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Should You Ever Call the Cops on Your Kid?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Does your teenager scare you? That is unfortunately common. Kids go through many changes in their teenage years that can make them strangers to their parents, who just try to accept and redirect the kids.

But when defiance turns into criminal behavior, you feel compelled to do something to set your kid straight. Should you call the cops? Maybe you should -- certainly some teens do things that warrant involving the authorities. But think carefully. There are risks.

Tough Call

You should be very careful about involving police in your family life. But if your teen is physically abusive with you or a sibling or other people in the neighborhood, you may have to call the cops. How do you decide when it's right to call the police on your teen?

You should use the same criteria you would use otherwise: assess whether people are in danger and call the cops to stop that danger. Social worker James Lehman writes on the Empowering Parents blog, "I think you should consider calling the police when you see a pattern of behavior that's unsafe and threatening to others. Make it clear to your child that 'This is the consequence for abusive, destructive or criminal behavior.'"

This presents a risk, however, insofar as it means that your juvenile may face criminal charges and incarceration, as well as other possible consequences. For some troubled teens, being in the system only exacerbates behavioral problems and a sense of alienation.

Tough Love

What if the situation is not so obvious? What if you find drugs in your kid's room or notice behavior that indicates drug use? What if your child's activities seem to threaten their own safety but not necessarily anyone else?

If you suspect your kid is using drugs or otherwise doing something criminal, you should address the behavior but be extremely wary of calling in the authorities. Drug use may be indicative of some other issues and kids are under many pressures parents don't know about.

Do try talking to your child or taking them to see someone for guidance. Calling the cops to give kids a good scare is not appropriate and could have consequences you do not want and cannot anticipate.

While disciplining a wild kid can be impossible for a parent, the juvenile justice system is not equipped to teach children good behavior. Locking struggling kids up with other troubled teens is not a guarantee that your kid will get the lessons needed. Seek counseling.

Talk to a Lawyer

If your child has been charged with a crime, don't despair and don't delay. Talk to a criminal defense attorney today. Many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to help you with this difficult situation.

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