“In Loco Parentis”Amy Sharp | September 18, 2018
A common question that I get regarding parenting within the criminal justice system is “What are you going to do when/if she gets in trouble with the law?” Every single parent struggles with the thought of how they would react if their child were caught up in something illegal. It is every parent’s first instinct to protect his or her child from trouble. The real question should be “What are you going to do to ensure your child stays out of trouble with the law?”
“In loco Parentis” is a term used within the juvenile justice system often. It is a Latin term that translates to “In the place of a parent.” The goals of the justice system when dealing with a juvenile is more often than not reformation and rehabilitation as opposed to when dealing with an adult the goal is to protect the general population. When you really think about this term, it is so much heavier than it seems. It implies that when a child ends up in legal trouble, it is up to the justice system to discipline them as a parent would. When I think about this system and then think of my daughter, I come to the realization that it should not have to be anyone else’s job to discipline my child except for mine. This may be a bit controversial, but if my daughter ends up arrested and in legal trouble, then I believe she should reap the consequences that come with her actions.
When becoming a parent, this overwhelming feeling of unconditional love sweeps over and consumes you. In that moment you promise to love them through anything no matter what. When I say that my kids will be responsible for their own actions that does not mean that I will not love and support them through their mistakes. It means that by allowing the justice system to take my place and discipline them in a way that will match their actions. While the goals of the justice system are rehabilitation for juveniles to ensure that they can become upstanding citizens, the goals of parents should be to keep them from ever getting to that place to begin with.
In the society that we live in, we have babies raising babies, myself included. While being a young parent is not an issue in itself, it means that parenting styles have differed and become much more permissive. Young parents tend to want their children to be their friends, and because of this these children lack discipline. I think something that this generation forgets that children need guidance. They need discipline and someone to encourage them to stay on a good path. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is important to have a good role model present to encourage them to do better.
There is another common term used within the juvenile justice system that many may already be familiar with. “Latchkey kid” describes a particular group of children that come home from school to an empty house. Majority of crimes committed by juveniles are committed before and after school hours. When children are left without supervision especially during after school hours they have a greater opportunity to fall into criminal habits and respond to peer pressure. It is understood that not every parent can be home with their kids during afterschool hours or afford childcare but encouraging after school activities such as clubs and sports can be fun and positive way to keep kids busy.
We live in an unfair and fallen world where bad things are going to happen regardless. Though this is a fact, it is not an excuse. Becoming a parent is a huge responsibility and part of that responsibility is doing everything in your power to discipline your children, before it becomes the justice system’s responsibility. Each family has their own ways of dealing with bad behavior. Some families choose to spank while others prefer the “grounding” method. There is no right or wrong method of discipline as long as children understand from a very young age that there are consequences to their actions.
I have witnessed to many instances where parents have done everything in their power to raise obedient children, and yet they still had behavior issues to deal with. I have also witnessed amazing parents that did everything to discipline their children, yet when they end up in legal trouble they cover up their mistakes to keep them from trouble. Sometimes this may be harmless. More often than not this can give young children the mentality that when they mess up someone will always be there to go behind them and clean up for them. By allowing your children to receive the consequences for their actions. By doing this, children grow into citizens that respect the law because they have experienced what happens when they do not.
By having “In loco parentis” enforced within the juvenile justice system young offenders are offered another chance to change their lifestyle. They are shown a small taste of what their adult life could be like if they do not and many times when a teenager or child goes through the system, they grow up and out of their criminal habits. By having a justice system that steps up and takes over for the parents, children are given resources, role models, and chances to live better lives before permanently damaging themselves.
As stated earlier, there are many circumstances in which a parent does everything in their power to raise obedient children and they still end up falling into bad habits. Imagine though, as a society, if every parent or future parent decided to take their full responsibility to raise children that respect the law, respect others, and respect themselves, we would have a whole new generation of future politicians, doctors, lawyers, and police officers that understood that doing what is right is what is best.
By getting your children involved in after school activities and sports teams, you are introducing them to other positive influences in their lives that are able to encourage them to do the right thing when you cannot. By being present for your children before and after school as well as encouraging them to attend and enjoy school, you are being a positive role model for them and helping them see the things that they can do to make you proud. By having a firm and steady hand against things that could potentially lead your children down a dangerous path, you are protecting them. They may fight you on things, and they may not even be your friend because of it. That is okay. That is how it is supposed to be. It is time that the current generation of parents stands up and raises a next generation of children that do not see their parents as their friends, but as positive and encouraging role models. It is time that we have a revolution for a positive change in family traditions that includes more family dinners, and less divorce. Where the average family is a family that stand together with their moral beliefs and respect each other and those around them.
It is time that the family unit is grounded and united enough that the justice system does not need to take the place of the parent. I encourage every single parent that is reading this now to sit down with their children and their parenting partner and have a conversation on what they can do to become better role models for their children to ensure that they stay on a positive path. What they have to say may just surprise you. It will not be easy, but it will be so worth it.