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Experimenting with Shoplifting

One afternoon, Seattle mom Jan Faull got a troubling call: Her 12-year-old daughter and a friend were being detained by security guards at a local Sears. They'd been caught stealing makeup.

As a child-development specialist, Faull knew the reasons a kid her daughter's age might have done it: testing limits, looking for a thrill, and going along with a pal. Dealing with it was still tough, so here's what she recommends:

If she's never shoplifted
Remind her that stealing is wrong, and spell out your punishment. (Preteens are usually handed over to parents when they're caught.)

If you're not sure
First act curious, says Faull. Try: "I notice you have a lot of new jewelry  -- that's pretty expensive! Where'd you get the money?" Don't let her stay mum. Say: "I'd like to know how you got this. If it was stolen, we need to talk about it." If you think she's lying, say, "That doesn't sound right to me. Why don't you think about it for five minutes and then talk to me?"

If she's been caught
Have your child apologize to the store, and follow through on your punishment. You can also take it further: Faull had her daughter volunteer at church. Then, don't keep bringing up the incident. Stay alert, but not to the point that you're hovering.

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