When is it appropriate to call the police on your children?

January 2015


Would you turn your children into the police if you knew or thought they had committed a crime? These parents did. After returning home from church, parents in North Carolina were watching the news they had recorded while out discovering surveillance video of a group of boys stealing from a local electronics store. Recognizing their sons in the footage they took the teens to the police station to assist them with turning themselves in.

Five teens broke into a Tech Boyz store in Fayetteville, NC and the surveillance footage which lasted approximately one minute showed the boys stealing a number of goods and racing away behind the store. The boys, ages 14 and 16 were allegedly staying overnight with an older sibling when the incident occurred. The parents returning home and watching the recorded evening news recognized their teen sons in the footage and a few hours later escorted them to the police station. According to news reports the boys "gave in to peer pressure." "To the ones who turned them in, thank you." said Hill. "I hate it it's your kids, but thank you for doing the right thing." Another boy has been arrested and police are attempting to identify the other two teens in the video.

This isn't the first time parents or grandparents have turned their children into the police after their suspected involvement in a crime. One Memphis grandmother thought she recognized her grandson in the recent mob attack in a Memphis Kroger store. Allegedly her 15 year old son was in the video and she called the police after seeing him with a group of people at the attack. She was unsure if he was actually involved in the violent mob scene but pleaded with parents, "I plead to all parents to just, if they know that their child was down there even if their child didn't do anything, we need to get a hold of our kids." Her grandson and another teen were taking in for questioning.

"I can't say that he did and I can't say that he didn't, but I'm praying he didn't," said the teen's mother.

Sometimes tough love is the hardest to dish out. But sadly, it is a necessary evil. 

Some children are stubborn learners, and despite a parent's best efforts, behavior problems can persist. At what point is it okay to get the police involved in your child's discipline?

There are times when your authority as a parent isn’t enough. If your adolescent has escalated to the point of physical abuse and destruction of property—or if he is engaging in risky or dangerous behavior outside the house—you already know you need help. Calling the police on your child poses a risk that you might not be willing to take, but it’s an option you might want to consider.

If your child doesn't respond to your authority, there's another authority you can call upon if you choose to.” Kids with behavior problems often make choices that lead to less and less self-control. They'll say and do things which give you the impression that they're out of control, but remember: everything they say and do is a choice. And it's those choices that we need to be concerned about.

Picture your child’s school for a moment—they don't let him assault people, punch holes in the wall or speak in a verbally abusive way to others there. In fact, if a student assaults someone, uses drugs or is destructive. Schools take action because they understand something that parents can lose sight of: kids make the choice to do these things, and as a result, they should be held accountable.

And why do we give somebody a consequence or a reward? To encourage kids to make better choices. If your son can choose to handle his emotions maturely and not curse out his little sister when she's annoying, that's a good choice; we want to reward that. If on the other hand, he chooses to be verbally abusive to his sister, the consequence you give him holds him accountable for that choice. So whenever we're thinking about steps like calling the police, the important thing is to understand that kids make choices—your child made the choice to hit you, take drugs or destroy your neighbor’s property. And you should hold him accountable for that by using whatever appropriate means you have at your disposal.

Challenging kids who have out-of-control behavior patterns is not for the faint of heart because they strike back forcefully. Every now and then you're faced with a really tough decision. Hopefully you have knowledgeable people to talk to and access to learning tools. In any case, it's a tough job being a parent and there's not a lot of community support for that role nowadays.

Again, calling the police is one of the options parents should seriously consider, but it's not the only option. And if parents take that off the table, for whatever reason, that's perfectly sound judgment. Many, many parents choose not to exercise that option.That being said, calling the police should be something people consider, and either reject or accept. Remember, you have the same right to protection from crime in your home as you do out of your home. It's not as if the law is different. We should have the same expectations of our children.

What would you do if your child was out of control? Have you called the police on your child before? At what point do you think  it is okay to get the police involved in your child's discipline?


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