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Do your turn in your child to the police?

answered 03:16 PM EST, Sat November 19, 2011
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I caught my son bringing in a stop sign and a speed limit sign from his car late last night. He told me he had been on a scavenger hunt with a bunch of kids from his high school and that the street signs were on the list of items they had to get. Presumably there are a number of street signs missing around town this morning.
I am so angry with him for being so stupid and putting people in such danger by taking a stop sign away from an intersection. I know he wasn’t thinking it through but he should have known better than this. I really let him have it last night and I can see that he understands that what he did was stupid and dangerous and immature.

But now what do I do? At first I was thinking about turning him and his friends into the police for what they had done but my husband reminded me that this can be quite a serious crime and that in one case recently a teen was even charged with manslaughter after an accident occurred at an intersection that was missing a stolen stop sign. I don’t want him to get into really serious trouble for this but on the other hand, I don’t want to be complicit in his crime and teach him that bad actions don’t have real life consequences. Should I call the police on him? I am really torn about what to do?

David Johnson Says...

This is indeed a difficult decision to make. I think it is useful to examine your reasons pro and con for reporting your son's crime. It does indeed involve you legally, by way of liability and certainly ethically. More importantly, what is the message you are giving your son about what he did? Considering the later issue alone, do you really want to teach your son that you will protect him from legal consequences of his actions? I think that is a very slippery slope. The message you leave with your son by your actions will echo in his future actions. From purely a child raising point of view, the answer is clear to me. Bring your son and the signs to the police station and sit with him as he faces the consequences.

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