Juvenile delinquency occurs when a child under 18 years old exhibits questionable and problematic behavior at home, in school or in social settings that has caused him or her to break the law. If your child is displaying this type of behavior, dealing with the problem can be devastating and resolving the issues can feel impossible. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take, and programs that you can engage your child in, to do your part as a parent to put an end to their delinquent behavior.
1. Define the problems.
Acting to find a solution, or punishing your child without taking the time to pinpoint the problem at hand isn't helpful, and can actually lead to further delinquent behavior. Take a look at your child's unique situation and examine the specific behaviors that they are exhibiting. Ask questions and get real answers, whether they are from your child or from their teachers or coaches. When teenagers get into trouble with the law, drugs, alcohol and feelings of depression are the typical culprits. If your child is obviously abusing substances, counseling alone may not be the cure. Rehabilitation has proven to be a successful tool, especially when the problem is addressed early on.
2. Set boundaries.
When children and teenagers begin to act out, they need to be told that their behavior is unacceptable – not only with conversations, but with actions. This means consequences. Maintaining boundaries like curfews, chores and limiting the amount of time your child leaves the house is a necessity. If and when your child tests those boundaries, privileges need to be withdrawn, and the punishment must fit the crime – otherwise they will have opened a door and will have gained control of the situation.
3. Be their support system.
Playing the role of the enforcer doesn't need to mean that you can't also be there to support your child during this crucial time. Consider your life at home, any fights that may have played a role in your child's erratic behavior and anything that you can do to make the home a place where your child feels safe and happy. Tough love only goes so far, and the parent-child connection is typically the one that children believe to be their most important bond.
4. Get your child involved in activities.
Often times, juveniles get into trouble with the law due to boredom or because they are associating with the wrong crowd. Once your child is surrounded by positive and supportive people, their actions and outlook are likely to change. Organizations and associations like The Boys and Girls Club of America and The Salvation Army have programs intended for troubled teens. Sports, church groups and fun classes like art and music can ensure that your child has less time to involve themselves in delinquent behavior.
5. Be involved after an arrest.
If your child is taken into custody you may need to hire a reputable attorney. There will likely be penalties and consequences after an arrest, and teenagers are less likely than adults to keep up on their paperwork and fulfilling any requirements that are mandated by the court. Remain in constant communications with corrections officers, probation officers, community corrections officers and any public officials who are involved in the case.