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What to Do When Your Child is Caught Shoplifting

— February 17, 2022

As a parent, it is your responsibility to help your child navigate this challenging time, even if you don’t want to be supportive.

According to 2016 data compiled by Statistic Brain, 25% of shoplifters are kids. A staggering 89% of kids admit they know others who shoplift, while 55% confess they began shoplifting in their teens. While this problem is prevalent, it won’t hit home until you get a call that your child is in custody for shoplifting.

Shoplifting is considered a rite of passage for most minors, albeit an illegal one. However, shoplifting is  a criminal act in the eyes of the law. While seemingly minor, the act can start a ripple of consequences that might hinder your child from building a line of credit, getting accepted into college, or finding gainful employment.

It can be confusing and scary for parents to deal with this situation. It is also understandable that you might not know how to resolve the matter. This is where the help and expertise of a competent theft lawyer can come in handy. Aside from professional guidance, a lawyer can also answer all of your questions about the case.

What Parents Should Do

If your child is caught shoplifting, the first thing you should do is keep your composure and try not to overreact. It is also recommended that you keep the following basics in mind:

  • Determine the consequences beforehand. At least one in four shoplifters are minors. That said, figure out how you will handle things if your kid gets caught shoplifting. It is also important that you decide the consequences with your spouse. You need to have a united front if a similar incident occurs.
  • Stay calm. Confronting your child in front of other people will only add to their embarrassment and humiliation. Rather than nagging, get all the facts and be as cooperative as possible.
  • Allow a cooling-off period. It is recommended that you do not unload on your child as soon as you get home. Let things cool off for at least a day before laying out the consequences of your child’s action. Be caring but firm.
  • Follow through. Your kid will not learn important life lessons if you don’t follow through on your disciplinary actions. 

Helping Your Child Stay on Track

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) offers the following tips to help your child stay on track:

  • Be a good role model. Kids are smart and can easily pick up on seemingly trivial things. For instance, if a cashier forgets to ring up an item, make sure you point it out. Use similar situations to be a good role model and show them the right thing to do.
  • Stick to the facts. Talk to your child about the consequences of shoplifting and its impact on their relationships and future. Reinforce why stealing is wrong and how better their life would be if they won’t compromise their integrity and good name.
  • Be loving and understanding. Be open-minded, loving, and understanding when your kid shares difficult issues or mistakes they have made, like shoplifting. Ensure they won’t feel judged and help them develop the self-confidence they need to resist peer pressure.

Avoiding Future Arrests

Young man in red hoodie; image by Vlad, via
Young man in red hoodie; image by Vlad, via

As a parent, it is your responsibility to help your child navigate this challenging time. Even if you don’t want to be supportive, you must be there for your child, so you can help them change their ways. Fortunately, in many cases, their first run-in with the law can help them avoid a life of crime.

It is also ideal that you educate your child about the laws in the state so they will have a better idea of the gravity of the offense. If the store decides to press charges, ensure they are prepared to deal with the justice system. This can involve ensuring they can speak openly about their actions with their lawyer.

If your child is under 18, you will have to accompany them to court. Keep in mind that even if their case goes through the juvenile justice system, a shoplifting conviction can follow them around for years. It is also important that you work with a seasoned and competent lawyer to help your child avoid a conviction.

A lawyer can also help mitigate the consequences your teen can face when convicted. They can also advocate for probation, reduced charges, diversion programs, and other forms of restitution that can help your teen avoid incarceration. In states like Orlando, there are programs designed for juvenile offenders to pay their debt to society and avoid a criminal conviction.

Final Thoughts

As you help your child navigate this tough time, they should know they can count on you to guide them. It is also a good idea to encourage them to volunteer at non-profits or participate in extracurricular activities. Introducing positive influences and keeping them busy can help ensure they stay away from doing anything illegal like shoplifting.

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