There’s a lot of talk these days about how parents stink and that the undesirable actions of kids are a direct result of parental shortcomings on the home front. Now, I don’t think it’s a secret that I had my fair share of trouble when I was a youngin’. But in light of my own youthful transgressions, it got me thinking about the question, when is the parent responsible for the behavior of their children and when is the student responsible for their own actions?
I mean if my mother or father had their feet held to the fire for my own poor behavior when I was in middle or high school, I don’t even have a clue as to how my own life would have worked out. Alas, however, neither my mom nor my dad did. (At least by my school.) But was my poor behavior traceable at all to either her or him? Was my penchant for shenanigans (and worse) my mom’s fault? Was my “crossing the line” over and over again the fault of my pop? I mean did the fact that they went through a bitter divorce, went flat broke to the point where I was on free lunch, and used their kids as frontline pawns in an ugly court battle cause me to be such a clown? Are they to blame?
Sure, maybe it was their fault that I had a period of my life where I was a regular visitor to the principal’s office? Then again, maybe I was just being a smart-alek knucklehead who thought the rules did not apply to me and I hard to go to the School of Hard Knocks to get some very simple concepts through my very thick head.
Was my mom a “bad parent” or the very best parent she was capable of being at the time?
Was the fact that school, for the most part, perpetually asked me to slog through thick, flavorless textbooks in any way culpable for me just not being able to sit still and quiet enough in my seat so that “acting out” became at least some sort of welcome relief from mind-numbing academic boredom? (Trouble, for those of you who have never caused it, is a rush. Doing questions 8-14 at the end of chapter 11 in a 1,237 page, 5 pound, de-flavorized one-size-fits-all tome of sanitized knowledge, not so much.)
Yep, we can blame the parents for the actions of their kids. And if you have ever been on the wrong side of a profanity-laced tirade by a kid and then have a parent come in and dish out a heightened profanity laced tirade so that you clearly learned the meaning of the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, I bet you certainly can make one heck of an argument. (Conversely, I must concede, if you’ve ever seen a kid angelic as a milk commercial walk in next to a parent that brings deep meaning to the words “pillar of the community” you can also make a great case.)
So the question is, can “good” parents raise “bad” kids? Can “bad” parents raise “good” kids? Or, the big money question of the day…
Can parents be held accountable for the behavior of their children? Really, whose fault is it that little Alan won’t behave?