In the debate of whether or not parents should be held responsible for their children’s criminal behavior many weigh in their opinions based on their own perspective or experiences but what are the facts? Many think parents should have more control over the behavior of the children.
How can one person control the actions of another human being? People cannot control actions of another; even our laws reflect this. Laws are intended to use fear of consequence to sway people from committing crime. It cannot stop people from committing crimes.
For those struggling to acquire even the most basic of needs, prison would seem like an luxury hotel with its three meals a day, air conditioned suites with color television and access to education otherwise not obtainable.
Parents cannot be expected to control the uncontrollable but parents are expected, and rightly so, to teach children right from wrong and teach them positive ways to cope with things like bullies, anger issues, and other negative feelings. What about the parents who do not manage their own behaviors properly?
Many crimes committed by children of all ages involve children raised in homes where drugs and other criminal behaviors are a way of life. Parents have been known to teach their children how to shoplift, sell drugs and even turn their children into prostitutes.
Parents have either forced their children into criminal behavior or have turned a drunken, drug-addicted eye to the problems. These parents should be punished for their own crimes and the children should be protected from further negative influence such as family and gangs and guided to a better way of life.
Now, we cannot reasonably put drug dealers and killers back on the streets regardless of how young they may be but putting them in the typical jail, prison, or juvenile detention systems can do more harm than good.
“More than 2.5 million juveniles are arrested every year in America and 70% of juveniles convicted of crimes have gone on to commit crimes again. With Our U.S. prison population increasing 15 times faster than the general population, the urgency for youth intervention has never been greater! (Breakaway Outreach Mission Statement).”
Over 50% of adult prisoners end up back in prison for one reason or another. What happens with the other 50%? Do you think they learned their lesson and are all living as hard working law abiding citizens? Some say there is no better place to learn how to commit crimes without being caught than in prison.
Criminals learn from the mistakes other criminals made in the act of crime so they can become better criminals. This reminds me of the issue over whether or not to use a belt to discipline children.
I used to think, “I was raised with the belt and I turned out ok.” After further maturing and evaluation of my life, I have come to realize that although I have turned out ok, I have made several mistakes stemming from my low self image as a result of having a belt used on me.
On further evaluation and reflection the fear of the belt did not prevent me from misbehaving, it just encouraged me to learn how to not get caught. Children are going to do what they want to do and their peers encourage much of what they want.
What about homes with situations not as extreme as the above mentioned crime ridden homes? Some think children are bad because of parental neglect. Missing parent teacher conferences, leaving children unattended or being too involved with their own lives to participate more in their lives of their children.
While these are risk factors, they are not criminal behaviors unless children under the age of 11 (according to Kansas law – states may differ in laws) are being left unattended.
As studies have shown, parents are not the only influence in a child’s behavior. The typical American child spends the majority of his or her youth inside the public school system. Teachers, who are not all fit to be in charge of children, and other children who can tend to be very mean by nature, are a child’s influence over a large amount of their youth.
There is no better place than within the public school system to find solutions to a majority of the problems of today’s youth. Teachers are supposedly the experts; parents are just people who, for one reason or another, found themselves with children.
Teachers chose the path of working with children and were trained to not only teach but spot signs of troubled youth. All too often though, these troubled children are labeled as troublemakers and more or less set aside as such rather than making efforts to help them.
So are teachers to blame for the problems of today’s youth? No, teachers are just as human as parents and as such are prone to making mistakes. So, if not the teachers and not the parents are to blame, then who is at fault?
The problem is there are many factors involved with how children become troubled and turn to a life of crime: parents are under a lot of stress with social issues such as working and struggling to make ends meet, teachers are under staffed and expected to be in charge of more students than any one person should be expected to watch over, and there are not enough programs to help with these situations or provide help to troubled students without draining the already over drained budgets of school districts and parents – especially single parents. Should parents be punished for a situation that society has created?
Oh boy I can hear the screams now, “Society can’t be blamed for everything!” Yes it can! It is society that influences social and economic factors that have a direct bearing on the pressures of today’s families. Yet, society can hold all the blame as some children have physiological stemming from mental illness.
There is no simple solution and holding parents responsible can become criminal in itself, depending on the situation. There is no doubt parents should be responsible for their own criminal behavior that may or may not have influenced the child’s behavior but to punish a parent who is only doing the best they know how to do is ludicrous at best. So what is the solution?
Since society is largely to blame for factors that create stress in the home environment and it is society that will benefit from effective solutions with decreasing the need for juvenile detention centers, jails, prisons, and the over all cost of crime, then society shouldn’t have any issues with funding some effective programs to help children and their parents before they become criminals.
Programs could include positive after school programs, a more efficient public school system, financial relief for struggling parents (who aren’t drug addicts, alcoholics, or criminals), a more efficient Children’s Services program and laws that encourage helping over punishing.
For those youth who have already committed crimes, we need effective juvenile detention programs that teach and promote a better way of life. And when these youth are released, they should be released into a positive growth-promoting environment where they have a fighting chance to become law-abiding citizens.