People who have been done wrong deserve restitution. A broken window must be replaced, and worse crimes cause worse damage that must be repaid. It is, after all, not the fault of the victim that an object was stolen or vandalized!
It is not the fault of a child who does not know any better than he broke a window or painted on a neighbour’s flowerpot. We as a society have decided that children need a time to learn right and wrong, and that during that time of learning, they are not really responsible for their actions. Even teenagers, who know better than young children, have still not completed their growing-up process, and their judgement is often clouded by hormones, so we have decided that until the age of 18, they are still in their learning time and are not wholly responsible for their actions.
So how do we resolve the contradiction that happens when a person’s property or body, or life, has been damaged by a child (or a teenager, who is legally a child)?
The child’s parents, the people responsible for teaching him the lessons of right and wrong and proper conduct, are responsible for the child’s actions. Since the parents are legally entrusted with the care and supervision of the child during the time when he is learning responsibility for himself, they are also responsible for what he does.
The parents must pay for the broken window or ruined flowerpot. In the unfortunate case that a teenager does something very foolish and dangerous, perhaps taking the car for a joyride and injuring another, the parents should be responsible for the hospital bills.
Some parents (no doubt the parents of children who do many irresponsible things) will aruge this. They will say that it is impossible to know where their child is every second, or to physically restrain a six foot tall teenage son when he tells his mom to “get the hell out of the way I’m taking the car.” There are several problems with such a parent’s argument:
First, it was their job to instill proper values in their child before he grew old enought that they could not watch him “every second” or restrain him. If this was not done, who else is to blame?
Second, if they did in fact try their best to instill such values with absolutely no effect, it is their responsibility to call the police should their son assault them on his way to steal their car. It may seem cruel, and you may want to see your “baby” brought home by the police, or taken to juvenile hall, but he is not a “baby” if he is large enough and old enough to threaten and assault you. It is your responsibility to stop him from hurting himself or others. And since you are responsible for whatever damage he causes, according to the law, it is in your own best interest to do so!
Having the parents be responsible for the criminal behaviour of a child is the only way to respect the victims of that crime. Since a child is not considered wholly capable of making responsible decisions yet, and is usually not capable of making restitution, the only way for the victims to be compensated the way that they deserve is for the parents to be held responsible.