My child (under bar mitzvah) took something from a store without paying. I found out about it after it was already broken and tossed.
I was hoping to pay the owner, at least for my child to have some sort of way of righting his wrong. But I’m afraid the non-Jewish owner may make matters worse.
Do I still need to teach my son to pay back what he stole? (He knows I know)
I want to teach him honesty and natural consequences to actions. But I also know that matters can get worse by trying to be honest here.
What is my obligation?
Thank you for your question.
Although technically the child is not responsible since he is a child, nevertheless it is the correct thing for him to return the item. Additionally, he should also be taught not to steal, and that he has to pay back what was stolen. From your question it sounds like the store is a privately-owned store. What you can do in this situation, is buy another one of the same toy, and then quietly return it to the shelf, without telling the owner that it was stolen and returned.
ע’ מ”ב ס’ שמ”ג סק”ט, וז”ל קטן שגנב או שהזיק ראוי לב”ד להכותו שלא ירגיל בה [וכן חבלה וביוש וכל דברים שבין אדם לחבירו ב”ד מצווין להפרישו שלא יארע תקלה על ידו] אבל אין צריך לשלם אם אין הגנבה בעין. וכ”ז מדינא אבל לפנים משורת הדין בין שחבל בו בגופו או שהזיק לו בממנו צריך לשלם לו [ט”ז וח”א וכן משמע מהגר”א]: