Did you know that many states and local areas have laws about how you parent? Of course, you probably realize that there have long been criminal sanctions designed to protect children from abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Others regulate compulsory education. But what we’re talking about is the legal responsibility parents have not only to prevent their children from illegal activity but also to report them to law enforcement if they participate in criminal behavior.
Legal Definition of Parental Responsibility
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor (or CDM) statutes are based on the presupposition that the greatest influence on a child’s behavior is the home. As such, they propose that parents have a legal responsibility “to provide sufficient positive guidance to children on the importance of adhering to the values of society at large.
Like many parental responsibility laws, the wording is markedly vague, making it largely subject to interpretation by a local judge. As one individual describes these laws, “Caught somewhere between prevention and punishment for both children and parents, these laws attempt to involve parents in the lives of their children by holding them civilly and/or criminally liable for their children’s actions.”
Steps Toward Parental Responsibility
The issue of family loyalty and the importance of relationships seems to collide with some of the mandatory reporting and CDM laws. A Huffington Post blogger suggests drawing a clear line when it comes to a child being a danger to themselves or others; however, for non-dangerous offenses, parents should be sure to create clear guidelines and consequences — and consistently and lovingly enforce them. If kids learn to respect home authorities and regulations, they’ll be less likely to push against civil and criminal laws.
An Ethical Quandary Relating to Parental Responsibility
Certainly, a parent’s job has become more difficult in a society in which moral lines have become blurry. For teens whose brains are still developing, it can be difficult to navigate a world in which it’s acceptable to be entertained by rap music, violent video games, and movies that glorify crime. No wonder many see a disconnect between their online interactions and real life, leading to cyber bullying, sexting, and other morally questionable behaviors. As a parent, it’s important to address these inconsistencies and come up with careful guidelines about the kinds of behaviors and entertainment you believe to be acceptable.
If the time comes where your child or teen commits a crime, you need to have your mind already set that you will uphold the law. To minimize the relationship damage, you may wish to suggest your teen turn himself or herself in; however, that approach could lead to self-harm or added crimes. It would be better to discuss the action you would take before a situation arises. Your teen needs to know that you love them but that you will uphold the law and do what it takes to protect them and others, regardless of their perception of your betrayal. With any hard choices, we need to determine ahead of time how we will respond.