Tag Archives: teen crime


You are more honest than most, you attend religious services, your kid might even go to a religious school. Everyone says your kid is a good kid and you agree. But good kids break the law – yours included.

If you are reading this, you might already have had your delusions about your law-abiding your good kid shattered. Don’t despair, most get scared straight. You can help, however, so read on.

Shoplifting was one of the more common exercises many of my foster children pursued when breaking the law.  Most often it was not for the item – many were from middle class families and more than a few from wealthy families.  Need did not drive them, excitement and seeing what they could get away with set them walking down the path of the criminal.

Usually for a good kid, getting picked up by the police for any episode involving breaking the law, stops the law-breaking.  Still, it helps for parents to know how to handle a call from the police and what to teach their children long before that day arrives.

The cards are stacked against honesty and our efforts to teach our children to abide by the law. Think about these three examples:

Example one:  Almost everyone breaks one law or another. Some break little ones by littering, crossing in the middle of the block, speeding, stretching the truth on tax returns.  Those protected by their power or status break bigger ones. Political leaders take illegal donations, religious leaders commit adultery or worse, molest young children.

Example two: The media promotes lawlessness.  Even tv ads promote speeding, violence, and don’t even get me started on movies.  I hear Twilight promotes blood sucking pedophiles. I thought Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid and the Godfather movies pushed the limit of glorifying anti-social behavior.

TV ads drive me crazy – Most car ads teach reckless speeding; one even has a man smashing a neighbor’s car and driving it over a cliff.

Example three:  Western society promotes challenging the laws of anyone over thirty.  That is another way the TV ads get me steamed up.  I am sick of toddlers lording it over grown men.  But the right to rebel  has more serious consequences.

Freedom and justice have moved forward because good people rebelled. However, Gandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted passive resistence when breaking the law for a just cause.  Sadly that is no longer the ethic of rebellion for most.

Now the whole world seems to be rebelling and not peacefully.  The rebellions seem to start for good reasons but most are degenerating into power and money grabbing.


What can parents do? A great deal. For all the speeding and recklessness of the car ads most kids drive safely.  Most of the Occupiers of Wall Street were peaceful.  Most of us know and obey the import laws. Here are some tips.

Tip one:  Model being a law abiding citizen.  Start early and keep it up. When you teach your child to walk safely in the street, note that the law says we must wait for a green light or cross only at the corners.   These little steps promote right behavior.

If you have not stressed these things have a chat with your pre-teens and teens about the uses of reasonable laws and reasonable obedience.  Ask questions about why laws exist.  After hearing your child out,  stress laws exist for two main reasons: To keep everyone safe and to respect the everyone’s rights.

Tip two: Start as soon as your kids become mobile to punish. Punishment is not a dirty word. It only means pain applied after an unacceptable behavior.  Too much pain and punishment becomes abuse.  Not enough punishment and kids have a harder time learning right from wrong.  while promoting  kindness and caring.

Proper punishment works and that means punishing at the right time, for the right reason, and in the right way.  Time outs work for the very young, loss of allowance for school age and above; loss of trust, allowance, and priveleges for teens.

Proper punishment also means the child knows what he or she did wrong and why he or she is being punished.

Tip three:   If  you catch your child shop lifting or otherwise breaking the law, but not arrested, you must  punish.  If the crime is a felony you are obligated by law to turn your child in: call a lawyer.  Don’t know what a felony is?

Here is a quick definition: A serious crime, characterized under federal law and many state statutes as any offense punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year.

Most states consider the following crimes  felonies include:  arson, breaking and entering, kidnapping, robbery, manslaughter, murder, rape including statatury rape,  and treason,

If  your child’s law breaking behavior is not  a felony, here are some examples of parental punishments that often work with first offenders:  Have shop lifters return their booty to the security office of the store it was stolen from.  Speeders need to get a suspended license and attend a safe driving course.

Make it clear that a repeat performance means you will have to have the child turned over to the police.

Tip four: When you child moves in middle school discuss the following: Wilding.  Wilding is when a group overides  individual consciences. Wilding leads people, particularly teens to do things they would not ordinarily do and that they regret.  Relate this to peer pressure and discuss how to stand up against peers.Discuss news about rebellion and emphasize the need to follow Gandhi and King’s example.

Being around when another is committing a crime makes you an accomplice.  That is why parents are obligated to turn a child in if she or he has committed a felony.

Tip five: teach your child how to behave if stopped by the police. The rules: do not run; running when approached by the police can lead to a bullet in the back.  Be polite and respectful, arguing or getting aggressvie  can lead to a criminal charge of resisting arrest or worse.

Teach your children to say stopped by the police to say:  “I am not sure what you think I have done if anything.  My name is John Doe, if you want to question me about something even something about my friends or if you plan to arrest me, please call my parents, they will meet us at the precinct   I will talk to you in their presence and help you anyway I can. ”

Rehearse that speech with your child and make sure they know you will stand by them, but only to see that they are treated fairly, not to help them evade the law if they have broken it. “You do the crime, you do the time.”

Tip six:  If you get a call saying your child has been arrested, call a lawyer and go immediately to where you child is being held.  Be super polite, accept that your child may be guilty of wrong doing, so no arguing or protesting your child’s innocence, but do not answer any questions or let your child speak until your lawyer arrives.

Tip seven:  If your child is sexually active or you suspect that make sure he or she knows the laws about statutory rape.   Age of consent varies by state and parents who know a victim or a statutory rapist can be arrested for not reporting the offense.

Tip eight: Read my Parenting Survival Guide, When Good Kids Break The Law. It is volume 9 in the When Good Kids Do Bad Things series. Volume 1 is free.


Parenting is hard work and contending with a child breaking the law or thought by the police to have broken the law can send you into a panic.  Suspect you are reading this because you are concerned.  Good.  My intent has not been to scare you, but to educate you.   Hopefully, the above tips will help you deal effectively with the situation and your child will be scared straight.

You will find more detailed help in my E-book about breaking the law  or in my other books. You can find all listed on my  Amazon’s author’s page.  Scroll down the page for a listing of the Ebooks.  I recommend Parents are People Too; it is a stress management, emotional fitness program and every parent needs help staying emotionally strong. If you buy one, please review.


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DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIA.  If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. Dysgraphia is a not well known learning disability and means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are.  If this troubles you, feel free to read elsewhere.  If you persevere, you are practicing kindness by lifting my spirits for that means you find what I say helpful and that is one of my missions. Kindness always repays those who spread it.