It’s a truth that just about every parent knows: right around the time your child hits double digits, you start to worry about things. Not that you weren’t worried before, but not you have to think more about who they hang out with. What they’re doing after school when they’re not home. What they’re not telling you.
These worries can manifest in all kinds of ways, including sex, drugs and – you guessed it – juvenile crime.
The adolescent and teen years are partially about acting out, trying new things, fighting for freedom and autonomy, and seeing what you can get away with. It’s been that way forever. It’s a part of growing up and learning how to be responsible for yourself as an adult.
Unfortunately, some kids take things too far, and even a seemingly minor transgression may end up costing them big. Maybe they won’t end up in a juvenile corrections facility. Maybe you won’t be forced to pay large fines. One single mistake may still wreck their chances at getting into a good college, though.
In some cases, they may be living with the consequences of their youthful mistakes for the rest of their lives.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however, and parents can play a big role in keeping their kids from going down a dark path. Here, we’re going to offer some advice on how. Ready?
Spend Time with Them
Seriously, that’s our big tip? Yep. According to research, it may be the most important thing that parents can do to keep their kids from engaging in delinquent behaviors.
It may seem too obvious or simple, but the results don’t lie. Kids whose parents spend time with them are less likely to experiment with substances, and less likely to become bullies (which can lead to gang involvement).
So, do your best to have meals together. Instigate a family night – or day – once a week. Attend school activities. Show interest in their interests.
It may not be easy, but it can be hugely effective.
Model Appropriate Behavior
Kids who grow up with violence in the home are far more likely to become violent themselves. Ditto children who witness their parents cutting corners, breaking rules and laws, and otherwise engaging in shady acts.
If you want your child to avoid this path, look to yourself first. Where a violent or abusive situation exists, this is even more important because it can pose a serious risk not only to their mental and emotional state, but also physically if the abuse is ever turned on them.
Encourage Their Passions
A kid who loves doing something and feels invested in it is far less likely to get sucked into criminal activity. Why? Because they won’t want to jeopardize their ability to continue doing whatever they feel passionate about.
As long as the hobby or activity is a healthy one, it doesn’t really matter what it is – art, basketball, chess, cooking, robotics – though there is an added benefit for any passion that also lends itself to group involvement, because they will then gain that support network. Which leads us to…
Build a Village
While parental involvement is monumentally important, obviously you can’t be there all the time – and shouldn’t. Moreover, as they grow, your influence will not be the only one that shapes them no matter how hard you try to make this so.
Because of this, part of your job is to subtly push them towards positive influences and place them in the care of people – and in environments – that you trust and believe in. Ideally, your “village” should include healthy, positive interactions in all six “life domains” – community, creativity, education, health, relationships, and work.
Do Not Ignore Red Flags
Far too often, parents see or suspect that their child is involved in things that they shouldn’t be, but they ignore the signs because they don’t want to believe them or hope that the behavior will go away on its own.
This, however, is a mistake. When kids misbehave, they are often seeing how far they can go without pushback. What they can get away with. The more you ignore a potential issue, the more they are likely to escalate their behavior.
In the end, if there’s an overall lesson, it’s to be involved and get others involved as well. Do it early on, too, because it’s much easier to prevent or avoid certain behaviors than it is to stop them.
Just as importantly, if they do get into trouble with the law, reach out to an experienced Texas criminal attorney immediately who can help to minimize the damage. Kids make mistakes – sometimes big ones – but they can recover and straighten out their lives as long as they are able to focus on rehabilitation rather than surviving criminal penalties that may actually serve to pull them deeper into that world.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.