Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time to start the tough love

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 7:00 AM

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Here we go again, another story about a mall shooting and young people getting out of control. I hate to be the bad guy here but when it comes to shootings and silliness, someone is going to have to be the bad guy.

We seem to go through this every year. Somewhere in Indianapolis, some teenagers get out of control, like this past Saturday at Circle Center Mall. They do stupid things like shoot each other or damage property in the process. Now I know we all did crazy things as kids, so I am not turning this into one of those "back in my day" lectures. However, I think it is safe to say that when we did something stupid, our parents were more likely to tear into us and the community was more likely to applaud them.

So what is a community to do when parents drop the ball? Might I suggest taking people to court? I recently consulted with an attorney colleague of mine who cited a provision in Indiana law that allows the rest of us to recover damages when other people refuse to parent.

Under Indiana Code 34-31-4, a parent is liable for a child's actions up to $5,000 in "actual damages for arising from harm to a person or damage to property knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly caused by the parent if (1) the parent has custody of the child; and (2) the child is living with the parent."

It seems to me that if parents won't discipline problem children, then we as a society need to hit them in the pocketbook. I recall a few years ago in Lawrence Township, a number of kids weren't showing up for school, so the Township Trustee partnered with a local principal to send a letter to the parents of missing kids telling them that if the kids did not show up for school, the parents would be denied poor relief. Guess what, a bunch of people showed up for school the next day. Imagine that!

Maybe we really need to start doing the same things here: Start slapping parents with fines and hitting people where it hurts. It will be amazing at how behavior starts to change.

Now this is not to punish the parent who is truly struggling. However, they have to have some skin in the game. If you're going to pop out kids like a pez dispenser, then you have a responsibly to take care of them; society should not have to do the job. If it does, it at least deserves some help with the cost.

I am not being unreasonable; I am being responsible. I have always been a big fan of tough love. And if kids aren't getting a good kick in the rear, then maybe reaching into parents' back pockets might get some results.

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