Sisters Talking On…Parent Accountability for Kids’ Actions

Point for Discussion:

It is a very challenging time to be a kid.  It’s harder these days to be good, and some handle it better than others.  Once bad behavior happens, that puts other people and property at risk (e.g., school shootings, burglaries, carjacking, bullying, drugs, gangs, etc.), it’s too late.  There are likely signs that parents/guardians should be able to see in advance, if they know what to look for.

While it is challenging to change a child’s behavior, parents/guardians should be on the lookout, and have the tough conversations.  Easier said than done?  Maybe so, but that just means that parents/guardians have to start early to influence future behavior.  They should be vigilant and, ultimately, accountable for the outcomes.  Sometimes that means getting a child help (even if they don’t want it), and other times, it may mean the parent/guardian will also be charged and jailed.  It’s time to stop the bad behavior, and make parents accountable for their kids’ actions, if that’s what it takes.


Our Points of View


There are many examples of kids behaving badly, but shootings are the ones we hear about in the news every day.   I just read an article where we have more school shootings in the US than in any other allied country.  Sometimes, kids are getting the guns themselves (or through adults), but other times, they are using their parent’s guns.

If a parent’s guns are accessible, or the key can be found, or the guns themselves are not locked, the parents should be accountable, and should also be charged with the crimes of their kids.  In several of the recent shootings, parents claim that they knew their child had a gun, or their child knows where they keep their guns.  These guns should be locked up or taken away.  It’s too late after the fact to say “I knew.”   If a parent knew, or had an opportunity to intervene, but didn’t, they should be accountable.

The more cynical side of me thinks it might be a good idea to have the child (and accountable parents) experience whatever they do to someone else (i.e., do unto you as you do unto others – a variation of the golden rule) – except for shootings, of course…

Guns are just one example of bad behavior that puts others at risk, and hurts any future a child may have.  You don’t need a license to have a child, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all.  Though parents/guardians are directly responsible, everyone in a community has some accountability.  It’s time that communities help parents/guardians see the signs so they can step in to prevent bad behavior of their child before it happens.

There are some ways that parents/guardians can identify the signs and take preventive action:

  • Education should start before children are born, or immediately following, as a requirement of taking a child home (e.g., signs to look for, and how to teach a child to make the right choices).
  • Provide “new parent/guardian” support – whether online or in-person groups with experienced parents, and some who have been challenged already with their kids. We have AA meetings to help individuals; we now need new parent meetings to help set a positive course.  Parents are overwhelmed.  It’s time to help them.
  • Ensure these education and support group resources are available in all neighborhoods – no parents should feel they are alone, and not know where to find help.
  • Maybe hospitals should have some accountability to not send new babies home until parents are connected with some form of education and support.

Don’t we owe this to our kids, to the parents/guardians, and to the communities in which they live, go to school, and live out their lives?



This isn’t a new concept.  I recall, a few years ago, a parent in metro Detroit being arrested because their gun was accessible by their child and someone was killed.  I’m not sure what, if anything, the parent was ultimately charged with, or if they were convicted.

For safety’s sake though, guns should be secured in a gun safe, unloaded, and the ammo stored elsewhere.  Many will say that this is unreasonable.  Isn’t it better to teach our kids about gun safety?  The world is generally unsafe these days for everyone, including the children we send to school each day.

As parents, and I confess I am merely a stepmother, we need to know our children so that we understand who they are as people.  Only then will we notice if something has changed. I’ve seen parents hover over their children to the point of smothering.  While their kids hated it, at least they knew if their kids were troubled or acting differently. But kids are moody.  All parents can do is ask what’s going on.  If we see a change, we need to ask others that our close to our children – their friends, the parents of their friends, teachers and counselors at school, and any others that may see our children regularly that may notice something.

Some kids are good at hiding their true feelings, though.  Then we would never know what they’re up to unless we can look at their internet activity, their bank account activity, or generally invade their privacy.  While I understand that this would be done to ensure the safety of others, I’m not convinced that it would stop the school shootings or other mass shootings in this country.

Our job as parents is to ensure that our children become caring productive members of society.  We wish the best for them after we provide a solid base for their success.  For some parents, this is a challenge.  Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s when one parent was home with their children, it was easier to know what was going on.  These days, the cost of living in the US requires that both parents work outside the home.  At the end of the day, everyone is exhausted.  Snooping on your kids, while important, is not at the top of the list of things to do.  Should these parents be held accountable for what their children do?  It’s easy to say yes.  For parents struggling to survive paycheck to paycheck, it’s not that easy.

Maybe we all just need to take a step back and decide that we can survive on less, allowing a parent to stay home with the kids on a regular basis.  Do we need a 5,000 square foot home and all the latest gadgets and gizmos?  Maybe we need to re-evaluate our priorities so that we can pay more attention to our kids.  Maybe we need to teach them compassion while they are young and impressionable.  Maybe we just need to understand how they think so that we can get them help if needed.  For many, regardless of age, it is easier to talk to someone outside of day to day life.  Our young people should have this type of service available if they are struggling.

Is holding parents accountable the best solution?  I agree with Laurie that training can be a useful tool, but our parents and their parents generally had children earlier in life than many do today, and these situations did not occur as often as they do currently.

Perhaps our children are driven too hard to be the best at everything they do.  This is a lot of stress to put on a child.  And worse, their peers are competing to be best, too, and won’t back down.  So those that have not yet discovered what they will be best at, are at a disadvantage, and are likely reminded by their peers about it everyday.  This can be demoralizing. Think about how you would feel if you went to work everyday, worked as hard and as smart as you could, and your boss just didn’t care or told you your performance sucked. You too, would feel demoralized.  Our kids are young, but they have adult feelings.  They aren’t provided with the luxury of childhood in our overly competitive world.

While all of this is important, we need to understand why these events continue to happen.  From my perspective, this ultimately stems from extreme dissatisfaction with our lives, depression, or bullying. If we were all happy, perhaps we would be less inclined to lash out at each other.  The Bishop Michael Curry, who spoke at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend spoke eloquently of the power of love.  We clearly don’t see enough of it day to day in our world.  Why not?  Because we are mean to each other.  And we push people to the breaking point.  It is sad that the breaking point includes the taking of innocent lives.  Worse, the media spends so much time covering these tragic events, it is seen as a way to get the last word by those that have been bullied or beaten down by others.  We are talking about young, impressionable minds that see this coverage.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how a young mind could see this is a way to make a point, often before taking their own life.

We need to find a way to stop this tragic behavior.  Laurie suggests parent training.  Maybe.  I think a better solution is coming together to support each other.  Perhaps we should “train” everyone to embrace the differences among us.  We can learn from each other, support each other, and hopefully, put these events behind us.  We are all on this earth together.  Let’s act like it.

Our Question for you:

Do you think that parents should be held accountable for the bad behavior of their kids, even to the point of going to jail?

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