Parental Punishment

Legislators in two states want to punish parents when kids break the law.

The Madison News recently reported that Wisconsin officials want to punish parents with fines, counseling, and other consequences when their teenagers break the law. In Pennsylvania, one legislator wants to fine parents $2,500 or put them into jail when their kids break the law. The Pennsylvania bill’s sponsor says the bill would force parents to be accountable and to not “check out from parenting.” The bill includes a provision that would allow judges to dismiss the charges against the parents if the parents agreed to take a series of parenting classes.

Here’s My Take on It:

How does fining and incarcerating parents of juvenile offenders help with juvenile crime? With families caught in this cycle, the problem didn’t begin with the parents. Most likely, this has been passed down through the generations. So if you’re going to jail and fine the parents, you probably need to fine and jail the grandparents—and the great grandparents as well. To me, that’s absurd. That’s not how we get parents to become more engaged with their kids.

Instead, I think it’s important for families, school officials, and community members to continue to get to know the families who are around them and be able to tell families about helpful resources that are available. When you form relationships, you’re more likely to find out what’s going on. Many schools and communities have created free or low-cost parenting skills classes that help parents become better parents. Education and support are key, not the threat of fines and jail time.

Talk Further

Ask your partner or friend: “What do parents need to parent well?”

Explore Further

Should parents be fined and jailed if their kids break the law? What do you think? Share your comments below.

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