Consequence Help for 16 Year Old Caught Shoplifting

Updated on July 30, 2010
J.V. asks from Oceanside, CA
25 answers

I am so bummed! My 16 year old and her friend went to the mall and stole some rediculous, cheap, plastic bracelts. $6.00.... They HAD more than enough money to buy them... The store was nice enough not to press charges, so now it is up to us to dole out the consequences. What is appropriate for this STUPID offense? Do we make a HUGE deal so she knows she will always get in HUGE trouble for making bad choices, or do we let her off easy and lay out our expectations for the future?
She is a great kid, decent grades, never been in ANY trouble before. But, we don't want it to start now...

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answers from Detroit on

I think you should punish her and follow through with what you say you're gonna do (as far as her punishment), however by the store not pressing charges she's going to do it again because she got off. I hope I'm wrong. Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Im a 22 year old but i can still remeber the days that the threat of being sent to juive for a night would scare the poop outta me. I was a good girl too..good grades, quiet, but if i ever got into trouble, my dad would use that one me and it worked. I never went to juvie or got into seruious trouble for fear of going, the place sounded as bad a dungon with chains to me. Also, tell her friend to get lost, sounds like her buddy isnt being a good friend to me. I know kids want to seem cool infront of eachother, but if her friend was a good person, she would have not gone along with it or she would have said no, lets not do this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

I haven't read the other responses, but if it were my daughter, I would have her pay big time, first offense. If you go easy this time, it will happen again. This is a major thing, so I think she should be grounded for a month with no friends or computer or cell phone. This way, she knows it's serious and hopefully won't do it again.

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answers from Portland on

How about putting the most positive possible spin on this? Here are some suggestions:

Since your daughter is a great kid, I imagine she's also got a great conscience. Ask her what consequences she thinks are appropriate. Kids are often harder on themselves than parents are. And / or,

Ask her to write a sincere letter of apology to the store owner/manager, telling what she has learned from the experience and thanking them for allowing her to make a first mistake without charges.

Have her write a letter to her future children, explaining her escapade and how she would feel if they were to pull a similar stunt. And / or,

Calculate the value of the stolen bracelets, multiply x16 (or whatever factor seems symbolically appropriate for your family), and have her contribute that amount out of her own allowance or earnings to a charity that helps kids who've been in trouble. Ask her to research to find an appropriate organization.

It's great that you want to be sure she's learned her lesson. I would guess that the mortification she felt getting caught was quite a consequence. And being too hard on a kid can backfire. At 16, much of the learning she's doing can and should be internalized, and she should be able to generate her own reasons for behaving ethically and honestly. Give her a chance to make good, instead of just getting punished.

(BTW, my daughter got caught shoplifting with a "naughty" friend a the same age. She was deeply ashamed, and suffered over her crime for months afterward. I didn't need to add to her agony. She learned her lesson. She was a great kid, is now the fabulous mom of a great little boy whom she's raising to be all things good.)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

$6 huh?

So my MOM caught me stealing some lifesavers when I was like 7...I put them in my pocket and when we got to the car I was showing my younger sister and my mom saw me.

She marched me back up to the store and made me give them back and apologize. It was my only offense. HOWEVER, my olderst son decided it was ok to "take" something that didn't belong to him and I grounded him for a day for every dollar's worth he stole (or 157 days).

IMHO, I'd take everything away from her for the 6 days. Computer, cell, tv, going anywhere, etc and maybe have her write a disseration about the cons of taking things that don't belong to you.

Letting her off easy will give her the idea that even tho it was a bad thing, if she does it again, she'll get the same consequences. I vote drive the subject home NOW so that it won't be an issue later.

Sending good thoughts your way.

PS: You don't get "extra credit" for making good grades or being a great kid when you steal something. Good people do bad things all the time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

If she is 16...that means is less than 2 years she will be 18...and if caught at 18 charged as an adult.

Even if it is a misdemeanor and not a felony (low cost of the item) it would be on her record for the rest of her life. would block off certain avenues that her life can take.

