Should parents be held responsible for their minor children's criminal behaviour?

Nikki - posted on 05/19/2010 ( 22 moms have responded )

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I found this extract which was part of a debate on the above subject. So do you agree with the author, or is this subject just another aspect of the nurture/nature debate?

The author is Gabriella Samms.


All parents have a responsibility when it comes to raising their children. Beyond the obvious, such as providing them food, water and clothing along with a nurturing environment, they should be expected to teach their children the right and wrong behaviors that are expected or shunned by society.

This is where the old saying, "children learn what they live", comes into play.

When a parent feels that what their own child takes part in is beyond their responsibility is the very reason we have thousands of juvenile detention centers filled with youth.

Responsible parenting involves far more then taking care of a child's basic needs: it requires a mature, adult mind with a genuine desire to raise a child from birth into adulthood by means of teaching responsible, acceptable behavior. This of course takes time, common sense, and a genuine love for the safety and future of ones child. In today's society, parents are consistently using other means, such as childcare centers, schools, video games or the Internet as the sole guiding factors in occupying children's idle time.

I don't believe there is any question as to whether a parent should be held responsible for their minor children's behavior - it's a no brainer. To argue that question would be as ridiculous as to ask, "Should parent's be responsible for giving birth to their own child"? If the parents aren't to be held responsible, who is? The same is true when asked who should be held responsible for the actions that children have either been taught at home or never taught to begin with. Should I be responsible for what someone else failed to do?

Parents that tell us they are not responsible for the negative actions of their children are indirectly telling us that they haven't done a vital part of the parenting role: positive teaching.

It is true that we cannot be everywhere are children roam. What is possible, if we care enough, is to make sure that our children know right from wrong before they venture out. If we as parents create a hostile, un-nurturing, destructive environment that has been proven to have a direct impact on young lives, how on earth can we blame others? If we spend more time away from our children then we do with them, how well do we know them enough to understand what they have learned or what more needs to be taught? If we expect our school systems, daycare centers, friends, child peers, or neighbors to handle our responsibilities, what then is left for us to be responsible for?

We may be the best of parents and things can still go wrong. We may do all we can to give our children the tools to keep them out of trouble and on the right path in society. However, I doubt very highly that statistics taken by detention facilities will disclose that children housed in them had parents fully involved in their lives. The tragedy at Columbine is a perfect example of parental negligence.

We are responsible for what our children do, because they are our children. We brought them into this world to become part of society - society did not ask for them. To cast off blame onto others or pretend we aren't responsible for neglecting to keep our children safe and society safe from their criminal tendencies is a self-centered, cowards way of saying, "I just couldn't handle it".

Unfortunately, our society won't punish a parent for irresponsible teachings or lack thereof. Yet, they will expect others to foot the bill when parents fail to fill their parental responsibilities and cause society to pick up the cost of their inadequate or non-existent parental skills.

If bad parenting comes with no cost attached to it, then society should not be forced to pay for the lack of it either. Bad parents should be given the bill.

Then, at least, they can be held responsible for something. Especially when it wasn't our choice to take on their 18 year commitment.

author, Gabriella Samms.

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Deeka - posted on 04/12/2012

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Wow Gabriella you must be mother of the year!! how many extreemly well behaved teenagers do you have? In a REALISTIC world you know THE ONE WE ACTUALLY LIVE IN.. Some parents can do their altimate best and try to teach their children all the possitive behaviours, but then they are thrown into the PIT or should I say SCHOOL where they not only learn MATH, ENGLISH AND P.E but also SEX, DRUGS, ALCOHOLE, SWEARING and what ever else teachers turn a blind eye to..

Not all badly behaved youth who are engaged with the criminal justice system have bad parents. How ever if you have a 15 year old who will not listen not matter what you decide to take away from them or any punishment you give they laugh at!! WHAT POWERS AS A PARENT DO YOU HAVE? WILL THE POLICE COME TO YOUR AID WHEN THE TEENAGER DECIDES TO SNEAK OUT AT NIGHT or will they say there is nothing they can do?

I am a mother and I believe I am trying my best, and I prey that my child will not turn into a rebellious teenager, however if he does than that does not reflect on my parenting.

Yeah what a great idea charge parents for their youths crimes when parents have no rights in front of their youth. excelent idea, I hope you have perfect teens, or you'll be a criminal.

Good Luck with that!!

