Parenting, outsourced

For help in child-rearing, dialing 911 is the wrong call

A Florida woman earlier this year called 911 and asked police to “come out and scare the (bleep) out of my kids.”


She may have gotten her wish, though not how she might’ve expected. Officers found her drunk and disorderly and arrested her.

As for the kids she couldn’t handle? They were ages 3 and 1.

In the end, the woman “probably did enough to scare her kids all by herself,” one news report observed.

It’s another sign of the times: With the implosion of both the nuclear family and the extended family that used to inform it with parenting skills – and with many of today’s child-producers being selfish, lazy, substance-abusing louts – parents sometimes turn to law enforcement authorities to outsource basic parenting skills.

It’s easy to call 911. It’s not so effortless to actually take the time and care to parent worth a darn.

The Chronicle’s Bianca Cain Johnson recently explored that phenomenon locally, finding out that it’s not uncommon for Augusta parents to call on police to try to scare their kids straight.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is dutifully willing to go along with them to try to serve the public and help out – and, as in the Florida case, officers occasionally find problematic parenting that cries out for intervention. But officers don’t recommend the practice, and neither should anyone else. It may work from time to time, but likely more often it demonizes law enforcement in young, impressionable minds and lets a poorly equipped parent off the hook.

There are instances in which an outmanned mother may actually fear her child. By all means, call police.

But don’t use Richmond County taxpayers as a surrogate parent.

If your Day-to-Day Parents’ Toolbox is so empty that your only answer is to call 911 for some armed intervention, then the problem isn’t your child. It’s you.

Before you dial 911, try 211 – the local social service helpline operated by the United Way of the CSRA. A 211 operator can fix you up with parent skills classes, parent counseling services and even parent support groups.

There are parent-and-child activity groups, swimming lessons, parent/family educational involvement programs, books and other materials on child rearing – all available by simply dialing 211 on your phone.

In addition, if there are any underlying stressors affecting your ability to parent – or just your peace of mind – 211 is the gateway to social services providing assistance with money, food and relationship issues.

“There’s a variety of different things they can call about,” a 211 operator told us.

And if the problem has gone beyond your capacity to handle it, most jurisdictions offer “scared straight” sorts of programs, often through the sheriff’s department, that familiarize troubled youths with jails and other consequences of antisocial behavior.

The keys to not getting to that point are:

• set a good example yourself

• set reasonable but firm expectations for behavior early in a child’s life and stick to them

• understand that as the adult guardian of the television, the Internet, the pantry, and the locks on all the doors, you have leverage that can be couched in “promises” rather than “threats”

• even when disciplining or punishing children, there’s no reason to treat them with disrespect; in fact, they’ll respond better to tough love than mere toughness

• take the time to learn parenting tips from experts and other parents

Above all, see the big picture. Those little creatures you agreed to feed, clothe, shelter and mentor aren’t yours; they’re on loan from heaven. And they’ll only be with you a fleeting while. Enjoy them while you can, and know that the tough moments will surely pass.

Before you call on the police, call on yourself.

They didn’t sign up to parent your kids. You did.

Parents sometimes turn to police to scare kids straight


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