When is it time to call the police?

Sometimes parents are put into difficult situations with their teenagers. One scenario in particular seems to run counter to everything you think your role as a parent should be. How would it feel, as a mum or dad, to have to call the police on your teenager?

RELATED: Read Janine’s personal account: Rebellious teenager gets a dose of tough love

Some readers of The Kids Are All Right have shared their experiences of getting the police involved in their family problems. Both ‘Mama K’ and ‘Mum of Adult Kids’ sought help from the police to remove their teenager from the family home for violent behaviour. Both say it was one of the hardest things they have ever done, yet both say it was the right thing to do.

“I felt like the worst mother in the world. I was meant to protect him but I was the one getting him in trouble”

“I felt like the worst mother in the world. I was meant to protect him but I was the one getting him in trouble,” said MamaK. “The police were fantastic with him but they also very firmly advised him that if this behavior continued things would not end well for him. They actually praised my husband and I for taking a stand and assured us their job was to assist us and make sure he got help for his anger issues. He attended counselling and we haven’t had an issue since. He later told me he was glad I had done it as he knew he was out of control.”

Violent teenager

Image by grey_barclay/Flickr

Mum of Adult Kids said she was at “breaking point” when one night, during another of her son’s violent rants, she called police “out of fear and despair”.

“They were fantastic. They sat down and talked with me, then they talked with him. They let me make the decisions about what was to happen next. I didn’t want him in any ‘trouble’, I just wanted to help him to see that his behaviour is not acceptable. He was an adult, and this is what happens to violent adults! At my request, the police escorted him from my premises, took his house keys and stayed until he had gone. I was absolutely devastated and walked around like a zombie for weeks, but it was the right thing to do. I wish I’d had the courage to do it when he was 15! He didn’t speak to me for about four months, and that was ok. We slowly put our relationship back together, and he moved back a few months later.”

“The police were fantastic. They sat down and talked with me, then they talked with him. I didn’t want him in any ‘trouble’, I just wanted to help him to see that his behaviour is not acceptable.”

What happens if you call the police on your teenager?

Assistant Commissioner Carleen York

NSW Assistant Commissioner Carleen York

We spoke with Carleen York, the NSW Police Assistant Commissioner and Youth Spokesperson, about why parents might choose to call the police and what happens if they do.

Under what circumstance do parents call the police about their teenager?

Some of the circumstances include children who are missing, parents who are concerned about the possible use of drugs or alcohol, theft or domestic violence, and in extreme circumstances when a child is uncontrollable.

What will happen when they call the police?

Depending on the circumstances, police can take a number of courses of action. It may range from criminal charges to a referral to an external agency. In relation to young people, police always canvass all other available options before proceeding to formal charges.

How can the police help families resolve their difficulties with their teenagers?

The majority of Local Area Commands have a number of specialist officers including a domestic violence liaison officer, and youth liaison officers. These officers are trained in these areas and are able to provide advice and make referrals for members of the public experiencing specific issues.

Need more help?

Every state and territory police force has officers dedicated to youth issues. If you are experiencing serious troubles with your teenager and think it’s time to seek help from the police, please contact your local police station who will put you in contact with the youth liaison officer.




  1. Hi, I need help. We have a teenage daughter 19 who has been a significant problem from 12. She has left our home on a number of occasions and been away for a significant time. Just this week she has moved back home with her mothers approval. We are a blended family of 5 kids and Kylie is the youngest at 19. I am the step dad and unfortunately Kylie has had a lot of trouble adjusting to the dynamics of our new family. Stealing, violence and destructive behaviour has taken it’s toll. Naturally mostly aimed at me as the step father. A few years back I was concerned that she would make a false accusation of sexual assault or similar as that was the way it was heading. In a more lucid and constructive moment she actually fessed up and said she was asked too by an external person and had considered it. This has had a significant impact on me and others. I am on antidepressants and have had anxiety attacks at the thought of being in her presence. With counselling help I have been able to move on and slowly build a little connection with her. However I feel that I am currently swamped with her being here at the moment and I am struggling to explain this to her mum . Her mum feels as if it’s me being crazy, however I believe we are not in a situation that I can trust her or that she is fully over all her anger toward me. What am I meant to do? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • i just like to say i know what you mean buddy and i wish i had the answer. my step girl sound just like yours, and she has even tried to start a fight with her farther just to take the attention from her for stealing. shes i violent towards her sister, her mum and anyone who gets in her road. so like you we are lost as to what to do.



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