Exercising Parental Authority
Good citizenship begins at home. Parents and guardians bear the primary responsibility for the actions of their children. They must set good examples for their children at home and in their community, teach morals and values, provide a safe home environment, make sure that their children get a good education, direct their children into constructive activities, be involved in their children's activities, make their children responsible and accountable for their actions, etc.
Many good ideas for parenting and activities for children are contained in the San Diego Family and San Diego Parent magazines, which are published monthly and available free at many libraries, grocery and toy stores, schools, and other family-oriented establishments. They also contain calendars of family and children's events in San Diego County, many of which are free.
Another resource for parents is the San Diego Community College's continuing education program. It offers a variety of free classes at Centers throughout the City on child development, family relations, and many other topics. Call the San Diego Community College at (619) 388-1800 for information on parenting classes.
Parents can get answers to many legal questions concerning their children from a booklet published by the State Bar of California entitled Kids and the Law: An A-to-Z Guide for Parents. It deals with a range of subjects from the Age of Majority to Work Permits and Taxes with references to the relevant code sections. It also contains a glossary of legal terms. It is not, however, intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney. Also, it may not provide the latest code references. The text is available in English and Spanish on the State Bar’s website at www.calbar.ca.gov. Copies in English, Spanish, or Chinese can be ordered by emailing the State Bar at [email protected] or calling (888) 875-5297.
When a child becomes 18, he or she acquires a new set of legal rights and responsibilities. These deal with jury duty, voting, housing, contracts, torts, etc. They are discussed in question and answer form in a booklet entitled When You Become 18: A Survival Guide for Teenagers. The text of this booklet is available on the State Bar’s website in English, Spanish, Chinese, or Korean. Copies can be ordered by calling the State Bar or emailing it at [email protected]. Parents can use this booklet to help their children make the transition to young adults.
- Make time every day to discuss the day’s events with your children. Encourage them to tell you about anything that makes them uncomfortable, or scares or confuses them. Listen to what they say and never underestimate their fears or concerns. Show them that you are always concerned about them. Effective communication is the most important factor in child safety.
- Have clear family rules. The consequences of breaking them should be clear.
- Be a good role model. Actions speak louder than words. Be the person you want your children to be.
- Discuss the consequences of tobacco, alcohol, drug use, etc. Tobacco is addictive. It yellows teeth, fouls breath, and kills. Drugs, including alcohol, alter judgment and perspective, and interfere with physical, emotional, and social growth. They are also addictive.
- Know what your children are doing. Know what they do in school and after school. Know their friends. Be involved in their lives.
- Educate yourself on the social and emotional needs of your children.
- Be alert for any changes in your child’s behavior. Look and listen for things that indicate something is troubling him or her. Children are often uncomfortable in disclosing disturbing events or feelings because they are concerned about your reactions to their problems. When they do talk about their problems be calm, compassionate, reassuring, and nonjudgmental as you work with them to resolve the problem.
- The following are indications that a girl might be sexually exploited: frequent truancy from school, bruises and other signs of physical abuse, and unidentifiable sources of money and goods.
Changes in a child’s behavior and appearance can be a normal form of self-expression, or they can indicate drug or alcohol use. The following are signs of the later:
- Lower grades in school
- Loss of interest in activities
- Use of incense, room deodorant, perfume, mouthwash, or breath mints
- Different friends and clothing choices
- Requests to borrow money
- Drug paraphernalia
- Bottles of eye drops
- Missing prescription drugs, especially narcotics and mood stabilizers
- Personality or sudden mood changes, rages, bouts of anger
- More combative
- Appearing listless, hung over, or fatigued
- Increased forgetfulness
- Withdrawal from the family
- Increased secretiveness
- Weight loss
- Lack of sleep
Notwithstanding parent’s best efforts, children can be influenced adversely by peer pressures and pick up bad behavior outside the home. Parents must learn to recognize signs that indicate their child may be involved in gangs, drug and alcohol abuse, graffiti vandalism, and other problems, and deal with them as early as possible.They must also make sure their children abide by the curfew law, attend school, drive safely, stay away from guns, etc. And they should be alert for warning signs of suicide. Information about various actions parents can take to prevent juvenile delinquency, violence, and victimization, and other related subjects can be obtained by calling the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice at (800) 638-8736. Parents who cannot deal with their children's behavior on their own can get help from many agencies, several of which are mentioned on this page, and from the Juvenile Services Team at their local SDPD Area Station. This page also defines some of the liabilities parents and guardians my face if they fail to fulfill their responsibilities.