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Parenting Kids: Jail or Consequences

Updated on June 26, 2016
sholland10 profile image

Susan is the last of 8 children, has raised 2 children, and has spent 26 years teaching high school kids. She grew up with a strong mother.

Jail or Consequences?

“Mom, I’m in jail. Could you come get me?”

This is one of the worst telephone calls a mother could get. What should the mother do?

She wants to run in and save the child, but is the child learning how to handle his or her own mistakes? She struggles with her decision.

How could this have happened? What could she have done to have prevented this?

Raising children is a tough job. When they are little most parents do the best they can to guide them. When the kids become independent, they are going to carry whatever they learned during their time as a child. What could this mother have done to prevent that call?

Guidelines and Consequences Should Be Taught from a Young Age

Parents need to give their young children guidelines from an early age. Teaching children guidelines and the difference between right and wrong are key to helping them understand the world they will enter as adults.

Parents should not teach their children they are going to always stand behind the kid or do nothing when the child steps outside of the guidelines. Teaching guidelines is repetitive and difficult at times. The mother in the scenario should have taught her children guidelines.

When kids have guidelines, they know what parents expect from them. They learn to respect the guidelines if they are raised with consistency. Parents have to be strong and stick by the guidelines, even when they feel like caving in to the child's wants.

Parents must also show their kids there are consequences for breaking rules or disregarding the guidelines. When children are shown consequences at an early age, they will understand proper behavior.

Consequences have a negative connotation when, in fact, consequences can be good or absent. For instance, when a child does a good job on chores (a guideline), parents may give the child an allowance or take them for a treat. This type of consequence is a positive reinforcement for good behavior and actions.

This is not to say children should be rewarded for the good behavior they should be exhibiting anyway because that is what you expect. As adults, we know we are not rewarded for being good citizens or parents or co-workers, etc. Parents need to keep it real and balanced.

Of course, consequences should be negative when children exhibit bad behavior or do not follow guidelines. Once children start following their peers, they will either use good common sense when making choices or they will not. Sometimes this is beyond even the best parents' control, but the child has to learn the hard way at times. Many adults understand learning from mistakes.

It only enables and creates entitlement when a parents take up for the kid or fixes the problem for the kid. Life throws some hard knocks that we have to deal with. Our kids need to be equipped, not helpless, during these hard knocks.

It's Okay to Discipline Your Child

Many people are afraid to discipline a child in today’s politically correct world. When a young child does something wrong, there should be a consequence, not applause for cuteness. Do not reinforce bad behavior because it will come back to haunt you and your child. Teach them what wrong means so they can avoid it.

You see it all the time in the grocery store – a child throwing a fit while the mother nervously laughs and treats the child with “undue” respect when she needs to pick the child up and give him a swat on the bottom and sternly say, “You are not going to behave this way. If you continue, you will have all your toys and video games taken away from you.” Those are the only choices the child should have. Children must earn respect and rewards just like adults do.

The parent should never ignore bad behavior because the message will be that “I get attention when I behave badly and not one thing happens to me.”

If You Don't Give Guidelines

Children need guidelines. For instance, Mom has to work, so she leaves her teen-aged kids a “to-do” list.

When she gets home, her son and daughter are watching TV and the house is a mess.

The mother who received the phone call from her child in jail probably got disgusted and did the work for the kids who give each other a fist bump because they think it is cool that they got away with it.

If parents don’t discipline children for their lack of responsibility, society will. Plus, not having the backbone to be a strong parent, society will pay for the problems the children never learned.

Kids Need Responsibility and Consequences

Children push their limits. If parents do not have the backbone to discipline children, they are teaching them that rules do not matter.

The mom in the scenario who left her children a list of chores should (1) love her children enough to expect them to do the chores. What? That sounds strange to show love by giving kids work to do. Really? Teaching kids responsibilities makes them better students, citizens, and all-around good people.

The mom has to (2) be strong enough to put up with any whining or argument. “Don’t give me that look. Get up, now, and do the list of chores I gave you. I am the mom and you are the children, and you will do as I tell you.” Sometimes, children need this reminder of who is in charge. If you don't approve of this type of treatment, please think about it. You know who the boss is in your workplace, don't you? You know what is expected and either do it or don't. There are consequences both ways: you do your job; you keep your job -- you don't do your job; you lose your job. How do you want it to be for your children when they are adults?

