"Rudy Giuliani's daughter busted for shoplifting at Sephora" said the New York Post, "Poor Little Rich Girl Caroline Giuliani's shoplifting bust is perfect way to poke Rudy" said the New York Daily News, and "Giuliani's daughter, 20, is arrested" said The New York Times. Video of the former mayor's daughter, Caroline Giuliani, ran on local networks.
Indeed, earlier this month police arrested the daughter of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his ex-wife, former TV newscaster Donna Hanover, at a beauty store on the Upper East Side. Police said the Harvard University senior pilfered five cosmetic items worth more than $100. Workers called 911, and Giuliani received an order to appear in county court for an arraignment for petit larceny.
Sticky fingers are common. Last year U.S. stores lost $11.7 billion to shoplifting, according to a survey by the University of Florida and the National Retail Federation. In another study at the University of Florida, which used closed-circuit TV cameras to watch 1,365 shoppers who entered an Atlanta drug store, researchers found 8 percent stole items such as medicine, makeup, or candy.
Here's what you can do if you learn your child has stolen—from a store or another person:
Don't deny it. No parent wants to think her child is a thief. But resist the urge to say, "My son would never do something like that," says pediatrician Michelle Barratt, professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas at Houston and a former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on adolescence. That sets up your child to repeat her offense.
Tell her to give back the goods—and say she is sorry. Parents should insist a child return the item and apologize. "Apologizing is a very important skill that kids need to learn to do, whether it is in person, with your help, or in a letter," says Barratt. Judges may even order a child to write a letter. (It's a suggestion in "Creative Sentencing in Juvenile Court," a document by University of South Carolina resource attorney Blanche Richey.)
Consider a "treatment contract." A study published in Adolescence randomly assigned 286 juveniles charged with shoplifting to treatment and control groups. The treatment group completed a "treatment contract" that combined fines, community service, monetary restitution, written essays, anti-shoplifting videos, apology letters, and individual or family contracts. Two years later, the treatment group showed significantly less recidivism than the control group.
Make sure she pays a price. That's true for any misdeed, not just stealing. "The natural and logical consequences are usually important," says Barratt. Get your child to reimburse the theft victim, whether it's a store owner or another family. A child needs to make reparations, not get away scott free.
Put pen to paper. A child can write an essay that explains the effects of shoplifting on the store owner and on the public, suggests the University of South Carolina document. Feel free to give your child food for thought. She may think it's no big deal to put lemonade in her water cup at a restaurant or to take a bottle of nail polish from a big chain. But over time, to cover the costs, a restaurant owner or shopkeeper needs to raise his prices for everyone.
Think about a shoplifting program. Consider trying a self-help group. To find one near you, click here.
Prohibit her from using the types of items stolen. If your child nicked a Tommy Hilfiger shirt, ban her from wearing that designer's clothing, according to the University of South Carolina document.
Work on why she is stealing. Experts say a child may steal because she feels unloved, wants a parent's attention, is expressing anger, or is responding to trouble at home. If she truly just wanted the object, help her think of legitimate ways to get it— such as earning money through extra chores around the house. "You need to know what's broken," says child psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, author of Raising Kids with Character. "A child does not out of the blue do something wrong." Sit down with your child. What was going through her mind? "You've got to figure out what the stealing means," says Berger. "Getting caught once usually means it happened 30 times. It's a sign that something is wrong." For more advice, see kidsgrowth.com and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's site.
Make it clear that stealing is wrong. Say you think it's unacceptable in your family and in society. In fact, dependent minors' cases are held in juvenile court—not a place you or your child wants to be. A minor found guilty of a so-called delinquent act may even be sent to a detention center or a boot camp, though the trend is to place teens in less restrictive places such as group homes. See the American Academy of Pediatrics' information on "when a teenager is out of control."
Be a good role model. You send a poor message to your child if you take office supplies from your job or keep the extra change if a cashier gives you too much. Logically, a child may not see the difference between what you're doing and what she is doing. "Children will copy what they see," says Berger.
Watch your child closely. When you're shopping or visiting a friend's house, make sure she isn't taking anything. Look for signs of theft. Does your child keep a stash of items? Be suspicious if she says she received them as a "gift."
Help your child tell the truth. Your child may fib about stealing. Talk to her about the importance of honesty. For more advice, see the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's "children and lying" page.
See a therapist if the problem continues. Your child may suffer from a psychological problem, such as a mood disorder or ADHD. Stealing is an impulsive behavior. Repeat offenders may need help from an expert, especially if they blame their problem on others.
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