Child Threat - Misc
Sanctions & Incentives (Brenda Giancaspro, MSEd., Port Chester, NY): When disciplining children, don't model aggressive or violent actions. PDP note: In terms of incentives (or rewards, if you will, when your child has done what is expected of them) here are a few ideas - special dinners of their choosing, a movie (appropriately rated), gift certificates at the mall, a day with you at a salon, computer games, music CD's (nothing negative), candy, tickets to sporting events and concerts (that you approve), etc. Make sure activities are supervised by you or other responsible adults and that you know who is going. We don't support allowances unless dollars are specifically allocated with parental approval. The goal can't just be money in your child's pocket. Studies have shown unallocated dollars significantly increase the risk of alcohol and drug abuse. Also, when it comes to incentives, remember, love, praise, and applause go a long way... Sanctions (discipline) should be reasonable (don't punish a child for poor school performance if they are living up to their full potential), predictable, so that the child understands your expectations and what constitutes bad behavior, fair and consistently applied. A lesson is not learned if you "make an exception this time." If possible, try to tailor sanctions to meet a specific goal and build upon the child's strengths. For instance, if your child cuts class, don't keep them home from school, but rather have them do additional reading after school and provide you with a written or oral report of what was read. Or, if you are not doing it already, make them complete their homework with you in the evenings. Additional examples of sanctions include restricting telephone, computer and television privileges (which should already be supervised), increasing chores at home (again, be reasonable), taking away their games for a set period of time, grounding them (but don't interfere with positive activities like sports, student government organizations, etc.), a fine (taking away an allocated allowance), changing their curfew (although they should never just be "hanging out" to begin with), etc. Don't shame, demean, or belittle your children.
Play it Again Sam (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Ask teachers and administrators about the prevalence of robberies that occur in an around middle and high schools in America and most parents would be surprised at their response. Although seldom reported to the police, robberies committed by gangs of youth against students going to, from, and while attending school happen all the time. Much of this has been brought on by the popularity of expensive cell phones and MP3 players and the "gimmie" mentality of modern teens. If they can't afford it, why not take it from your son or daughter while at the same time gaining "street cred" among their peers? "Sporting" a device taken by force from another student has become something of a status symbol for delinquents, undoubtedly tracing its roots to the victimization found on our streets and in correctional facilities. The problem has lead many educational institutions to either ban, or limit the possession and use of such devices while in school, under the pretext that they interfere with learning. That's a start. Still, without parental involvement the issue is far from being resolved. Parents need to question whenever their children come into possession of cell phones, MP3 players and the like that they didn't buy for them. And never accept the excuse that such an item was found or given as a gift by a friend. This is nothing more than a cover for theft, robbery, drug dealing, or other criminal activity. For those parents who have the resources to buy the latest device for their child, consider the harsh reality that exists today and whether you might be setting him or her up to be a victim. Is pleasing your child worth the possibility that he or she may face a beating by a band of thugs at school looking to make a name for themselves? Perhaps limits on where he or she carries an MP3 player or new cell phone might be the answer. In a perfect world, such preventative measures wouldn't be necessary...
Take Their Shoes (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Ask a worker in a residential care facility for a tip on how to keep a teen from running away and you are likely to hear the response, "Take their shoes." Practical yet somewhat humorous advice that provides an immediate solution to the problem of the runaway child. However, it doesn't really get to the heart of the issue. Many children runaway from home to flee physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or alcohol or drug addicted parents. So the first step for any parent, aside from informing the authorities and doing whatever is necessary to get their child back home safe, should be to examine the family unit. If it is determined that none of the above factors exist, seek out therapy for your child right away to address the root cause of the problem. Also, if you require assistance, look into having your child classified as a status offender within your jurisdiction. Don't be afraid to admit your child is beyond your control. Finally, if necessary, explore a therapeutic boarding school or other placement alternatives. Remember, a runaway child is at great risk of exploitation and victimization while away from home. Hesitation on your part may only lead to further harm.
