Parenting is a tough job under the best of circumstances, but there are things that can get mothers into legal trouble today that wouldn’t have been frowned upon at all in previous generations.
While some of the transgressions on this list are far more serious than others, all of them can lead to trouble with the law if you’re discovered behaving in such a manner.
1. Leave Kids in the Car Unattended – This may seem like something a good parent would never do, but it’s actually far more common than you might realize. News reports tell of kids who were left in the car and died due to heat stroke or freezing on a regular basis, many of which never make it past the local level of news outlets. You probably think that you would never do such a thing to your child, but then may make exceptions when situations seem to call for them. Even attentive, dedicated parents will leave their kids unattended for “just a second” to run into the store or drop something off, never realizing the danger. Leaving your child in the car unattended for any reason is not acceptable, and can lead to very serious legal trouble if you’re discovered.
2. Fail to Use Proper Vehicle Restraints – Some police officers get very riled up when they see parents driving with kids unbuckled or not in the proper car seat for their weight and height. Most parents have encountered times when the kid just didn’t want to stay in the car seat, and may even consider letting them briefly take the belt off. It can be very stressful, but it is much better to stop and handle the situation rather than let your child remove the seatbelt.
3. Spank Them – “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is an axiom that older generations grew up with. Now, in many states, spanking is banned. Some parents have had to deal with Child Protective Services as a result of physically hitting their child in public. Whether or not you believe spanking is acceptable, knowing the laws in your state is still a wise move.
4. Leave Children Home Alone – Getting the mail or going down the hall of your apartment building to do the laundry may not seem like such a big deal, but in many states leaving young children alone for any length of time is a problem. In reality, it doesn’t take long at all for a tragedy to occur with unsupervised little ones. Even though it may be inconvenient, it’s best to either take the child with you or wait until someone else is in the home and can watch him.
5. Use an Underage Babysitter – Some states have laws regarding the appropriate age for babysitters. Years ago, preteens could make pocket money by sitting for younger kids. That’s not the case anymore. There are guidelines and rules for sitters that are established on the state level. For example, if you live in Illinois, leaving your 14-year-old alone for an “unreasonable period of time” will put you on the wrong side of the law. A few states away in Maryland, however, 13-year-olds are able to babysit infants. Check your local laws to find out what’s acceptable in your state.
6. Breastfeed in Public –There is much being done in support of breastfeeding, but in many areas it is still against the law for a mom to nurse her child in a public place. It does sound ludicrous that a parent can get in trouble for feeding her child in public, but it’s better to know and abide by the rules and work to change them then to get in trouble for bucking the system.
7. Allow Kids to Drink – While some families allow their children to have a taste of wine at special meals, it is illegal for minors to drink in every state. There are some parents who believe that they are heading off trouble by allowing their kids to drink at home, but they could actually be courting trouble of the legal variety. Some parents feel that teens are going to drink regardless of permission, and that teenagers under the influence are safer at home than sneaking around. It’s still against the law and parents can get in big trouble by condoning underage drinking.
8. Inappropriately Defend a Child – Occasionally, the news media will do a story about a Mom being hauled off by the officers for getting out of control. Unfortunately, it’s not so unusual for some parents to get overly involved in the outcome of their child’s sporting event or group outing, causing embarrassment to the child and disrupting event. When this behavior gets out of hand to a worrisome degree, law enforcement often becomes involved. It’s better to keep a level head at the little league game, even when the ump makes a bad call.
9. Permit Truancy – Whether it’s through fault of the child or the parent, failure to force compliance with school attendance guidelines is a serious legal issue for parents. Some kids will manipulate their parents into letting them stay home, or they may just skip school on their own. There are also over-protective moms who keep their children home at the first sign of any cough or cold. Too much missed school can lead to truancy charges, and that can lead to a visit with legal officials. If a child has valid reasons for missing a lot of school, arrangements need to be made so that authorities are aware of the circumstances.
You may not even be aware of the fact that you are breaking the law in some cases, as you feel that you’re making appropriate choices for your child and household.
It’s best to check the laws in your state to make sure you are in compliance, especially in the realm of leaving the kids home alone and using disciplinary tactics.