For instance my uncle owns a business that is mostly sales, they provide their employees with company cars, good salaries plus commissions and are basically a very good job that has six figure plus erasing potential. He is a franchise, so he is part of a much larger company...and their rules for hiring are tough. The cannot due to insurance purposes hire anyone with bad driving records, speeding tickets, dui's, etc. They will not hire anyone with a record of theft...misdemeanor or felony...their insurance provider says they cannot as it makes them a liability. So is she willing to let a $6.00 bracelet come between her and a six figure income?

Yes a bad choice now that leads to other...even "small" bad choices can haunt her down the road. Most employers run a background check and what are they going to think if she has a charge of theft on there...hire her or the same quality candidate with out a record of theft.

Make a BIG deal out of uncle sighs over the great candidates he cannot hire because of things they did in their late teens and early twenty's. They are very nice and qualified, but their record follows them into their adult lives.

Yes, ground her, no mall privileges, cannot hang out with this friend, cell phone cut off to only 911 emergencies and your number, and the biggie that if you cannot trust her to be out have to go everywhere with her for a set amount of time, after her grounding. School is starting up soon...does she want you to have to walk her to class in the morning and meet her at the end of the day and walk her to the car.

Scare the living daylights out of the juvenile detention center or local police substation. Take her on a visit, hopefully like another poster said with a full experience of being cuffed and put in a cell.

The front part of her brain that controls understanding the consequences of your actions is still developing help it make new synapses that show her the consequences.

I worked in retail sales during college and they showed a great video about how shoplifting effects the cost of items to the honest people who are paying for their items. Like if the store has 10 bracelets at $6.00 a piece and will sell for $60.00 for all ten. The bracelets cost the store $3.00 and they make a $3.00 profit or $30.00 from their sale of all the bracelets. One is stolen. Now to make their $30.00 (which they have to make to pay their employees and cover overhead costs) . The other 9 bracelets must be marked up to $7.00 to make up the difference (the customer always pays the difference), plus the cost of lawyer fees to prosecute the theft. So overtime the store realizes that out of every 10 bracelets they put on display 2 will be instead of paying $6.00 for the bracelet, now we the customer ends up paying over $8.00 for the same bracelet. You want to figure how much we pay more than we should have to for a leather coat or an expensive pair of shoes or blue jeans. Maybe you could find this training video on line somewhere and have her watch it to see how all the honest people are paying for people to steal.

Sorry for so long...but it irks me to be paying stores more because other people steal.

Yes, make a huge deal!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I was 3 when I shoplifting for the first AND last time. My mom found the 30 cent chapstick in my drawer. She drove me back to the store, explained to the cashier that I had stolen this and the cashier seemed to care less. My mom asked ehr to call the store manager. So, the store manager came out and I had to tell him what I did, apologize for taking it and then my mom paid for it and we left. She never let me use it, but she CLEARLY showed me wrong from right. I was only 3, but I can remember it like it was yesterday.

When I was 12, I went to a movie that was rated R and lied to my parents. They gave me 8 times to fess up, and I was sticking to my story. Well, someone they knew saw me there and I had no idea. They took away my phone line forever, made me ride the bus to and from school for 3 months, which I was the first pick-up and last drop-off, so I was on the bus for 1.5 hours everyday....EACH way. I wasn't allowed to go to any parties, talk on the phone or hang out with any friends for literally 3 months. I realized how stupid it was to to lie to them. They made the punishment enough that it stopped me from just pushing that line ever again.

I WOULD make a BIG deal over it. You don't want to have her arrested 18 for the same thing, because she is an adult. Then she'll have to tell every employer about any priors. I have a friend who does loss prevention for Costco and he catches grown women (and sometimes men) every single day stealing. They bring in the police and have them arrested. They have a zero tolerance policy for shoplifting. Then, they get their Costco memberships pulled and have to go home to their husbands and tell their husbands why their HUSBANDS can't go into Costco ever again, either.

Have a zero-tolerance policy in your home.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Coming from someone that is not much older. LAY it down now! If you let this slip by she will just do something more STUPID next time... Make her suffer no matter how much she will "hate" you in the meantime. Ground her. If she has a car (take the keys away) cell phone (take it away) computer etc (take it away)

What if next time it is a ring or clothing and the place does press charges? what then?

