Should you be the Police? Kids need help and supervision
“He’s not going to hurt you! He’s just a little bit annoying!” Such is the common response you see when teenagers threaten violence. The overriding assumption that I’ve heard over and over again in response to kids calling the police on their friends is the idea that those who do just feel that they are “a little bit annoying” and hence not worthy of serious consequences.
But what if that child is about to perpetrate some truly horrifying crime? Those of us who specialize in counseling on youth issues and violence prevention are well aware that most crimes committed by juveniles cannot be justified simply because they feel “little bit annoying.” For that, the police may have to assume that something more, or at least more violent, is at play.
It can be very difficult to understand why a kid would feel the need to call the police, especially if he has no actual plans to harm you or harm others. That’s where the issue of underlying emotional immaturity can actually come into play. Often, we suspect that the teen is vulnerable to peer pressure.
Be aware that even if no hard proof of “violence intent” is discovered, some of our teens are very susceptible to subtle social pressures that create a sense of anxiety around sensitive subjects. A situation that might make them feel more on edge than usual can trigger a desire to lash out, whether they intend to hurt anyone or not.
On average, very few teens admit to committing serious crimes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 13 percent of juvenile delinquents who commit violent crimes say they were motivated to do so by their peers’ behaviors. Yet, it can be very difficult to know what teens intend to do to you.
Statistics can also lead you to wonder why, after calling the police, a number of teens have subsequently confessed to committing crimes as a result of their fear of being punished. How could that be possible when they didn’t threaten anyone? It may actually be a matter of reaching out to them.
Kids are typically very resourceful. They can often trace the abuse they’ve experienced to pressures they have faced from relatives or friends. This can make them want to lay their hands on an equally unjust target. Unfortunately, too many times, the teen will call the police and confess to a crime that never happened.
However, it is a mistake to ignore your child. In many cases, their family situation is a more important issue than your concerns about how the kid is behaving. Many times, that could be the true source of their anger or anxiety. If the family is not able to cope with their emotional turmoil, they are far more likely to turn to acts of violence and danger.
The best way to reach out to a teen who is yelling, pointing a gun, or threatening to kill someone is with empathy and compassion. Simply opening your door can allow a teen to offer a wild potential victim protection from yourself and your kids. If a teen feels comfortable enough to approach a grown-up and tell them something, that child is most likely far less likely to act on his or her threats.