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Penalties for Shoplifting in Kids

by Sara Ipatenco

Shoplifting is stealing. Many children, however, do not understand the severity of shoplifting because they often steal something of little value or something inexpensive such as a tube of lipstick or a baseball hat. If your child has been caught shoplifting, know that many children do it at least once. The trick to preventing the behavior in the future is to hand down a penalty that is stiff enough to teach your child the error of her ways.

Discussion

When your child is caught shoplifting, it warrants a heart-to-heart discussion. Younger children might not understand that taking something from the store is stealing, so this is the perfect time to teach your child that lesson. Older children need to understand the ramifications of their actions for others. You might tell your older child that the store loses money when she shoplifts or it can make prices rise for everyone else to help offset those losses. Ask your child why she shoplifted, too. If she did it because she really wanted the item, come up with a way for her to save enough money to buy the item the legal way. If she shoplifted because she wanted to fit in with her friends, remind her that true friends will not make her do something that they know is wrong.

Return Item and Apologize

It will humiliate your child, but an effective punishment can be making your child go back to the store, tell the owner that he stole something, return the item, and apologize. When you make your child take responsibility for his own actions, he learns that there are consequences for poor behavior. According to KidsHealth, the embarrassment that goes with owning up to shoplifting is often enough to deter the behavior in the future.

Criminal Penalties

Parents and children need to know that there can be criminal penalties for shoplifting. While nobody will arrest a toddler for eating a piece of candy she did not pay for, older children and teens can face criminal charges. Many stores will give children a free pass the first time and will not press charges, but most stores will press charges for repeat offenders, according to KidsHealth. If a store arrests an older child for shoplifting, this arrest usually goes on his permanent record, which means that he has a criminal record while he is still a minor. When he reaches adulthood, that record can make it harder to gain entrance to college or to get a job.

Additional Penalties

If your child is a repeat shoplifter, the court might recommend a shoplifting intervention treatment, which helps your teen identify why he steals and how he feels afterward. These programs aim to help teens realize what else is going on their lives that can lead to the shoplifting behavior so that the parents can address the shoplifting. Stores might ban older children who shoplift more than once from coming inside certain stores. You might try limiting your child's ability to go to stores where he is tempted to take things. Do not let your child go to the mall with friends, and always supervise him closely when you take him to the store with you.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

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