CD Diversion Safe (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): A new diversion safe has hit the market. Resembling a stack of compact discs, it has a secret compartment in the center where kids can hide drugs and other contraband. Be on the lookout for it. Similar to the soda cans with false bottoms and hollow books that have been around forever, and the recently introduced "stash" water bottles, these items are often overlooked by parents.
Web Slang (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Some time ago, we warned parents that children were developing their own means of communication online. This trend continued and a new language has literally been born. Unless parents are able to understand it, their children will be at risk. Most parents are savvy enough to locate their child's computer in an open area to deter them from accessing inappropriate websites and chatrooms. However, few are able to read the acronyms and symbols kids use regularly in email and instant messaging. It's called "web slang." To learn it, simply do a Google or Yahoo search for "webslang" or "web slang" and study the lists found on several websites. Don't be intimidated. At first, it may seem like learning a foreign language, but after a few minutes of review you'll see the patterns that this form of communication takes and be in a position to decipher even the most complex messages.
Their First Breakup (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): With summer upon us and young relationships beginning to form, it's important that parents are aware of one of the greatest threats to children - their first breakup. Historically, this hardship used to occur most frequently to young adults in the 18-25 age range. However, as kids tend to begin dating earlier these days (something we do not condone or advise), it is not uncommon for them to experience their first breakup while still in their mid-to-late teens. Think back to the end of your first serious relationship, and you will quickly realize the danger this presents to children. That time in your life when you were most vulnerable, and placed complete trust and blind faith, without hesitation or worry, in the will of another. The emotional scars and feelings of hopelessness and despair that result from a first breakup often take months or even years to heal. A lot can happen in the interim... Many children will turn to alcohol and drugs to numb their pain. Others will engage in sexual promiscuity that places them at risk of teen pregnancy, and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Remember, dealers and players alike are waiting in the wings to take advantage of your child when s/he is hurting. Academic performance and family relationships are often adversely affected as well. And in some cases, a child's first breakup will lead to suicidal and/or homicidal behavior. So what can we do as parents? Step one, is to recognize the threat for what it is. Do not minimize or trivialize what your child is going through. Talk to your child. Be honest and share your own experiences and suffering with him or her. Let your child know that there is hope, and that one day, after working through the pyramid of self-blame, sadness, and anger, they will reach the point of acceptance and/or indifference. Most important of all, listen to your child, and don't ever tire of doing so. Always be open and receptive to him or her. Do not dismiss what they tell you or brush them aside. Sometimes, your child may need professional help to work through their first breakup. There is nothing wrong or unusual about that. Seek out a qualified counselor or therapist, and if called upon to participate in a session, welcome the opportunity to help your child heal. Put the needs of your children before your own.
Eating Disorders, Self lnjury & Suicide (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): While not characteristic of delinquent behavior, eating disorders, self injury and suicide represent three of the greatest threats to our children. Admittedly, PDP staff lack a complete and thorough knowledge of these subjects and hope to add the opinions of certified clinicians to Child Threat in the future. However, the recent discovery of the death of a wonderful, bright and talented 23 year old young lady who struggled since her teens, has added a sense of urgency to this post. Families often don't understand why their children suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and/or self injure themselves until it is too late and the spiral of self-destruction and depression leads to suicide. Moreover, unlike delinquent behavior which is brought to the attention of others, including family court, through contacts with the police, eating disorders and self injury are family secrets that exist behind closed doors. If your child resists maintaining their body weight within normal limits given their age and height, exhibits an intense fear of getting fat, is missing menstrual periods (in girls who have reached puberty), engage in binging, frequently go to the bathroom after eating (possibly to purge), wear bulky clothes to cover up how thin they are and/or abuse laxatives, it is likely they are suffering from an eating disorder. If your child exhibits unexplained cuts, scrapes or bruises on a regular basis (which they sometimes try to cover up with clothing) they may be practicing self injury. Lastly, if your child's personality has changed dramatically, they always seem bored, run away from home, appear withdrawn, have changed their eating or sleeping habits, write notes or poems about death and/or have given away their prized possessions, the risk of suicide is high. Keep in mind, these are only some of the many red flags that exist for the above-noted behaviors. The important thing is to get them help now. Contact a pediatrician, school counselor or mental health professional immediately. (T.E.S., you will not be forgotten)
