Social Question

Seaofclouds's avatar

Are parents responsible for their children's actions and to what extent should they be responsible? (See details)

Asked by Seaofclouds (23051points) November 1st, 2010

Inspired by a discussion that started in this question. I’m not asking about legal responsibility, just what each of us views as the personal responsibility of parents.

If a child breaks something at someone else’s house or at a store, is the parent responsible for replacing that item? Does it make a difference if it was broken on purpose or on accident?

If a child knocks someone else down, is the parent responsible for making sure the person is okay? Should the parent cover any medical costs the person encounters (whether it be due to lack of insurance or because they have crappy insurance and they are responsible for a lot of the cost out of pocket)? Does it make a difference if this happened on accident or on purpose?

Are parents responsible for teaching their children that what they did can have an effect on others (such as breaking things or hurting other people)? Does this responsibility change if the thing the child did was an accident or on purpose?

Are there particular ages you feel a parent is responsible for their child’s actions? Are there particular ages when they are not responsible for their child’s actions?

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24 Answers

JustmeAman's avatar

I do think parents are responsible for their children. I think we teach them correct principles and then they govern themselves. At what age is a good question because many mature differently. I think if you have taught your children and made them accountable then you should trust them and have no problems. My children are all grown now and I never had too many problems with them. They were all wonderful children and I am proud of each of them.

And yes we are responsible for the harm a child does before they are on their own. I think some mature sooner than others and should out grow the acting out phase.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes to all.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I went to your link. In that case, the child can’t really be held responsible, but the parents should definitely make restitution.

CMaz's avatar

Don’t want the responsibility? Don’t have the kids.

Yes, you are responsible. Because, you for the most part, have/still have the power to fix, correct and guide YOUR child. Something No one can and usually does not have the right to do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ChazMaz I agree. With kids comes responsibility.

wundayatta's avatar

Until the child is responsible for themselves—maybe somewhere between ages 16–18, I think the parent is responsible for anything the child does. If they don’t want to be responsible, then they must formally or legally give the child up.

MissPoovey's avatar

I have raised two kids, now 25 and 30 years old. I am raising my granddaughter, 3 yrs old. I am responsible for everything the 3 yrs old does. If she runs down a old lady with her trike, then that is my responsibility. The child is too young to control most of her own actions. That is my job for now. I will also be responsible for anything she does until she is 21 years old. Just like I was for the other two children. You should not be able to sue a child. But you should be able to sue the adults responsible for that child.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@MissPoovey My problem is..what kind of society have we created where we have to take legal action to get the parents to be responsible? The parents should step right up and offer to make reasonable restitution just because it’s the right thing to do!

marinelife's avatar

Yes to each of your questions. Parents are responsible for the actions of their children and for keeping their children under control in public.

Does it make a difference if a child does something on purpose or by accident? Not to the parent’s responsibility for the child’s action, but for how the parent handles the situation with the child, yes.

Of course a parent should offer to replace what a child breaks or pay for someone’s injuries if caused by the child.

MissPoovey's avatar

@Dutchess_III maybe they did. The article does not say. Maybe the parents of the child, called the ambulance and paid for it, paid the original hospital bill and took care of teaching the child what they did was wrong. Also maybe the children of the deseased lady wanted more than what is reasonable. Maybe they wanted funeral pay, flowers, casket etc.? We do not know the details.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I agree that parents are responsible for their children’s actions (even when they are accidents). I especially agree with @Dutchess_III when she said “The parents should step right up and offer to make reasonable restitution just because it’s the right thing to do!” I couldn’t have said it better than that myself! Accidents are still learning experiences and children should learn that they can accidentally hurt someone and learn how to avoid doing so again in the future.

@MissPoovey We really can’t say what is right or wrong in the case in the question I linked and I really don’t want a debate about it here. That question led to a discussion about parental responsibility, so I decided to ask it as a separate question so we wouldn’t have people focused on that case. We need a lot more details about that case to really say one way or another. Since the lady’s death was unrelated to the bike accident (which was mentioned in the article I posted in that question), I don’t think they should be able to get anything more than restitution for the costs associated directly with the bike accident.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@MissPoovey There are a lot of unknowns in this particular situation. My comment was just a general observation. In America we seem to want to play the blame-game rather than stepping up to do what’s right.

john65pennington's avatar

When i was eight years old, my mother took me downtown to buy her a pair of shoes. in this one particular shoe store, the shoes were displayed on four glass shelves, each shelf approx. six feet long and 14 inches wide. while my mother was in another part of the shoe store, i spotted a pair of shoes, i thought my mother would love. the only problem? the shoes were on the top shelf of the four-shelf shoe display. instead of asking for help to reach the shoes, i began to climb each glass shelf. i did okay, until i stepped on the second glass shelf. it broke in the middle. i fell foward onto the fourth glass shelf and all four shelves came crashing down. glass was everywhere, including my hair. i suffered minor cuts, but the glass shelving display was totally ruined. my mother came running to me.

