Should I call the police? Are things bad enough? What will happen to my child if I call 911? If you are facing these types of questions, we want you to know you are not alone. In this article, you will learn what happens when you call the police, when it’s the right decision, and how to take this critical step to care for your child and your family’s safety.
- How Do You Know When to Call 911?
- When Should I Make Non-Emergency Phone Calls?
- Common Fears Parents Have About Calling the Police on their Child
- Understanding Behavioral Disorders
- What Happens When the Police Show Up?
As a parent, you may feel isolated because you have considered calling the police to help you deal with your child’s behavior. Yet the truth is that aggression and defiance are the biggest reasons that children receive mental health treatment.
We know how difficult it is to deal with an aggressive child and how hard it is to know when you should call the police. Read on for help to make the decision a little easier.
How Do You Know When to Call 911?
Does it seem impossible that you could call 911 on your own child? It is important to recognize when to involve the police, even if it may seem difficult to call them on your own child. In certain situations, it may be necessary to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
I Called the Police for My Own Son…and I’m a Good Mom is an article written by a mom who called 911 due to her raging son for the safety of her family.
Criteria for Determining when a Situation Warrants an Emergency Response
An article by Empowering Parents gives some good advice on this matter. “I’ve seen too many parents who live as prisoners in their own home—prisoners of a threatening child. That is why if your threatening child doesn’t respond to your authority, you may need to bring in another authority, and that’s the police.”
They recommend calling the police in the following situations.
- Physical abuse is the number one reason to call the police on your child. If your family feels threatened or if he or she is damaging property, such as by punching holes in the walls, you should call the police.
- Criminal behavior is another reason to call 911 on your child. Is your child in possession of or selling drugs or stolen property? If so, calling 911 may be appropriate.
- Is your child a threat to themselves? Call 911 immediately if your child is threatening their own life.
Sometimes, making a difficult decision is needed for your child’s and your family’s well-being and future.
When Should I Make Non-Emergency Phone Calls?
Listed below are some reasons to make non-emergency phone calls.
- You suspect your child is stealing from you or others.
- You suspect your child is physically, verbally, or sexually abusing other children in the home, but it isn’t happening right now.
- You suspect your child is physically, verbally, or sexually abusing other children outside of the home.
- There is damage to property.
Call 911 when there is an immediate threat. If not, it’s best to call for non-emergency aid. You can find the police non-emergency number for your city with a Google search.
Common Fears Parents Have About Calling the Police on their Child
You may think calling the police is necessary (or will be in the near future), but you worry about what will happen if you take this step.
The following fears are all extremely common and valid:
- Damaging their long-term relationship with their child
- The consequences for their child. (Will they have a record? Will they be arrested or taken to jail?)
- Giving up control of the situation to police and courts
- Embarrassment and shame for not being able to handle their child (Or even having charges brought against them or their child being taken away)
- Social stigma
Many raging kids have been through trauma and have behavior disorders. When you call 911, be sure to tell them about any diagnosis that your child has, including mental health issues. While this hasn’t always been the case, more counties are training police officers to be aware of mental health concerns.
It’s also possible that your child’s poor decisions got you into this situation. Your child’s behavior may be out of their control at times, but we all have control over our decisions to a certain extent. Either way, calling 911 may be the best option.
When you call 911, the operator will ask if the aggressive person has a weapon. If you think your child will use something as a weapon or try to attack the officers, let them know immediately so they can be prepared.
Understanding Behavioral Disorders
Having a child or teen with a behavioral disorder can leave parents feeling helpless. We all want our kids to be “normal.” Understanding behavioral disorders can help a parent empathize with their child and learn how to best deal with their behavior.
A behavioral disorder is diagnosed when a child’s behaviors:
- Are uncommon for the child’s age
- Persist over time
- Are severe
Three common behavioral disorders in Children
Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder are behavioral disorders that may be responsible for your child acting out. Read on for more about each diagnosis.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
ODD includes a frequent and ongoing pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, and defiance toward parents and other authority figures, as well as being spiteful and seeking revenge.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
Reactive Attachment Disorder is a condition where the child is unable to bond emotionally with a parent or caregiver because of emotional neglect or abuse. These children have trouble connecting with others, are angry, and often throw tantrums.
They are fearful even when the conditions are safe, and they may act out or become abusive.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that begins in childhood and affects learning, communication, and social interactions. Many kids with ASD develop aggressive behavior that could become threatening.
Read the post, Violent Behavior in Children and Adolescents, if you want more information to understand your child’s or teen’s abusive behavior.
Recommendations for Parents and Caregivers when Dealing with an Abusive Child or Teen
Child Mind Institute recommends that parents:
- Stay calm
- Don’t give in
- Praise appropriate behavior
- Help them practice problem-solving skills
- Try time-outs and reward systems (although recognize that they might not be effective)
- Avoid triggers
Although no parent can control their child, parents have some control over the situation and can make a bad situation better by choosing their response to their child before and after the police arrive.
What Happens When the Police Show Up?
Having the police show up might give you and your family some temporary relief, but police rarely arrest a child.
In the earlier cited article, “I Called the Police for My Own Son…and I’m a Good Mom,” during one police visit, the child had calmed down by the time the police had gotten there. The cop laughed and handed her his card, so remember, it’s not always how you think or hope it will be.
The police’s job is to de-escalate the situation. Likely, the police will try to calm your child down, remove them from the immediate situation, talk to them, and ask them to comply with your house rules.
If your child is threatening to harm himself or others, they may call an ambulance and have the child taken to the emergency room for a mental health evaluation. The police will not transport the child to the hospital.
Very rarely, the police will put the child in the police car or take them to jail or juvenile detention, but this is unlikely to happen.
How do you Prepare for the Police Interaction?
- Tell your child that you are going to call the police if you are afraid for yourself or your family.
- Dial 911 and answer any questions the respondent has. The operator will ask you for your full name and location, who is in the home, if the aggressive child has a weapon, any medications your child takes, and any diagnosis your child has.
- Create a Safety Plan. Find safety behind a locked door for yourself and your family while you wait.
- Have all the medical information ready. Keep a card on hand with your child’s basic information, including their name, birthday, diagnosis, medications, and doctors.
Misconceptions: What Does Not Happen When the Police Come?
Here are some common misconceptions about calling 911 on your child:
Misconception 1: My violent child will get arrested. It’s highly unlikely that your child will be arrested. Younger children were not arrested at all. Teens may be arrested if they are physically violent and aggressive toward the police officers. Your child may be calm when the cops arrive, so there isn’t much they can do, which can leave parents frustrated.
Misconception 2: The police will scare my aggressive child enough to make them shape up. Most often, this does not happen. It could end up making the child angrier, and you may end up regretting it later.
Misconception 3: My child will get the help they need. This is also only sometimes true. It depends on your state, but it may take calling the police many times on your child to get them the help they need. Ultimately, seeking help through other sources will be more effective. Call the police as a last resort when safety is involved.
It is crucial that parents and caregivers stay informed when dealing with a difficult child. They should use their best judgment when deciding whether or not to call the police.
This is a challenging decision, but when your child is acting out aggressively or violently and you and your family are in danger, it is necessary.
Take action now, or your child may end up in the court system later in life. Being proactive now, as hard as it is, is what is best for you, your family, and your raging child.
Have you had to call the police for your child, or are you considering it? Share about it in the comments below.