Frequently, I hear parents in juvenile court state that they only wanted the police to scare the child into compliance with the parent’s rules. The parent can not understand why the matter was brought to juvenile court. Ultimately, the query to the Court is “why are we here? The police came to the house and handled the situation.”
Violating household rules and failing to follow a parent’s instructions are not usually delinquent offenses. Certainly, a parent will be mad but does that create criminal/delinquent behavior? Is this behavior that a parent wants to see on a child’s juvenile record? The long-term consequences can be permanent.
First, consider that the job of the police is to arrest people when crimes are committed. A parent must ask himself/herself before calling 911 about a child: has a crime been committed? Is someone injured? Is someone in fear for their life and/or safety because of a child in the household? If the answer is yes, then call 911, immediately.
If the answer is no to each of these questions, then the parent should consider why the police are necessary. If a child fails to follow instructions, does the parent truly want the government involved in the life of the family? In reality, government-the police disciplining a child generates a report. After several reports, the police can send those to juvenile court. Charges of ungovernable or unruly against a child result in a court appearance that disrupts the lives of both parent and child.
Not only will families be required to go to juvenile court, the judge will likely order the parents to speak with therapists and social workers, maybe even DFCS or CPS. Is that the result the parent wanted? To have a judge telling them how to behave?
In the end, a parent must determine how to discipline a child. There are books and there are therapists who can help parents, maybe even their family’s pastor, find new strategies to manage and interact with their child.
Raising a child is difficult. No one person or program has the perfect fix for every child. A parent should consider choosing the type of help that best fits their lifestyle and comfort level before calling the police and getting help that is not optional and generates reports and records of parental and child behavior.