My mother offered to pay for the damages, but the store manager declined her request. he was more interested in a possible lawsuit from my parents, rather than restitution.

Needless to say, we never visited that shoe store ever again. i was just eight years old.

partyparty's avatar

Yes parents are responsible for their children in every respect. A parent should also pay for any damage their child may cause.
BUT the child should apologise for causing the damage.

Supacase's avatar

I agree with this with one exception. If kids are playing together and one accidentally gets hurt, that is part of the risk of letting your kids play. Toddlers knock each other over without ever meaning to. Elementary school kids tumble and run. Accidents happen.

YARNLADY's avatar

Beyond the legal question, children simply do not have sufficient brain development to be able to make considered judgments. That comes only through physical development over the years, and experience. Of course their care-takers are responsible for their acts.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

Trillian's avatar

Absolutely a parent is responsible for everything that chid does. When he child is legally an adult ? Hmmmm. Technically, I believe so. Unless a child has been emancipated, then right up to legal adult status.
What if the kid does stuff while it’s out with friends? Keep their asses home.
I do not understand parents who say things like “He won’t listen to me. or- She decides what she wears, I can’t stop her.” What? Wrong. I can’t. I’m tired and can’t drege up the energy.
Yes, parents are responsible.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’m still trying to puzzle out just how a 4 year old ended up being named in this lawsuit. It would never happen here in Canada. Here if a child commits murder under a certain age he/she is questioned and then returned to his/her parents with a strong recommendation or court ordered counselling.

With the case of the 4 year old negligence has to be proven in order for a judgment to be awarded. Negligence is neglecting to do something that a reasonable person would have done to avoid injury or damage. I don’t know that I would apply the word “reasonable” to most 4 year olds. Nor 5, 6, 7, 8 etc.

As to this question: as a parent I am responsible for any damage my kids do to other people’s property. Thankfully, I’ve never had to pay anything but that was due to the fact that I supervised my kids like crazy especially when we are over at other people’s houses or out and about.

The one time I can remember my oldest son breaking something was when we were over at his great-grandfather’s house. He picked up an octagonal picture frame that was about 60 years old and thought it was a ball and before I could get to him he pitched it across the room and broke it. I offered to move heaven and earth to fix it but Granddad declined.

Other people’s kids have broken things over at my house and I have always declined having the parents pay as I understand that in this matter kids will be kids.

If one of my kids knocked down an elderly person I would be right there to make sure they were ok, call an ambulance and go and visit that person in the hospital with the offending child as long as they were ok with that.

It is absolutely my job to teach them what they need to do in this world and what their responsibilities are.

As to what ages I am responsible for my kids: in my province right up to age 18. But at about age 11 I would portion out any damages I incurred on their behalf and make sure they paid me back in some fashion.

flo's avatar

Yes the the parents are responsible for their kids of that age, accident or not. They should apologize, pay for the damages. and have the child apologize. Let the child learn from these kinds experiences.
If the bicycle accident was a pure accident, there should be no suing involved. If the parents were proven to be overly neglegent or purposefully allowed the collision to happen, the parents should pay for neglegence causing death, or whatever it is called.

talljasperman's avatar

Yes… but it then begs the question… Are Governments responsible for the crimes of its citizens?

Dutchess_III's avatar

In a way, @talljasperman…the government hands out punishment to those who commit crime, just like parents hand out punishment to their kids.

BBawlight's avatar

Alright, I think parents are responsible for their child’s actions to a certain extent . If a child breaks something, I think that it is both their faults. If it was on purpose, then the parents don’t pay enough attention to their kids and the kids feel they can do whatever they want. If it was an accident, the parent is _still not supervising their kids enough. It wouldn’t be an accident if the kids were told not to do things that lead to broken items (i.e running in the house). It is also the kid’s fault because every human has complete control over their actions (except in rare cases). Just because they didn’t think about their actions doesn’t mean they are any less guilty.

If the kid pushes someone down on accident, then the kid says something to the person because they are the person that did the action. If it was on purpose, then the parent needs to teach their kid.

Particular ages? No, I think it all comes down to the maturity of the child. An 18-year old can be as mentally stable as a 13-year old. Or vice-versa. It’s when a person is mature enough to handle situations on his/her own and can make logical decisions on his/her own.

YARNLADY's avatar

When the parents are present, yes, but when the kids are alone, it is mostly a matter of the child’s personality.

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