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Lisa Belkin

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Calling The Cops On Your Child

Posted: 01/ 5/2012 12:51 pm

They know how to push our buttons, because they installed them.

I've always thought that phrase was a little backwards, because technically it's the other way around, but still... The fact remains that no one can get to us -- worry us, provoke us, amaze us, infuriate us -- like our own kids. Our partners and our parents might come close, but they rarely hit that deepest nerve. Maybe because only with our children do we take it all personally, and wonder, in dark moments, where we went wrong.

In Salem, MA on Monday, a mother called the police to report that her five children had been fighting all day, according to the local paper. The 15-year-old son punched his 8-year-old sister in the arm and their 16-year-old sister stepped in and was reportedly pushed to the ground.

When the arriving officers asked "what she felt we as a police department could do to help her they might do to assist her with the issues she's having as a parent," the incident report says, "the mother replied 'I want them both out of here,' " referring to the oldest children. In the end, the state Department of Children and Families was called in, and the older son faces a court date where he'll face charges for hitting his sister.

Are you cheering just a little? Or feeling this mother's pain at all?

I know I cheered nearly three years ago when Madlyn Primoff, pulled her car over and ordered her 10- and 12-year-old to walk home because their squabbling was driving her crazy. I have threatened that over the years (what is it about cars that sets kids a-bickering?) and often wonder whether I might have ended the fighting for good.

And I more than cheered earlier this year when another father, in Australia, reportedly saw his own teenagers beating up another child. The father ordered all three kids into the car, drove the bulled child home, then took his own children to the police station where they were both charged with assault.

While I cheered both times, though, it was muted by knowledge that there is a dark, potentially lethal, side of the parents-who-can't-take-it-anymore. It has been not quite a year, for instance, since Julie Powers Schenecker was charged with shooting her two teenagers to death because they had "talked back." Depression appears to have played a role in that, as did family stress -- Schenecker's husband was stationed in the Middle East when she snapped.

Based on the initial details in this latest case in Salem, this mother too sounds scarily close to the edge. She was raising three children on her own, and, according to police, "none of the children's fathers seemed to be involved." She needs help, and probably not the kind given by the police or the courts.

Have you ever been tempted to call the cops on your kids, if only to teach them a lesson? To kick them out of the car, or the house, for fighting? Would you ever actually DO it?