Follow the Money Trail (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Want to find out what your child is really up to? Account for his or her income. You'd be surprised how many children spend all of their money on weekends on drugs and alcohol, and their parents don't have a clue of what is happening until it's too late. Some parents don't understand a child spending $50 on a Friday night is a "red flag." Studies have shown unallocated money in a child's pocket greatly increases their risk of engaging in substance abuse. As a result, we don't support allowances unless the dollars are specifically allocated with parental approval. Likewise, when it comes to employment, although the development of a work ethic is beneficial (provided it does not interfere with school performance), money children earn from a part-time job is not theirs to do with as they please. Parents should place this income in a joint interest-bearing savings account and insist that children seek prior approval from them before buying anything with it. That does not mean denying your son or daughter the right to be a child, and occasionally make a frivolous or unnecessary purchase. Remember, it is vices you are seeking to protect them from. Verify what your child earns by examining his or her pay-stub and by speaking with his or her employer. However, due diligence doesn't end there. Children will sometimes steal clothing and other items from stores to cover-up where their money is really going. Also, if you find your child has things that don't seem to fit into his or her budget, investigate the source of the same. They may be stealing from family members, shoplifting, selling drugs, or engaging in other criminal behavior. Don't accept the explanation, "a friend gave it to me" either. Friends don't just give friends expensive gifts. This is a common excuse used by children when confronted by their parents about illegal activity. Moreover, bear in mind, it is not unusual for older teenagers and adults to entice young children with "gifts" in exchange for sexual favors.
Internet Dangers (Ryan McAndrews, Butler, PA): As a general rule, children will find ways to access the computer when you aren't around, regardless of security measures you may put in place, so it's important to be able to monitor their "secret" activities. There are programs out there which will either keep a copy of websites visited, or prevent deletion of the history. Routers also often have the ability to log sites visited. And I think there are settings which can be changed within Windows. Repeated visits or "hits" to websites such as erowid.org (where users document their drug experiences), or others sites related to substance abuse, hate, or gang activities, are definite "red flags." PDP note: There are endless dangers online. We were not aware that there are websites in which users report on their drug experimentation, but are not surprised. To combat the Internet threat against your children, a good place to start is by reading our response to an earlier tip below, Instant Messaging & Email. If serious concerns arise, there are many hardware and software solutions available to you as well. Contact the Prevent Delinquency Project directly and we can explain what options exist.
Time & Mileage (William Sanders, SPI & Associates, Private Detective Agency, www.sps-spi.com, Paola, KS): Parents should consider the following warning signs: If your child takes longer than expected to go to the library or a friend's house, or if the mileage of the vehicle they use doesn't add up. With GPS trackers, inexpensive but highly useful tools that can be placed in a vehicle or personal belongings, it is possible to know the addresses that children visit, along with corresponding dates and times. PDP note: It seems so simple doesn't it? But how many parents verify that their children are where they claim to be, by calling their teachers, coaches, friend's parents, etc., and/or monitoring the time it takes them to travel and the mileage on their vehicle? Knowing the approximate travel times and mileage between your teenager's school, home, friend's house, church, recreation center, etc., requires little effort, even without GPS technology. We rarely recommend specific "tools of the trade" out of fear parents may misuse or abuse them. However, if "red flags" arise and it becomes necessary to know for sure where your child has been and what they are up to, some devices can be helpful.
Animal Cruelty (Dr. David B., Brighton Beach, NY): Observe your
child's behavior around animals. If he/she abuses or mistreats them, don't
ignore it. Seek out professional help. PDP note: This is something overlooked by
many parents. Believing perhaps their child could never engage in animal
cruelty, they write-off what they see as "playfulness." And yet time and time
again, we learn of sex offenders, arsonists, and those who commit serious
assaults, and even murder, as having had a history of animal cruelty when they
were younger. That is not to say that you should assume your child is a
sociopath because his/her behavior around animals appears irregular. However,
when in doubt, clinical intervention is warranted. Address these issues while
your child is still young.