What reasonable parenting decisions sometimes look like neglect?

Being a parent is a difficult, expensive and often thankless role. While you may get your proverbial payment in the form of the love you feel for your children and the joy of watching them grow, the stresses of parenting seem to only have become more intense since the digital revolution.

In recent years, parents have found themselves under increasing levels of scrutiny by others for the actions they take or don't take in their role as the primary caregiver for a child. Mobile devices make it easier than ever for people to capture misleading pictures, while online comment culture leaves everyone thinking they have the right to an opinion on how you parent.

People can and often do report innocent discipline or arguments to authorities as potential abuse. The same is true of neglect. Good parents could find themselves facing a loss of custody because of how they choose to parent.

Real neglect endangers the health or development of children

The state of Florida wants to intervene to protect children from experiencing severe abuse or neglect in the home. Unfortunately, that often means that families with unusual dynamics or with unique disciplinary tactics may find themselves accused of neglect when nothing could be further from the truth.

According to Florida law, neglect involves failing to provide adequate care, which could range from not having enough food available to not directly supervising the children. However, an act or omission only becomes neglect if it will potentially negatively impact a child's well-being. Certain issues are more likely than others to lead to accusations of neglect.

Are your kids really old enough to be home alone?

There was once a time when the parent in a family had substantial discretion in their ability to make decisions about the care their children received. If an adult felt comfortable with the competence and responsible nature of one of their children, for example, they could choose to leave the children at home without a babysitter when they go out to work or to run errands.

Leaving children unattended is a decision subject to far more scrutiny. Although there isn't a specific legal age when you can leave your child unsupervised, the age of 12 is often the cutoff.

Standing your ground in a power struggle could seem like neglect

As children age, they often go through rebellious stages where they fight their parents' authority. This rebellion can take many forms. Sometimes, it can look like a teenager trying to change religion. Other times, they could stop contributing to household maintenance by refusing to do their chores. Some teens will even refuse foods in order to manipulate their parents.

Deciding to let your teenager go without a couple of meals or refusing to do their laundry for them could look like neglect to someone on the outside, particularly if your child chooses to exaggerate what you are doing or their role in the issue. However, reasonable discipline and consequences for inappropriate behaviors are not neglect.

You know your body better than anyone else

Sometimes, it is not what you do or do not do in relation to your children but rather what you do with your own body that gives rise to allegations of neglect. The state could allege that you are not capable of caring for or supervising your children while under the influence of alcohol, even if you have only had one drink.

They could make similar claims about the use of prescription medication or even over-the-counter drugs like Benadryl. What may be true for one person is not necessarily true for you, but the state will have no way of knowing your tolerance or medical background.

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Beverly L . Brennan A PARTNER AT MCLAUGHLIN & STERN, LLP - NAPLES, FLORIDA ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

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