Finally, this mother should (3) care enough to hand out consequences if the chores are not done when she gets home from work. She needs to tell them the specific consequences, such as, “ You go nowhere, see no one, and lose all your computer, phone, stereo, and TV privileges until the work is finished.”

Children long to know what the guidelines are, and mothers are on the front lines trying to train children to be good people.

Never Give Up on Your Kids

It is never too late to teach children that their actions create consequences. If they have been raised with guidelines, their behavior and consequences will reflect it. If not, leave the child in jail one night. It may be the eye opener you both need.

This is tough love, but there are many times to show love in a more enjoyable way unless your child doesn't respect you and rejects all your attempts to reach out.

Don't go overboard. Your child needs to learn to be independent by feeling some freedom, but you must step in to guide your child.

Love your children and never give up no matter how hard it gets.

© 2011 Susan Holland


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    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Thanks, SG! It definitely takes time to be a parent, but it has the greatest rewards. I worry about our future, and parent/child relationship is the key.

      Thanks so much for dropping by and the votes! :-)

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      8 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Amen Sister!!! I actually started a hub this morning about respect and manners, or the lack of, in our society. Too many parents are not teaching their children about respect. Too many parents, these days do even know what respect is themselves! It seems like dicipline takes too much time for parents today. It is easier to just "laugh it off" and go on. Both the child and the parents will pay for this later. This is an excellent hub! Voting up and awesome! :)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      YAY for you, Moonlake! I would be a snitch too. No one has the right to make a decision that something potentially harmful and/or dangerous is all right for my kid. I would have called the police, too. The law really comes down hard on parents who are caught giving alcohol or throwing parties for their kids in my area. The unfortunate part is that they do not get caught unless alcohol poisoning or a car accident occurs.

      I am glad the police found the right person so your son was not arrested for something he didn't do. You are so right, there are times we need to stand up for them. Being a parent is a tremendous balancing act, isn't it??

      Thanks so much for dropping by and the votes. :-)

    • moonlake profile image


      9 years ago from America

      There is the problem of parents who don't give a lick about their children and will help them do the crimes or cover up for them. They think they're the good parents. They pull your kids in making them think your the bad parent and this new parent is the good person.

      I think I said this on another hub. We once knew some parents were letting kids drink at their house including our son. I called the police and turned them in. They broke up the house drinking. How dare they think they knew what was best for our child. To this day our son doesn't know who turned them in. That's right, I'm a snitch.

      We always made our kids face the consequence of their actions. If your child says their innocent you need to listen, just in case. The cops once stopped our son and said he had hit a car on the highway and had left. They later came right to our house and took him in. His car had no marks on it. It was yellow the other car was green. The license number was one letter off. When my husband insisted they check on the correct license, they called the person with the other license number and the young guy confessed right away. They wanted an arrest and they were going to put it on our son. Sometimes you have to stand up for them.

      Voted up interesting.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Hey Bill, our mother raised us by telling us if we do the crime we serve the time. If one of us were to land a night in jail then we would stay there. She was not going to bail us out for something we were responsible for. I try to tell my kids the same thing. I am very fortunate. No calls from jail. WHEW!! I think it is because of the way I was raised, with tough love - if you want to call it that, and I passed it on to my kids.

      Thanks for commenting! :-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      9 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have had this talk with my son on more than one occasion. I don't know if he thinks I'm kidding or not but if he gets arrested for his pot he's going to stay in jail until he finds his own way out. He knows the consequences and he's a big boy my dad used to say, he will have to strap on some balls and be a man because I'm not bailing him out.

      Great hub, great message!

