Last spring, a Maryland couple went to jail on separate weekends. Why? Their 14-year-old daughter had skipped 66 days of school.
In Los Angeles, after members of a youth gang attacked a 12-year-old girl, police arrested the mother of one of the members. California has a new law that holds parents responsible for any gang activity of their children.
And so it goes. All across the country there is a movement underway to cut down on youth problems by cracking down on parents.
In Wisconsin and Hawaii, parents of unwed teenage mothers must pay the child-support bills.
In Florida, parents can be fined if their children play hooky from school or if the parents donâ€™t show up for conferences with teachers.
In many states, parents can lose their public housing if any child in the home is found selling or using drugs.
Along with this new pressure on parents has come a hot debate on whether such moves are fair or effective.
Yes, they should
Responsibility begins at home. Someone has to teach young people right and wrong, and that means parents. People who arenâ€™t willing to accept responsibility shouldnâ€™t have children.
Itâ€™s sad but so- there are parents out there who donâ€™t want to be bothered with the trouble and hassle of making their kids toe the line. Since they wonâ€™t take responsibility on their own, there has to be some kind of pressure that makes them shape up. Thatâ€™s where the law- and punishment – comes in.
No family is going to succeed if its children have lost discipline and are out of control. Society has a right to protect itself against such children by holding parents legally responsible.
The law can make parents face up to what their kids are doing. All too often, say police, parents come out with something like â€œJohnny is my angel, and itâ€™s the other person whoâ€™s fault.â€
Underneath the rebellious surface, kids really want a sense of order and discipline. But it can be very tough to resist peer pressure. By being able to say, â€œI canâ€™t do it. My parents will kill me because the law holds them responsible,â€ kids will have a good way to resist peer pressure and stay out of trouble.
No, they should not
In the long run, kids must learn that they themselves- and no one else- are responsible for their actions. If they do wrong, they should pay the penalty.
Letâ€™s face reality: when kids become teenagers, peer pressure becomes more important than parent pressure. Often, the more parents try to track down, the more rebellious they children become. It just is not fair to make anyone suffer for the misdeeds of others.
In many cases, troubled children are influenced by poverty, racism and other powerful forces beyond the parentâ€™s control. In such cases they need the help from society, not punishment.
Each family needs to be considered on an individual basis. A family with concerned, loving parents might have four great kids and one really bad apple. That sort of things happens all the time, and no one really knows why. Should be parents punished for something they themselves donâ€™t understand? Parent- punishing laws are wrong, because they are so sweeping in their effect.