Theft mustn't be minimised

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Shoplifting should never be viewed as a phase, a mistake or justifiable, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
I read recently about a mother who discovered that her 10-year-old son and his friend had been shoplifting.

His friend's mother didn't seem too concerned - all children do it, she couldn't have afforded to buy him those things anyway and the shop was big enough not to miss what she regarded as a small amount of money.

The excuse that, among other things, it's some sort of rite of passage and, therefore, that there should be some leniency is an incredibly irresponsible approach.

Most of us as children did probably take (that is, steal) something at one time or another. And probably, for most of us, what happened next was that we were filled with guilt and fearful of being found out.

Very young children sometimes take things they want not fully understanding that things cost money and that it's wrong to take something without paying for it, while younger school-age children usually know but might have insufficient self-control. However, by the time they're 10 they know only too well and possibly steal for the thrill of it or because their friends do.

Shoplifting should never be viewed as a phase, a mistake or justifiable. When it happens, it should be a learning opportunity about stealing and consequences. If it isn't, then shoplifting can become a habit, even a challenge.

Shoplifting isn't a victim-less crime and the minimum action a parent should take is to front up to the business owner with their youngster and have them return the item and apologise.

As well as an age-appropriate conversation, there should also be an offer of some age-appropriate recompense, including financial if the product cannot be returned. Recompense could range from some weekend shopping trolley duty to clearing the rubbish for a week, along with whatever penalty needs to be imposed at home.

In the case of the mother of the 10-year-old, she first took her son and his bag of stolen toys to the police station, where an excellent conversation and a tour of the cells took place.

Next stop was the shop, where the manager also handled it well and advised her son that he wasn't allowed in the shop without an adult for 12 months.

Mum paid for the goods and repayment was deducted from his pocket money each week. Once completed he was allowed the toys. At that point, he decided he would rather donate them to the local kindergarten than keep them.

From an early age the message that ``if it's not yours, you don't take it'' needs to be clearly given and practised. Teenagers need to think about the long-term consequences of not being a person who can be trusted and of having a criminal record.

 - Ian Munro


The poor little darlings are screaming out for attention. Drag the two little darlings back to the shop by the scruff of the hair to and make them front to the shop owners who they stole from, then march them down to the police station and make them explain themselves to the police officers. - Sorry that was before the 1990's - Oh I meant ask them if they would like to go and explain to the shop owner and return the goods and talk to the police on what they had done, promise them Mcdonalds if they are good little darlings and give them a cuddle.

What are you on about? Speculative retribution from someone who doesn't like children. Sure, if the alleged 'darlings' are over 21, drag em round and gi' em a belt.

But, we find shoplifting furniture at night by the brazen to be funny and 'genius', as they sit on the stolen goods waving at passing traffic.

I'm on about is what we are teaching our children by letting them get away with stealing, what will he ever grow up to be? maybe like a Potocki d' Anti Nazi Resistance, I never said I don't like children- you should not assume. I never said give them a belt I said drag them by the ear, make them feel small, show them what it does to steal. make them understand every action has a reaction. good or bad. do this because you care and love them and you don't want them to grow up to be a thief, scum. Where I worked from the age of 17 for 23 years a thief was considered the lowest form of scum ever and was dealt with. It very rarely happened and to this day I hate thieves of any kind.

Growing up Potocki would be a Polish proposition, therefore Nazi resistance.

Fair play to you. But, criminal example is set by Adults. It seems it is unlawful to correct them.