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Call Cops to Teach Kids a Lesson? It Can Backfire

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 25, 2013 10:27 AM

Have you ever thought about calling the cops to teach your kid a lesson? If so, think again, because you might be the one who spends the night in the slammer.

One parent's idea of an appropriate method of discipline can appear abusive to others -- especially when you get the police involved.

Calling Cops

Florida mom Melissa Townsend, 27, found that out the hard way. Townsend was put into a state-sponsored timeout after she called 911 and asked dispatchers to send officers to scare her children, ages 1 and 3, reports Orlando's WKMG-TV.

"I need a police officer to come out and scare the (expletive) out of my kids," Townsend said on the 911 call. "They're not listening to me and they need to learn respect. They need to learn that lesson."

Her extreme child rearing stunt got her arrested for child neglect.

Child abuse is broadly defined in many states as any type of cruelty inflicted upon a child, including mental abuse and neglect.

In addition to state child abuse laws, all states have child protective services (CPS) agencies that investigate reports of abuse and neglect of children in a home.

Townsend eventually lost custody of her children. Though the decision was based on a variety of factors, her police stunt may have contributed to the state's decision to remove the children.

Visiting Cops

Physically taking your children to the police station to teach them a lesson is an equally bad idea.

Take it from Gerardo Santiago and Annette Gerhardt, two Staten Island parents who were arrested for taking their 6-year-old daughter to the police station to teach her a lesson, reports New York's 1010 WINS radio.

The parents tried to pretend like they were going to leave their daughter in jail. The police, however, didn't play along and were not amused.

"It definitely backfired. They tried to scare us instead of helping us straighten out the child," Santiago said.

Both parents were charged with child endangerment and attempt to abandon.

Not Worth It

One child psychologist said using the idea of law enforcement isn't a bad idea for teens, but a small child like a 6-year-old is too young.

"The fear factor overwhelms the benefits that you get out of it," Dr. Alan Hilfer, Director of Psychology at Maimonides Medical Center, told 1010 WINS.

State laws don't neatly sum up what is and is not child abuse. More often than not, the law considers whether or not the action is "reasonable."

Just remember that a little common sense (and compassion) goes a long way. Don't be a jerk, parents -- and keep the po-pos out of it.

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