September 21, 2011
Anyone working in law enforcement has overheard the occasional parent walking by with their kids saying, “You better be good, or that officer will take you off to jail!” When I hear things like this, I usually just smile, chuckle and shrug off the comment. However, it has always bothered me that some parents instill in their children the notion that the only role an officer plays is to cart people off to jail. It also makes me wonder what will happen if one of these parents really has to call the police on their child one day.
It’s not something any parent wants to think about or imagine—a child’s harmful actions pushing their parents to the point of having to call the police. For parents who end up having to make that decision, the call might be the hardest, most gut-wrenching moment of their lives. However, parents of a teen who has started on a path of destructive behavior should realize that this scenario could become a reality. The question is, when is calling the police on your own child the right thing to do? When is taking that action going too far?
A parent should know it’s time to call the police when they observe their child or teen actively involved in an action that is dangerous to themselves or others. At that point, calling the police is simply an act of a parent protecting his or her child and anyone else involved. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple, and there are often gray areas involved that make the decision even tougher.
A parent may find a small amount of narcotics or other elements of wrong-doing that necessitate action, but may not call for something so heavy-handed as calling the police, for example. A parent should think to himself—is this repeated behavior? Is this a regular occurrence?
Parents should keep in mind that every time they call the police, it doesn’t automatically mean an officer is going to show up at the house with handcuffs, ready to take their teens to jail or a juvenile program. Believe it or not, most police officers are excellent listeners, and would rather help preserve the family unit by finding an appeasable solution to the problem than simply cart someone off to jail.
Calling the police on our children is the wrong thing to do when it’s done simply as a means of carrying out an empty threat. As I mentioned, police are always willing to help and listen; but parents have to remember that it is their job to do that as a parent, as well. Raising kids is not an easy task—it is often stressful and difficult. If you’re reading this blog you already know that. But if calling the police becomes your go-to method for dealing with your teen, you become someone who continuously “cries wolf.” Your teen will learn to manipulate this situation and the police become irritated at handling repeated calls for service in situations that they have little control over.
I wish I could type up a simple list for parents—when to call the police on your teen and when not to call the police. Frankly, though, it just isn’t that easy. We all know that raising kids—especially teens—is a daunting task, particularly when that teen begins pushing the boundaries of your household rules and the law. The best advice I can give parents who are contemplating calling the police on their kids is that they keep communication open, make sure praise and affirmation exceeds discipline, be fair yet firm when discipline is a necessity and be ready to follow through with calling the police—only when it is absolutely needed.
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