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Would You Call the Cops on Your Kid?

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Many moms are resorting to this very harsh form of "tough love."

hands on jail bars

On the NY Times parenting blog Motherlode, a mother named Wendy shared the following story:

I just found out last night that my 17-year-old daughter stole my ATM card, more than once, and purchased things without permission. She knows stealing and lying are wrong. Believe me, I've been as vigilant a parent as possible.

To demonstrate the seriousness of what she'd done, I asked the police for help. An officer came over, handcuffed her and sat her in the back of his car while he explained what a felony was. He described, in detail, what happens to people who steal. I hope the tactic worked.

Everyone makes mistakes. I'd rather my daughter learn the consequences of serious errors while those consequences are still small and not life-altering. It's sad to watch a kid with such potential suffer but it felt good to know I didn't excuse her behavior, accept it, tolerate it, or make excuses. Burying my head in the sand does my children a huge disservice. If they don't learn to make good choices while in my home, society will teach them to obey the law. I know I can say I love her enough to help her stay on the straight and narrow path- the one that leads to freedom and happiness.

Back in February, we told you about the mother who pressed charges against her own son after he stole her car and drove under the influence. "He needs to know that there needs to be a stop to it and if I don't go this way he could hurt someone or hurt himself and I don't want that to happen," she explains.

Even if someone would never think of turning their own flesh and blood in, many refuse to bail them family members when the law finally catches up with them. When Barron Hilton got charged with a DUI last year, his sister Paris reportedly refused to bail him out. An Australian mother made waves when she refused to bail her son out of jail and then called on other moms to follow her lead. Family counselor Rosanne Tobey LPC says, depending on the situation and the age of the child, this could be a good idea. "If you've got a kid arrested for DUI, leaving them in jail overnight is a good way to let them think things out," she says. "It really sends the message that if they break the rules, they have to suffer the consequences."

Would YOU press charges against your own child? Sound off in the momlogic community.


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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen March 25, 2009, 4:11 PM

GOOD JOB FOR BEING A REAL PARENT!!! I would absolutely call the cops on any family member that did something that was illegal and wrong.
I think these parents did a great job and made great decisions that in the end will actually help their children.

KimmieCliff March 25, 2009, 6:16 PM

I am not so sure about this. I don’t feel it’s right involving the police. If this parent actually went full on with an arrest or not, but, I don’t want my child starting their life out with anything on their record, when I can handle things at home myself. Teenagers are sneaky little sh**’s. Maybe it’s time this parent makes some life changes. Change your pin code and not give it to your child. Lose the ATM card all together! Some things are just to accessible to children. Your children are creative, and sneaky, and will do what they can to get what they want. Set harsher ground rules, kids have to much these days and expect way to much from their parents. We need to go back to the basics, and the things that they want, need to be earned. Really earned! I am sure this child felt she deserved it somehow, that’s why she felt she could just take the card in the first place.

Ariane Griffiths March 25, 2009, 6:21 PM

My parents told me from the get-go - if I was in trouble with the law (in any way, shape or form) I was on my own.. scared me to death! Never once did I even think about committing any sort of crime (however menial they may have seemed - like stealing an ATM card).. I will teach the same rules to my children…

TwinCitiesLynn March 25, 2009, 7:06 PM

I went to court with my son after he stole my car. When it appeared the judge was going to let him off the hook, I looked my son in the eye and told him I loved him, then told the judge to throw the book at him. He was 17 at the time, and he ended up doing 3 months in jail. While he was mad at me at first, he later realized I was fighting for his future. He is 29 now. I have no regrets about doing it, and he holds no grudges.


Chrissy March 25, 2009, 7:24 PM

Well, if KimmieCLiff thinks teenagers are sneaky sh**t, than maybe scaring the sh**t out of them with the police is the thing to do.
Personally I don’t take that view on teenagers. But yes, teenagers don’t always used their heads and if the mother brought her daughter up right and she still choose to do wrong - better to correct the behaviour now then later. Juvenile records are sealed, not adult records.

dee March 25, 2009, 8:18 PM

at 17 she may or may not realize the seriousness of her actions. i shop-lifted at 17 and got caught. my mom’s disappointment was the worst punishment. a child stealing from you hurts and she should be made to understand that there are consequences to abusing your mother but perhaps not real police action….

ame i. March 25, 2009, 9:12 PM

I’m not sure, but I think I would let mine away with it once. I doubt either would do something that would warrant calling the police want to think I would see it coming.
If there was a first time, I would turn them in the second time because I would take that to mean they were out of my control and out of their own control.

anonymous March 26, 2009, 12:54 PM

If the teen did something illegal on more than one occasion I’d involve the law. Too many parents try to be friends with their kids, and are afraid they’ll lose that if they tell on them. Children are just that, you’re children, not your friends.


I agree, more than 1 time, maybe even let it go to 2 or 3 means that child is not under your control anymore and you need to bring in some help. Whether that be the police or a therapist or a family counselor.

Fiona March 26, 2009, 1:27 PM

I think the mother in this case was absolutely correct. Theft is a crime, regardless of who it is committed against.

Edythe September 6, 2009, 10:46 PM

Good evening. Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.
I am from Burma and also now teach English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “Stores in civil rules have included the minimum bank of bring banks and capabilities as major calls of purchaser.”

Thanks :p. Edythe.


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