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answers from Philadelphia on

I was caught shoplifting when I was 15. They called my mother, no police... I thought I was off the hook... My mom went through my entire room, and anything she had not bought was put into question. She offered me a plea bargain... I could either fess up to what I stole, and she would drop it.... or I would lose all of the stuff in question to the trash and be grounded for 3 months.
Needless to say I chose to fess up to what had been stolen... at that time it was some make-up, jewelry (costume), and cassette tapes.

What she did not tell me was that I would have to return all of the stolen items to the stores from which I took them, and apologize to the manager for taking their stuff. It was humiliating, I felt like throwing up, and I never went back into any of those stores for years... but I also never stole anything again in my life!

I hated her then, but now I am so glad she taught me that lesson...

Good luck with your daughter... make whatever choice you feel is best

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If she's a great kid, you probably don't need to make a HUGE deal out of it. A few choice words and some shame will do the trick. I think it's common enough for kids to try shoplifting at least once.

I would make sure to inform her when you talk to her that people own those stores, and they work really hard for what they have, and that she is hurting people when she steals from their store.

Then, if you want to give her a punishment, go ahead. Maybe there are some reparations she can make at the store?? I like that idea best.

(p.s. - Just reading the other responses, and I seem to be the only one who doesn't think you should make an enormous deal over this. I really think with a "good" kid you don't have to go all out. I know if I ever caught my kids stealing, all I would have to do is stare at them and say..."Wow.....(long pause, stare, stare) you're becoming a thief now...nice career choice. You listen to me: those people who own stores work HARD for a living, don't you DARE take their stuff. If you want something then YOU go work hard for it. This was your ONE chance. I don't EVER want to hear of you stealing something again. Now get out of my sight. I don't want to look at you right now."

That would be approximately what I might say.)

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answers from Los Angeles on

When I was 13, I shoplifted ALL THE TIME and got caught once. $62.11 worth of stuff (yes, I am 40 and still remember the amount to the penny). The police came, took me downtown, put me in a holding cell for the afternoon and were planning on moving me to the county juvenile facility but my friend who was stealing with me, but holding nothing as we left the building, called my family and my brother came and picked me up at the police station.
I was a nice respectful girl at home not the stereotypical bad kid at all. I had rather enjoyed stealing up to that point and considered myself rather good at it. After that the very thought of stealing made me sweat profusely!
I'd say it's probably better to overreact to this. Especially since it was just for the thrill of it with money to cover it in her pocket.
I like the hour in juvie idea! It's good to see where this behavior can lead.

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answers from San Diego on

Hello, I had two children who took something and got caught. They weren't together. I was so angry and expressed it quite well to them. Neither one ever put theirself in the same position again. They have grown up to be very responsible adults. They also had enough money to pay for what they took. We put each of them on restriction and made sure that they were not to enter the store in question without one of us with them. Don't get me wrong, we didn't make it easy on either of them, and I don't want to minimize the offense, but they seemed to learn from the consequence.
Good luck with your precious daughter.
K. K.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

I haven't read a lot of the answers, but so far it sounds like you're getting good answers. Definitely don't let it go, she does need to be punished. I always feel that the punishment should fit the 'crime' as much as you can. I had a step-son once who wasn't respecting his things when he was angry and started throwing them and breaking them. Our response was to calmly remove him from his room while he watched us empty every last toy, poster, etc. from his room (some things that were junk were being thrown away, but he didn't know what was being thrown away and what was being kept) and then lock it away in a room. Each week of good behavior where he didn't throw a complete tantrum (he was a tween) he earned 1 thing back. At the end of a month where there were no throwing of fits, he would earn it all back. His behavior after that was always so much better.

I almost think that something like this may be a good punishment for your daughter - taking everything except the essentials and she has to 'pay' (in the form of chores) to get an item back - just like she would have to pay for the item in the store. You can even put price tags on each item and assign a dollar amount to the chores. In this way, she starts to see the value of money and how hard you have to work to buy the things she takes for granted.

