Reasons You Shouldn't Call the Police on Your Child

Parent calls the police on child
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There have been several stories in the news lately about parents calling the police on their young children. The parents don’t want their children arrested, however. Instead, they simply want the police to show up and scare their child into behaving.

Whether you’re sick and tired of your 8-year-old’s disrespectful behavior, or you want to convince your 12-year-old he should stop picking on his sister, think twice before using the police as a scare tactic.

Here are seven reasons why calling the police on your child isn't a good idea:

1. It shows your child that you can’t handle his behavior. Calling the police reinforces to your child that you don’t have any effective ways to discipline him at home. It shows that you need the police to serve as your backbone. Your child may lose confidence in your ability to keep him safe if he thinks you have to resort to calling the police to manage his behavior.

2. Your child may not learn the lesson you intend. If you call the police for an offense that isn’t very serious, the police aren't going to do anything beyond talking to your child. They may give him a warning or tell him to “behave.” But, ultimately, their intervention may backfire.

A child may conclude, “Well, having the police called on you isn’t a big deal. Listening to a lecture  isn’t a big deal for most kids. Losing privileges for 24 hours is likely to be more effective than a brief scolding from a police officer.

3. Scare tactics usually don’t create lasting change. Scare tactics tend to be effective in the short-term but over time, they lose effectiveness. A child may change his behavior for the days – or even the weeks – following a police intervention. But, as the fear subsides, old behavior patterns are likely to return.

4. It unnecessarily ties up the police force. The role of a police officer is to keep the community safe. Calling the police to your home to scold your child prevents them from doing their duties. They have many other important tasks – like preventing crime and responding to emergencies – that could be a matter of life or death for people in the community.

5. The outcome may be out of your hands. Depending on your child’s age and the severity of the issue, you may not have control over how the police respond to your request. Even if you say you don’t want your child charged with a crime, you may not have a choice.

Depending on the laws in your state, charges could be pressed after you make the phone call. Then, the court system will have control over what happens to your child, not you. While there may be times that warrant a call to the police on your child, be aware of the potential consequences.

6. Calling the police will impact your relationship. Contacting the police on your child for misbehavior is likely to take a toll on your relationship with your child. Your child may feel a deep sense of betrayal and may not trust you in the future. Unfortunately, a damaged relationship with your child can lead to increased behavior problems.

7. The police don’t provide treatment. If your child’s behavior problems are severe enough that you’re considering calling the police, seek professional help. Your child may have a behavior disorder or may need a different approach to discipline. Before calling the police, speak with your child’s pediatrician and request a referral to a therapist. It’s important to rule out issues like ADHD or ODD, which may respond well to treatment, rather than police intervention.