My child recently started school at the age of 3 and has had a rough transition. She has started acting out and throwing a lot of tantrums.

The other day as we were getting out of our car at home she started crying and flailing. As I was carrying her home from the car, I walked past a neighbor. I smiled at her and said pleasantries. Shortly afterward my wife was going out and the neighbor told her that she called the cops because she suspected abuse. My wife asked why and she said it was because my child was crying a lot.

Of course the parents among us know how ridiculous it is to suspect abuse simply because a child is crying. But ridiculous or not, the neighbor had in fact called the cops and the neighbor's attitude suggested that she'd continue to call them as she saw my child crying. The cops didn't do anything but I worry that if they receive multiple reports, these reports will go in a file that could be used against us later.

Do the neighbor's misguided reports pose a credible threat? What consequences could there be? And is there anything we can do to protect ourselves against them?

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    I think if you asked what you should do as a parent, this would be a parenting question. However, you're asking what are the consequences of having been the subject of multiple police calls, which I would say does not fall in the realm of parenting. I'm not voting to close only because the last question is possible within the realm, and I would suggest cooperating fully and being as transparent as possible. Many officers have children as well. They know how kids act. – anongoodnurse Nov 8 '17 at 2:12
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    Please consider editing your question - if you keep your focus on legal issues, we have to close the question. The parenting aspect can be answered and I thought the topic was important enough to bend the closing rules a little. Find more on the topic in our help center. – Stephie Nov 8 '17 at 14:09
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    If the cops visit anyway, just ask them. They should know the relevant details in your jurisdiction, or know who you can ask. Cops visiting you is not a bad thing per se (if we disregard the impact on the rumor mill), and you can't (legally) stop other people from calling the cops. – Peter Nov 8 '17 at 15:23
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    Kids cry, that's a fact. I tell you what though. You'd be more surprised to hear that often an abused child is quiet. They are timid. They don't cry for fear of getting the wrong attention. Kids are smart. A crying kid is a kid trying to get their own way or is hurt due to a fall or a bang. I go from experience, not me personally but friends and family. One thing I will say is don't fear the police popping round to investigate. You haven't been charged but you'd be upset if the police didn't do their job. – Bugs Nov 8 '17 at 17:26

I’ll be ignoring the legal aspects of your question because they are off topic here and would depend on where you live and a lot of other details.

But for the parenting aspect:

I myself and probably most of us here have been in situations where our children blew a tantrum and we thought by ourselves “if some stranger saw/heard that, they would call the authorities”. Well, in your case they did. And they came, checked on you and found everything was fine.

And that’s ok: the police did not come to your house to frame you, it’s their job to assess the situation. And I’m sure that the officers were also relieved that it was a false alarm.

As for the neighbor: You might be angry at her, but please put yourself in her shoes for a moment. We have a child that is clearly in distress, evidenced by the frequent crying and wailing. She could have reached out to you to get to know you and thereby gain insight on your situation, but not everyone has the courage (or simply the time) to do so. And I would also think twice before meddling with what could be a violent situation. But she did act. We cannot say what her motives were, but for the sake of exercise let’s assume good intentions. If you are so inclined, you could even reach out to her and thank her, explain your situation and hopefully prevent a future call to the cops. (And yes, that’s you taking the high road big time.)

The statistics are clear: Children subjected to domestic violence is still a reality even in modern societies, the number of unreported cases is high and the effects of abuse experienced as a child can and likely will influence adults’ lives. Perhaps this can help you see your neighbor’s actions in a more benevolent light. She might have been prompted to action by news reports on abuse (like some who sees crime around every corner because it was on TV yesterday), she might be the meddling type who has the police on speed dial, but she was willing to do something. Children die because adults look away.

There is one involved party we haven’t talked about yet: Your child. Did she notice what happened? I sense a great teachable moment here. “Crying wolf” can have serious side effects. Yes, if you are three years old and tired, you can’t control all tantrums. But I think it’s a good age to at least start reflecting on your own behavior - and it fits with starting school (?) where learning to restrict at least some of her impulses is part of the daily exercise. Don’t scare her (“If you don’t stop, the police will take you away!”), but if you can have fewer tantrums, not only your neighbor will be calmer, you as parents and family will benefit as well. You might want to look into the situation at school as well, perhaps find ways to make the transition easier for her or find other ways to alleviate the stress.

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    Great answer, +1. I would only like to add that having the police on speed-dial will backfire on her. If the police come out several times for 'no good reason', they will start to think she is the one crying wolf. – anongoodnurse Nov 8 '17 at 13:45

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