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My Friends Are Shoplifting

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Recently I saw my friends steal some nail polish from a drug store. I don't know whether or not I should tell on them. I am afraid of losing their friendship but I don't think I should let them get away with it. I am sure they've stolen before because they were so calm about it. What should I do?

A: Instead of thinking that your choice is between telling on your friends or letting them get way with it, you need to think about whether or not you want to remain friends with these girls at all.

You obviously were very uncomfortable about being with these girls when they stole nail polish from the pharmacy. Perhaps you felt as if you were also guilty of stealing since you saw them do it and said nothing. You do not approve of stealing, but your friends were not bothered by it and may have stolen before.

I think that you need to ask these girls if they have stolen things before. Ask them why they steal, if they believe stealing is wrong, and if they plan on stealing anymore. Based upon their replies, you need to decide if you want to remain friends with girls who do not share your values about stealing. Can you simply ignore this part of who they are and continue to feel good about being friends with them? Will you be able to go into stores with them and watch them steal things without feeling guilty and like a thief yourself? Rewarding, long-lasting friendships are built on mutual respect and honesty. If you cannot continue to respect these girls or trust that they will not steal again, I think that it will be very difficult for you to continue to value this friendship. This is not an easy decision but I think it's one that you will make based on the right principles. Thanks for writing.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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