Meghan - posted on 05/20/2010

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well I here is some food for thought...I think I have said this before but I have heard that psycologists say that the part of the brain that understands cause and effect isn't fully formed by 25...I wonder how many defense lawyers would use that as a way to pin it on the parents. I don't know that I agree. I knew certainly by 12 if you stold something you could get areested...I knew def. by 16 that if you assult someone you can be charged as an adult. I wouldn't think that after 15 your parents should be held as accountable. Yes teens do some stupid things but there is a difference between s slip up and something you can be charged for

Amie - posted on 05/19/2010

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I agree with this. Wholeheartedly. There is always a way. Even if that way is not something parents want to think about it, there are options.

One of my friends has a son who has some major issues. He is turning 12 this year and is in a boarding school for troubled children. It wasn't something she wanted to do, it wasn't something she was sure she could afford but she found a way. She recognized that everything they were doing at home could not correct the issues. That no matter how much she loved him, no matter how many consequences he suffered, he refused to learn. He was stealing, he was picking on other kids (as well as his toddler sister) and he was lashing out at his parents physically. She fought and fought for him to get help. The school is what it took though. While he still has some issues he needs to work on, he is improving.

I do think a very small portion of those in juvenile detention have parents who are fully involved or even tried. Cause really how do you not notice that your kids are starting to hang out with hoodlums? How do you not notice that your child is skipping school? How do you not notice that your child is hanging out with gang members? How do you not notice that your kid is on drugs or drinking to excess? REALLY!? Ugh...

Kids can try to hide things, I sure as hell tried, my parents were involved though. Whether I liked it or not, they knew every step I made. I had to answer to them for every step out of turn. I remember thinking that too that they were just trying to make my life miserable. It wasn't until I was a parent though that I understood fully that they weren't, they just loved me enough to be that involved. While there are parenting mistakes they have made, I also learned from those and will not repeat them. Some I will but some I won't.

Our oldest, when she was 5, stole a candy bar from the corner store. I didn't notice until we got home. I was so upset with her. I took her right back to the store and made her give it back and apologize. She was then banned from any treat for 2 weeks. Stealing is wrong, even something small like that you can't let slide. It's how the mentality that if small things are ok, bigger things are ok too. So long as you're not caught. It is never ok and I expect better of my children. They know their boundaries and know that consequences will follow if they cross them. Pushing them a bit, ok I can handle that. They do that every day when they stand there going "Mom PUH leaseeeeeeeee can we have a bag of chips?" No. Stop asking or you'll lose all treats. If you want to earn it, fine go do such and such chore.

God this is a novel. It's a fine line to walk but there is little excuse for ill behaved children. There is always a way, parents just need to put in the effort to find it. I have no doubt the ladies here would do it. We already walk the harder road through positive enforcement strategies. Which do take longer for them to learn in some instances but the payoff is much more desirable.

Susan - posted on 04/08/2013

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I agree with Rodica 1000% I have a son who will be 20 on christmas eve and I am paying restitution for what he did in 2010. I feel that when the kid turns 18 .. the responsibility should shift over to them. They are like he was a juvenille when the actual crime was commited. I have dealt with things that are beyond my control which I wont post here because its a very long story indeed.

Amanda - posted on 05/25/2010

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I also believe this to be true, but i also agree with Dana Makara, because I have seen that some parents have done everything they can to help a child that is just not helpable, that it was not anything that they did for their home was the caring nurturing and everything that it was suppose to be for a child and the child still lashed out...but for the most part if you bring a child in this world you teach that child everything they need to know, the right and wrong and give them the love and caring attention that they need to become a successful adult when they are older.

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Gabriella - posted on 07/13/2014

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Deeka - I have 4 adult kids - 26, 27, 29 30. All of them make me proud.

Gabriella Samms

Jaime - posted on 05/20/2010

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My brain is tired tonight so I'm going to think on this topic some more and come back to it. I don't think I realized how exhausted I was until I put Gray to bed at 7 and then fell asleep sitting up at my computer shortly after...needless to say I napped for 31/2 hours and now I'm up but heading back to bed shortly. Thanks for posting this topic Nikki.

Amie - posted on 05/20/2010

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I say 15 because of how the laws are set up now and my own experiences as a child and as a mom.

I'm not sure I've explained myself well, it is hard to put it into words but I think you guys are getting what I mean.

