Monday, September 28, 2009


  As a parent I spend a lot of time trying to import the idea of consequences onto my children. Kids are not born understanding the concept and some grasp it quicker than others. Some people never learn the lesson. 
  Today I was struck by the inherant inequalities in natural consequences. One bad deed should result in an equal and undesirable consequence, but life is just not like that. Here is my case in point.

Example #1) The mother of a child my younger daughter was friends with for several years has set a record for un-punished illegal offenses. Here is a short list of the most heinous of her actions:
  a. used her toddler daughter in a stroller to shoplift
  b. embezzled money from  an employer
  c. has driven without a valid drivers license for 8 years, been pulled over multiple times
  d. failed to send her two teenage children to school resulting in truancy charges multiple times
  e. filed multiple false CPS reports to misdirect attention from herself to others
  f. many, many hot check charges
  g. 5 or 6 evictions from rental residences with tens of thousands of dollars in un-paid rent
  h. much, much more that is beyond comprehension

This woman has not paid any fines, served more than a few hours at a time in jail, or been made to pay the consequences of her actions because she simply ignores the court dates and if they do catch her she gets released right away because these are 'minor' offenses. No room in the jails for her!

Example #2) A sixteen year old boy from my daughter's high school attempted to pass a slower moving vehicle in a non-passing zone at 4 pm yesterday afternoon and hit a large SUV head on, killing him and injuring 5 others in the crash. 

The boy made a small, stupid mistake, probably based on lack of experience and he paid with his life. The adult woman has made a lifetime of calculated disgressions and yet she suffers almost nothing. 

Tell me, how do I teach my kids consequences? This set of examples confounds me. How do I explain this? My older girls know both stories and we have talked at length about both. They seem to sense the truth of right and wrong, but that might be in spite of the evidence they see around them. How do we, as parents, make our children understand? That right and wrong are not about who gets caught or who suffers, but about how we eventually see ourselves in this world? Are we proud of who we are? Did we live each and every day trying to be our best? Sometimes parenting simply overwhelms me. I should say, the thought of GOOD parenting overwhelms me. Bad parenting is easy.....


U Know Who This Is said...

Hmmmm.....who is example #1? :)

BT said...

Yes, bad parenting is easy!

I think you nailed it when you said that this ultimately is not about consequences but really about how we want to be in this world. Each individual makes up his/her own mind about this. (Of course, some people are born into unfortunate circumstances that reduce their range of choices about how they will be in the world. For those of us privileged to have basically an infinite range of choice, we have to make decisions about how much personal fulfillment we take from living in certain ways. This, for me, is what's so scary about raising kids. How can we ever know that our kids will make "good" (sensible? moral? etc?) choices about how to BE in the world?

If I had teenagers, I would be stressing that sometimes even the smallest little misjudgement can carry extremely grave consequences. Maybe it's not fair, but it is the way the world sometimes works. I would tell my teenagers that that is why they may sometimes see the adults they most admire being extremely cautious.

That poor teenage driver...

Leah and Maya said...

There are always examples like that its it so frusterating, I guess your younger kids have no idea nor would commprehend what was going on with the first person untilthye were older like your daughters, but would definetly understand the second one so I guess you just use the expamples they will understand the best.

Vanessa said...

So sad in deed!!