has already been caught in a department store, this embarrassing process is usually punishment enough. However, you should make it clear that there has been a loss of trust and that your child must first prove their trustworthiness to you.

Draconian punishments, with which your child may even become even more criminal, are fatal. For example, parents should never report their own child to the police. This breach of trust is unforgivable for the child and often does not lead to a rethink, but to a "now-first-right" attitude. You should also avoid public exposure to friends or relatives. Your child made a mistake and should now be given a chance to act differently.

The legal side

The juvenile criminal act deals with theft offenses among children or adolescents depending on the severity of the theft and their age. In the event of thefts that are reported, the youth welfare office is informed that they will then contact the parents. Children under the age of 14 are not yet criminally responsible. Under certain circumstances, a check is carried out here to determine whether the parents have not adequately fulfilled their duty of supervision. Children over 14 can be held legally responsible. If it comes to a negotiation with a final conviction, then usually working hours are imposed in the social area. However, this is usually only the case if the offenses are repeated. If your child is caught for the very first time, they will usually remain on a warning unless the offense is serious. In the department store or supermarket concerned, a fine is often due and a house ban is imposed.

Stealing from mom and dad

Shoplifting is one thing - but what if the child uses the parental wallet? This often outweighs the theft in the supermarket, as it seriously disrupts family trust. Here, too, it is very important to look for the real reasons and, above all, to convey your own feelings to the child. Tell him how disappointed and hurt you feel about fear of being robbed in your own home. As a precautionary measure and so that your child is not even tempted, it is advisable anyway not to leave money and purse lying around freely accessible to the child.


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