Meghan,

I've heard it before. I don't believe honestly. It's not that they don't understand, teenagers do know and comprehend fully cause and effect. However I think maturity level and impulse control are what the problems are.

[deleted account]

Can we agree on 12 and under? LOL! ;) I agree with it completely but it's at what age that bothers me! I DEFINITELY agree that 16 and older should not be considered in this but I think 12 is more realistic!

Amie - posted on 05/20/2010

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No, she was an adult by then. This has to do with minors, not adults. Adults are a whole other ballgame. While family should always be there to support them and help them, the adult needs to also step up and be responsible for their own actions.

It's a fine line to walk. You can either be helpful or an enabler. Most people can't tell the difference.

In my case, I left home at 17. I was legally on my own so there was nothing the cops could have done even if they wanted to. In Canada it's legal to leave home at 16 if a child wishes. The parents still have to provide for them (in terms of handing over their child tax and support if the parents aren't together) other than that though, there is nothing the cops or parents can do.

I also don't consider anyone 16 and up minors though either. I probably should have made that clearer. LOL! Once you are that age, you do know your right from wrong completely, some teenagers are weak though, some can not make their own decisions and some just like to follow to "be cool". There are many reasons teens can head down the wrong road but parents being involved help to prevent this. I didn't even live with my parents and they knew who my friends were, had no problem telling me who they didn't like and liked to check in on me a couple times a day. Hover parents completely. 10 years later though and they're not so bad now. We still talk at least once a day though and they come visit at least once a month. LOL!

Minors (15 and under), there is no excuse at all for not being involved in your childs life. It astounds me the amount of kids that just show up at our house because their parents said it was ok to come over!! =| Our oldest is still not allowed off the block, never mind going to someone's house where we don't even know the parents! This is happening more and more as the years go by.

Tanya - posted on 05/20/2010

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Ok so I have been thinking about this one. I think that it would depend on the parents. If something happens and the cops go to the house and find beer can laying everywhere then yes. Even if they go around and ask the neighbor and they say they are never home or always fighting then maybe. If they can't find anyone to say bad things then no. If they asks the neighbor and nothing. The teachers say they were there for every parent/teacher night. Always willing to help and so on. I can't see how it would be the parents fault

[deleted account]

So, if I'm understanding you correctly Amie.....the situation involving your friend and her mom, 3 children ect. The mom should have been fined or given a penalty when her daughter did something wrong?

Amie - posted on 05/19/2010

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The solution she was getting at was to fine the parents of minors who are problems. The vast majority of children who are up to no good I (very much) doubt have parents who are involved in their lives.

I was a problem child, my parents never gave up and I am a better person for it. I know of one girl I went to school with. She had 3 kids taken from her, she was a cocaine addict and even went to jail. Her mom never gave up on her and was there with her the entire way. She's clean now and has her children back. It is possible, most parents just don't want to put in the time and effort.

It is not about making all children problem free. We all will experience hiccups with our children. Some more severe than others. It's how we react to those situations and what we do to correct them that matters. Whether we give up or keep fighting for our children.

It's pretty sad in any case that it would take a fine to motivate parents, but whatever gets the dead beats off their arses.

Amy - posted on 05/19/2010

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I do agree to an extent that parents are somewhat responsible. I totally agree that the parenting has to occur from day one. Bad parenting that doesn't teach any positive relationships and moral right from wrong, definately turn children in delinquents and involved in things they shouldn't be, most of the time. The problem that I see is this author is wanting to blame parents for everything, but also what about getting to these parents when they are having these babies to teach them proper parenting? That is the ticket to turning things around in this society. I think they are many parets who want to do better, but really do not know how and do not have the techniques or skills to do better. Some were abused and neglected themselves and the vicious cycle continues. If we want to make a change in society's parenting to stop this juvenile behavior, we have to, as a society, reach out more and make early childhood a priority. Without doing this, the cycle continues, the bad parening goes on, and the children grow up on welfare, involved in crime and drugs and begin raising children of their own.



On the other hand, there are the parents that do everything right, to the best of thier ability, and the child goes astray as a teen. they get hooked up with other wild kids and go down the wrong path. How is that the parents fault? the parents can insist on knowing the whereabouts of their child, give them rules and boundaries appropirately, but this doesn't mean the kid is always going to follow them. Kids sneak out of the house at night or don't come home after school. How can parents control all of those types of behaviors. For this author to say that parents are always to blame, she is ridiculous. I wonder if she has any children of her own, espeically teen children? A good example is me and my sister. Not the perfect "Leave It to Beaver" upbringing, but not abusive or neglective by any means. But my sister still grew up and had a very unhealthy lifestyle, had her kids taken from her and has no real ability to function appropriatly, work or take very good care of herself and her daughter she still has. She has been on methadone for almsot 10 years now and this started when she was a teenager. So this was all my parents fault? So, how did I turn out healthy and raising wonderful children? Can't blame that one on parenting.



