Finding out that your child is shoplifting can be very disheartening. Unfortunately, this is a common behavior in many children and it’s up to the parents to break the habit before severe consequences occur. KidsHealth.org offers the following advice on how you can address the topic of stealing with your child.

How you react largely depends on the age of your child. Very young children may not understand stealing is wrong. In this case, parents should clearly state the consequences of stealing and have the child return the item or apologize for taking it. It’s also good to emphasize how stealing hurts people, especially when a child takes a personal item from a friend or family member.

As a child grows older, parents should implement stricter punishments to establish the seriousness of stealing. If an item is stolen from a store, parents are encouraged to take the child to the business and make a formal apology to staff and security. While this can be embarrassing for many teens, it also highlights how serious an offense stealing is, and can also acquaint your child with the possible legal consequences of his or her actions.

If shoplifting is a repeat offense, it’s time to seek out professional assistance. Even if your child understands that stealing is wrong, he or she may still feel compelled to do it. This could stem from an underlying mental health issue, which would require the assistance of a counselor or therapist. Certain types of compulsive disorders can actually lead to stealing, and treating these conditions is the first step towards remedying the issue.