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Dear Client: Court Does Not Teach a Child. Parents Do.

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2021 | Firm News, Juvenile Court

The first time a parent in juvenile court said to me, “I brought my child to court so that court would teach my child respect. But we just keep coming back and nothing changes. The Judge, DJJ they don’t do anything.” My initial response was wonder. Really, a parent thought a government agency and/or a court could fix that type of problem? Later, after several years of experience, I refined my answer. Unfortunately, neither the Court nor the various government agencies are capable of “teaching respect” to a child.

Parenting is challenging and an unending task, but no magic switch can be turned on to teach respect. The Court will provide resources for parents. Resources could be therapists to help parents and child communicate better. Classes for both parents and children to find a common ground of respect for each other. There will always be more court appearances, particularly if the parent and child continue to disagree and involve law enforcement or the Department of Juvenile Justice. Parents tell me, in court, that they can no longer control their child and want the government to take control of the child. The parent does not wish to participate in the services offered and the child, in the parent’s mind, is the reason. This statement usually prompts the Department of Family and Children Services involvement and a whole new level of government and people telling parents what to do. Honestly, parents and children must work together to respect each other from the child’s early days. If a parent decides when a child is 8-12 that the child needs to learn respect, that parent is always the teacher. Care should be taken in communicating these lessons. Respect does not arise from corporal punishment, usually. Judges and therapists can’t be in a home 24/7 to teach or be the disciplinarian.

Parents must do the work of discipline if discipline is to be learned. There are books on the topic of teaching respect; there are also family members and friends who have raised respectful children who rely on those resources. The Court is not equipped to fix a child. The Court has a limited number of options to address this type of situation. Most of those options require more court appearances and parent participation to relearn parenting. Do it yourself. Don’t ask the Court to do it for you.