Should 6-Year-Olds Really be Handcuffed?

by Melanie Edwards on April 23, 2012 · 2 comments

in Parenting

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Handcuffed Girls

Did you see the news of the 6-year-old girl that was handcuffed at school and taken to a police station? Apparently, she had a real bad meltdown at school, otherwise known as an extreme temper tantrum, and the school decided to call the police. She’s in Kindergarten.

I first saw this news when a friend posted an article about it on Facebook and commented that perhaps the girl needed help because of how she behaved. In that article, the girl’s mother was cited saying that her daughter’s behavior was due to “mood swings” and wasn’t cause for police involvement.

I have a 6-year-old girl in Kindergarten. While she behaves very well and rarely has a tantrum, there have been an incident or two. In fact, some time last year she got so upset at me and herself that she did have a meltdown, full of screaming, throwing her legs, and hitting the chair she was on. I took care of this incident, provided appropriate punishment, talked with her, talked some more, reminded her of the behavior in the coming days, and overall addressed the issue. Luckily, this occurred at home, but I can easily see how this 6-year-old girl could have done something similar at school and it escalated.

I do not know the details of this situation. None of us do or will since we were not there. I don’t excuse the behavior, but really don’t believe it was handled appropriately. Calling the cops on a 6-year-old? Handcuffing her and charging her with battery? Letting her sit at the police station for an hour? My girl would have freaked.

Truth is that a few hours after my girl had her tantrum, she couldn’t tell me what she did or why. She knew what happened was bad, but she wasn’t able to recount the details of the situation.

It’s easy to quickly judge parents and their kids’ behavior, saying things like, “My kid would never!” or “I’ve got something for her mood swings.” But, the reality is that unless it’s you in the moment, you just don’t know what is happening.

Maybe this girl really did have a tantrum due to a mood swing that escalated. Maybe her behavior was extreme and over-the-top. Perhaps the girl and her parents even need help to figure out why this behavior is happening (if it wasn’t a one-time thing) and how they can fix it. But, arresting a 6-year-old for a tantrum? That is not the way.

How would you feel if your 6-year-old was handcuffed, arrested, and taken to a police station for a tantrum?

Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Whalen April 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm

As the mom of two kids with special needs this concerns me greatly. They have had ‘tantrums’ in school before and while it is tough for the school and teachers we use coping strategies to help them through those times. I would be so angry if my child was handcuffed for behavior they can’t fully control. While I understand not every child has special needs, I truly feel that this sent the wrong message not only to this child, but to all the children in the school. 


Angeleve65 April 23, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Hmmm. Very interesting. I don’t know about charging the child with battery, but maybe the teachers couldn’t handle the child. I speak from yrs of experience at a children’s crisis intervention unit where we have had 5 and 6 yr olds punching, kicking, throwing things, spitting, extremely violent outbursts where I wish we had more authority or control. This kid definitely needs some intervention. Don’t know if the police station was the best choice. But maybe they did not have a crisis intervention center in the area.


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