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Should parents be held accountable for the sins of their children?

Published:Monday | January 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMRenee Dillion and Sherine Williams

Upon hearing that two 16-year-old boys were held culpable for the gruesome death of retired matron Hyacinth Hayden, social media commentators quickly expressed parenting concerns.

"Parents need to be held more accountable, regardless of what anyone wants to say" and "arrest the irresponsible parents" were some of the sentiments expressed by social media users. Though most persons sought to blame the parents, a few rose to their defence: "you cannot always blame the parents, you could raise your kids in a monastery, but if they choose to do bad, they will", one person argued.

Whenever a child succeeds, the parents are lauded and often times credited. However, when a child does anything that society frowns upon, we go "yuh can lead a horse to wata but yuh cyaan force him fi drink." Why is it that we can credit parents for the successes of their children but we cannot hold them accountable for their deviances?

We are not saying that the parents of these particular boys should be jailed; what we are saying is that issues like these highlight the seriousness of proper parenting or lack thereof in our society.

We are fully aware that as human beings, we all have what is known as free will, and with free will comes our ability to make our own decisions - moral or immoral.

However, we cannot think about the act committed by the teenage boys without our minds transporting us to their homes, opening their doors and reasoning with their parents.

"So mother, what kind of relationship do you share with your son? Father, what kind of lifestyle is your son exposed to in the home? Talk to me, why does he think he can kill an elderly woman and then walk up and down with the lady's phone as though it belongs to him, eeh?"

primary socialising agent

These are just some of the questions being asked. Proper parenting may not be sufficient but it is more than necessary where the upbringing of a child is concerned. After all, the home is the primary agent of socialisation.

Studies show that children who are exposed to violence in the home, which is an attribute of bad parenting, tend to exhibit violent behaviour towards others. A study published in the Journal of Family Violence found that this exposure to violence may lead to a cycle ... and may we add, 'a vicious cycle'. Studies have also found that neglected children are more likely to be prosecuted for juvenile delinquency. Hence the reason our vehicular minds are asking the question, is it that you just don't care as parents?

Proper parenting involves discipline. Discipline serves as a deterrent for deviant acts. It is discipline that makes a child think twice about taking home a pencil that does not belong to him because he knows he will be scolded and asked to return it.

Proper parenting involves communicating with children; it involves an understanding of behaviours that are desirable and undesirable. It fosters a strong bond between parents and children.

It expels the idea of children thinking they can do whatever they want, be it drinking, smoking or killing a 79-year-old retired nurse.

Too many parents have just sat idly by while their children become menaces to society. Something has gone terribly wrong and we can't help but think that the home is a factor. As a nation, we need to enforce proper parenting. In doing so, we do not just help a child but a generation.

n Sherine Williams and Renee Dillion are third-year journalism students. Email feedback to and or