Teen Stealing and lying; How to Deal with Your Teenager's Negative Behaviors

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As every parent knows, teenagers may be irritable, aloof, and stubborn. While this can cause stress and tension for many families, it is also a natural aspect of growing up for teens.

No matter how great your connection with your child is, you are bound to run into parenting obstacles sometimes. However, if you are ready to put in the effort to comprehend what they are going through and what they want from you, you should have no trouble dealing with them.

Understanding Teenage Behavior

Your teen is experiencing a roller coaster of emotions during this development stage. They cannot make up their minds about what they should do, despite knowing what’s right and wrong. The hormonal imbalance in their brain may cause them to lose control, or a pre-existing mental health condition could affect their decision-making abilities. In addition, they are also particularly vulnerable to being influenced by their peers.

The best thing you can do is understand what your child is going through. Their mood swings, stress, and anxiety may be due to personal problems. Try to talk with them about what they are feeling or thinking. Share your thoughts calmly so that they can do the same. If you can provide a safe space, your child will be more prone to open up, which will help you understand their behavior.

About Teens’ Compulsive Lying and Stealing

It is natural for teenagers to be secretive and seek some privacy. They might conceal things from their parents because they desire to make their own decisions. This typical teenage behavior becomes a difficult and dangerous issue when they start to steal or lie compulsively. These may be due to mental health disorders.

  • Lying / Dishonesty

Finding out that your child is lying or is being dishonest may be distressing. Their newly-found freedom and autonomy might make them think that telling you everything is no longer necessary. If your kid is afraid of rejection and punishments, they may feel compelled to lie, which might become a habit if not addressed.

According to the Josephson Institute of Ethics survey, gaining trust and being honest are essential in maintaining personal relationships. However, someone might lie to avoid getting into trouble. Since most teens want to seem independent and maintain a “perfect” identity, they often lie about their studies, substance use and drinking, romantic relationships, bullying, and peer pressure. There are three types of lies avoidance, omission, and commission.

Lying by avoidance is when teens steer away from their parent’s attention from topics that they do not want to talk about. Lying by omission is when they leave out crucial information that might get them in trouble with their parents. Lastly, lying by the commission is the opposite of lying by omission they create false statements or stories.

  • Stealing

Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder distinguished by lacking self-control in certain emotional and behavioral aspects, like constantly stealing things they don’t need. It is an uncommon but significant mental health condition that may cause much emotional suffering if left untreated. If your teen has an impulse control problem, they may find it extremely difficult to suppress the urge to do something inappropriate or dangerous to themselves or others.

Most teens with kleptomania steal food, over-the-counter medicines, drugs, alcohol, and even money. They often steal from others when they want something they cannot afford or are not yet allowed to purchase. In addition, they struggle with self-control, and their peers may influence them to commit unfavorable acts.

How Can You Handle It?

Sneaky teenagers are concerned, especially if they are engaging in harmful behaviors. Try following these tips on how you can handle or deal with this issue:

  • Call out your teen’s sneaky behavior when it happens.

Upon catching your child lying or stealing something, call their attention right away. Approach them calmly so as not to trigger aggression and discuss the possible consequences of their actions. Calm and focused communication allows teens to talk more openly. Also, give them subtle hints that you have suspicions about their behavior and that you will follow up on what just happened. Make it clear that you will be monitoring their behavior more closely.

  • Stay calm and do not take their actions personally.

Most teens who lie or steal are not doing it to hurt you intentionally. Do the same and avoid hurting them physically or verbally. Handle the issue with care. Even if their actions have affected you, try not to let your emotions run rampant. However, do make amends to others whom your child’s actions might have hurt.

  • Sit down and have a problem-solving conversation.

Spare some time to converse and confront your child’s shady behavior. Talk about their issues and offer them guidance if they need it, but do not solve their problems for them. Support and guide them during the process, but allow them to learn the dos and don’ts of problem-solving and decision-making. It is also vital to let your child consider what they have done and what they are planning to do to improve. 

  • Understand your child’s reasons.

Lying and stealing are unacceptable behaviors that must be stopped as soon as possible before they become a habit. Ask them why they are doing it. If their reasons are related to feelings of inadequacy, you may be able to remedy that with ease. For example, some kids steal food from the cafeteria because they want to try it but do not have any money. Understand that your child’s reasons may be related to your ability to provide for their needs.

The Strong Link Between Lying/Stealing and Substance Abuse

Dangerous behaviors are often associated with drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol use. Studies have found that alcohol consumption increases the risk of teens lying. When teens start drinking, they often deny it when confronted by their parents because they know their behavior is not age-appropriate. Furthermore, they mislead parents about what they are doing or their current whereabouts to avoid being followed and reprimanded.

According to a 2017 study that involved more than 4,000 American mothers and seventh- and eighth-grade students, teens responded that lying could be correlated with alcohol use. Teenage dishonesty also worsens the detrimental effects of substance use and addiction because parents might not know what is happening with their children.

Stealing can also be another effect of substance addiction. Teenagers ‘ constant need to have a stash of drugs in their room may cost them lots of money, so they may resort to stealing money from your wallet or other people. If the addiction persists, the issue may escalate to the point where they might start committing dangerous crimes, like robbing stores.

We are Here to Help Your Child

Teens often lie for minor reasons; however, you should intervene as soon as they start covering up for illegal and harmful conduct. Consistent lying and stealing may be a sign of a more serious mental condition, and you may want to seek professional help for your child.

At Key Transitions, we foster rational teenage behavior by providing the treatments your child needs. We change negative behaviors and reinforce the positive ones to benefit their personal development and social interactions.

We offer a range of treatment options according to your child’s situation: residential treatment, teen partial hospitalization (Teen PHP), teen drug treatment and adolescent intensive outpatient (Teen IOP) in Los Angeles and nearby cities. Through these programs, your teen learns to manage their thoughts, actions, and decision-making abilities to avoid any untoward or harmful outcomes, especially when it comes to lying and stealing.

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