Parents should not be held any more responsible for the crimes of their children, than children should be held responsible for the crimes of their parents. It simply makes no sense to punish one for the crimes of the other.
Parenting is not an exact science. Children are not made of electronic parts. Therefore, there is no precise formula or pattern for raising one’s children which will guarantee that the child will grow up to be a well-rounded citizen that is a benefit to society. This is for one simple reason: people (this includes children), have free will.
A parent can do everything right – give them plenty of attention (but not too much), set strict guidelines (but not too strict), help them with their studies, encourage them to be decent people, provide a good role model, limit what they watch and listen to, and despite all of these things, the children might just end up rebelling and turning to a life of crime. Do you not think that a parent who has a child that grows up to be a criminal is not punished enough? Do you think the parent should have to pay fines or serve jail time on top of that?
Parents are not the only people that affect how a child turns out. Other family members, teachers, friends, neighbours, and sadly, even celebrities play a large role in the formation of ideas and thoughts in children. Should all of these people be held to account as well. Should we put 50 cent and Emminem in prison because the people that listen to that music have a higher probability of going to prison?
Putting standards to parenting is a difficult process because while we realize that all children should have a right to decent parenting, we also realize that parents should have a right to raise their children. Where do we draw that line, taking away the rights of the parents, in favour of the child? In the most extreme example, we could take all children away from poor parents, whenever there is a wealthy childless couple wanting to adopt. Clearly, the best interests of the child are not the only factor.
If we want to add more responsibility to parenting, the answer is not punishing the parents for children’s poor behaviour – the answer is punishing the parents for their own poor parenting – such as leaving children unattended, not attending parent-teacher conferences – not being involved in their child’s lives. But these are not easy to enforce.
But the solution does not stop there. The fact of the matter is that there will always be some children with negligent parents. Rather than punish everyone involved, let’s make sure that we have a society and an environment able to compensate for those that do not have the upbringing that every child deserves. Let’s have the teachers recognize those students and give them special attention. Let’s get more involved in our communities and set up programs where all children can feel accepted and cared for.
These are the steps a progressive society takes. Putting the parents of ill-behaved children in prison isn’t going to help anyone. Even the self-righteous taxpayer wanting such a policy in place, will eventually end up paying more taxes as a result of the enforcement of such policies. Being a good parent doesn’t come at the end of a gun, nor with the threat of prison or fines. Being a good parent, comes from having a lot of time, patience, love and understanding – qualities that can not be forced into someone.