You're lucky you didn't have to pay for the items (even though they were cheap). A friend of mine has a teenage daughter who did this in Nordstroms and while they didn't press charges, they were still required to pay a few hundred dollars for the item and restitution.

Good luck,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Good morning, I'm 53 and when I was 17 I got caught steeling a cheap plastic bracelt, but the store called the police and I had the ride home in a police car, it was so humiliating that i never stolled again i would talk to her and ask her why, some kids/teens see risks as adventurous, she may promise to never do it again. The trust that is lost in a situation like this is painful enough for some kids to not repete an act. J.


Good morning, I'm 53 and when I was 17 I got caught steeling a cheap plastic bracelt, but the store called the police and I had the ride home in a police car, it was so humiliating that i never stolled again i would talk to her and ask her why, some kids/teens see risks as adventurous, she may promise to never do it again. The trust that is lost in a situation like this is painful enough for some kids to not repete an act. J.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hello... I have read most of the responses and most have said to take it serious, maybe have her read these reponses and see how other parents feel the same way. I was also thinking for her punishment, have her volunteer at a shelter or feeding the hungry, so she can see the other extreme with people who really cant afford to buy what they want/need. and how if she continues, her life can be alot worse.
Good Luck, and show that you still love her!



answers from Los Angeles on

i think its pretty common that kids that age try that..perhaps show her a "Scared Straight" film ..where they have kids meet prisoners? or if u can take them to visit a juvenile center ??? or take away some privileges for a couple weeks?



answers from Los Angeles on

I am very curious as to what the responses are,



answers from Washington DC on

If you let her off easy, she will think she can do it again. DO NOT let her get off easy...go big or go home! I would scare the living day lights out of her, so she doesn't think she is brave enough to try it again. Who knows what could happen next time...I think I'd call the juvenile detention center as well, and then also make her pay me for the cost of a lawyer to defend her, even though she doesn't need one. Put it away and give it to her at a later time.



answers from Reno on

I agree with Debbie. You should have your daughter volunteer at a shelter. Serve the needy. It will help her appreciate what she has. You also need to tell her that if it happens again, you will encourage the store to prosecute her. (And then follow through if, god forbid, it happens again.)
Two of my kids shoplifted as teens and I refused to come get them. I spoke with the officer and my kids were cuffed and put in the cruiser. My husband went down to get them but we made them walk through the punishment (and asked for the harshest they could get, which was community service and a very stern lecture and the threat of being held in "lock up" if they did it again.) It made a huge impact on my kids because they had a strong consequence. It was tough, but very well worth it. Good luck.



answers from Seattle on

Yuge deal.

2nd having her come up with ideas for her own punishment.

If it's anything less than grounding for a month, I'd nudge the bar, personally.


answers from Washington DC on

I'd make a mountain out of this. She is 16 years old. She OBVIOUSLY knows that stealing is wrong - correct??
I'd take her phone, her friends, her computer, and anything electronic away. Then I'd make her volunteer and do community service every weekend for a month. If she gave me any lip about it not being fair, she'd lose her bedroom door and everything else in her room except her bed and her blanket. She'd have to earn it all back.
In addition, I'd make her write a letter of apology to the store manager and deliver it.
Stealing is wrong.
I would also not allow her to go to the mall unchaperoned ever again.



answers from Los Angeles on

Lay it on heavy! She needs to remember this one. Cut off outside contact with this other kid, or only allow them to hang out in your more mall for the two of them together.
Good luck!



answers from Boston on

Actually stealing from a store is not a stupid offense , Its serious. Wont be so stupid at 18. I would not let her off easy. Remember she got caught this time, how many other times has she done this and got away with it. Don't expect her to tell you either.
I am sure she is a great kid just like my daughter was when she got caught. She was punished for it. At 16 there are so many ways to make her accountable. Grounding for a solid week with no friend contact and all electronics. Making sure she does loads of chores. And I would not bend on any of it. After the punishment then lay out your expectations for her future.



answers from Los Angeles on

My two cents...BIG time punishment and reevaluate whether the friend she was with is a friend you want her with in the future. So much of what shapes our kids are their friends...

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