To me, I think this woman sort of comes across as sitting on a high horse and very judgemental. To a degree, she definately has a point, but wagging her finger at parents isn't going to help. I didn't read anything in this article giving suggestions on how to help make it better.

Amie - posted on 05/19/2010

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HAHA Sounds like my ex. Ugh. His family I actually don't mind, well extended. His mom drives me up the freaking wall.

He has recently popped back into their lives. He also knows he screwed up majorly. He's playing by our rules, he knows we can afford better lawyers though too so he doesn't want to engage in a court battle. Not something we want to do, I fully believe he has a right to see them. However he HAS to stick to their schedule and the rules we've laid out. It is not about how inconvenient it is for him. It is about the kids.

They need the stability and they need parents who treat them the same, rules and all, in both households. I can not stand my ex, if he fell off a cliff it'd be a god send. =) I have to put up with him though, even though he's been gone for the last 5 years. I had to sit and explain to him that he needs to act like an adult. It is not about him and it is not about me, it is about the kids. If he could not act in their best interest I would never consider letting him take them alone. As it is now he's still on supervised visits. He's also dumb enough to not realize the courts wouldn't make him do this, though he does still do drugs to my knowledge so maybe they would. I'd rather not spend the money to find out but I will if it comes down to it.

I don't see how it would be hard to figure out which parent is the "bad" one though. They do it for abuse cases where the parents are not living together. I know that because my best friend's sons were neglected and abused by their father. They investigated and figured it out.

Kids are smart too. They know what they can get away with where. My kids don't like they do alone with the grandparents as they do at home. /:) My in laws especially love to spoil the kids. I have not let gramma take them shopping for months now. Last time our oldest came home with a shwack of new clothes, she already has more clothes than all of us put together. /:) She got clothes for all of them. My mom is no better either but at least she reigns it in a bit more. They both have stopped with the toys since I instituted, you bought it, it stays at your house. We have enough noisy stuff at home.

Ok WAY off topic. LMAO! I think you guys can understand what I meant though in all of that.

[deleted account]

Oh, Meghan....I definitely don't envy ur situation! Unfortunately if you guys can't settle things amicably outside of court then you're going to be continually facing our shitty legal system!



Let's pray the day never comes where Joshua wants to live with ' daddy '....

Meghan - posted on 05/19/2010

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I want to add to that I wouldn't totally pass the buck either and let J slide between the cracks. At the first sign of any out of control behavior there would be councilling, consequences and someone's ass brought back to court...(some of you know I am serious about that haha) but I guess I just have a fear and me and a g/f where just talking about what would happen if the day came that Joshua wanted to live with his "dad". I have a fear that if this did happen I would have to deal with this very topic..

Meghan - posted on 05/19/2010

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Ook, I am going to throw this out there b/c the thought has been on my mind a lot the past few days...

What about in cases with 2 different homes. I am very strict and scheduled with J. He is well behaved, well mannored etc with me. But when the time comes that he spends time with his father (if the time comes that is)...I have concerns that there will be HUGE behaviorial issues b/c my ex parent's based on guilt and agression, no rules, no schedule etc etc. (as seen with his older son who has constant problems at school, he is cheeky and TOTALLY disrespectful and alot of the family members are or where concerned about it)

So I think that parents should be held accountable but what about when one parent is doing everything they can and the other isn't. Hypotheticaly speaking if J got into trouble one day b/c of what I have said above, how do you determine which parent would be held accountable?

*side note, I am not perfect I am sure that some negative aspects of his behavior could be blamed on me but at least I try right?

[deleted account]

I agree, for the most part! For small infractions or first time offenses but what if a parent truly HAS done their job and HAS exhausted ALL avenues to help, love and support their child BUT that child is still a menace to society? There are bad children who are raised by good parents who've done everything right......and SOCIETY plays a HUGE role in a child's behaviour YET that very same society shouldn't be held responsible right alongside the parents? Ugh....I'm torn!

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