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Paula, so sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. Well, of course, I wouldn't expect you to say otherwise!! LOL The reward, as you explained, is seeing how they are managing as great adults with values they are passing down to their kids! I see it in my kids, too. I, too, never forget how blessed I am, especially when I look around and see all the problems some are having. Now, I cannot imagine our kids not having a sense of humor because YOU and I are just down right funny people who everyone loves - the world can only expect our children to be just as fab as we are. LOL ;-)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      9 years ago from Carson City

      You wouldn't expect me to say I don't have great sons, now would you? lol...However, my comfort and assurance is in the truth of their marriages & children, and their lives in general. They are loved and respected by all who know them & they certainly return these things to others. I have been blessed and I never forget that for one second.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Thanks, Paula! You are right, they do appreciate us when they become adults. It is hard to be the disciplinarian, and there is no fun in it at all. Lots of love and patience mixed with the discipline makes all the difference in the world. I bet you have great boys! :-)

      Thanks for dropping by!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      9 years ago from Carson City

      Susan....You have spoken truth and wisdom here! Raised 4 BOYS as a single Mom. There were times I feared they would hate me forever....but, realizing (due to my own upbringing) that parenting is a J O B....not a recreation, I held tight to my values.

      To all "young" parents: Please believe me, that day REALLY does come when they reach adulthood and look you in the eye and say, "Thank you Mom, for EVERYTHING, I love you." Today, they raise their children with firm discipline and lots of love. It works and it multiplies!!

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Hi Elikat! Yes, we need to start discipline as early as possible. Mixing discipline and love creates a kid who can handle the world by giving to it, not expecting the world to give to him/her. Thanks so much for commenting. :)

      Thanks for dropping by!

    • elikat02 profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Amen!! Being firm and setting boundaries are part of parenting. You are absolutely on the money when you comment about kids being rewarded for their "cuteness". Kids need limits and need to be taught to respect them. Of course with people and shows like "Teen Mom" and "Snooki", they seem to have no problem promoting snotty, "the world revolves around me" behavior. It's nice to see that I'm not the only one noticing this in the "entitlement" generation. Great story.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Mark, isn't it funny that parents are surprised to find they are "part" of the problem? As far as baby-boomer parents - I think Dr. Spock has a lot to answer for with his misleading advice. Thank goodness for the the exceptions!

      Thanks for dropping by! :-)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Alocsin, it is hard to be a parent, but we have to step up. It worries me for our future. Thanks for the votes and SHARING!

    • Mark Pitts profile image

      Mark Pitts 

      9 years ago from United States

      Great Hub! I did in-home work with kids/parents for years, and the parents were always surprised by my writing the family an intervention plan that called for greater effort on their part than the kid. They just wanted "magic." I have always said that as a whole, baby-boomers made the worst parents in history (of course, there are many exceptions, but as a whole, I stand by that).

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Every parent's nightmare -- your hub nicely explains what goes into this happening. Voting this Up and Interesting. Thanks for SHARING.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Hi Seafarer Mama! Discipline is hard, but we must do it. If we love our children, we have to do those hard things so their lives will be more balanced and full when they become adults. Spending quality time is the best, but sometimes we can't always have that time so they have to fall back on what we have taught them.

      I hope your day started well! :-)

      Thanks for dropping by, reading and commenting!

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 

      9 years ago from New England

      Hi Susan,

      Yes...the discipline part is the hardest part of being a parent....but also spending time with them instead of letting them watch the tv, and expecting that children help with chores. Our daughter will take the initiative to help fix things or wash the dishes, and I let her know that her help is appreciated and makes a difference (and kids do need to know that they are making a difference). I am not sure if she does it because it is part of her personality, or whether I should take the credit for inspiring this value in her...or perhaps it's both. :0)

      The influence of other children has been a sore spot, as usual...especially when it comes to physical appearance and materialism. Lots of children seem to love to brag about how much they have...and my daughter feels "poor" because of sad. As she grows older, My aunt buys her the Barbies...and my mother the DS and video games...but luckily she is not interested in lots of the accessories that come with the Barbies, and she isn't "addicted" to the video games. :0)

      Time to start our day, including time outside. :0)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Sharyn, you might be surprised if you had to live with them 24/7. LOL I bet you are the BEST aunt!! I know my kids think some of their aunts are their refuse. :-)

      Thanks for dropping by and reading!! :-)

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      9 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Great first hub Susan. I'm afraid I would not be good at the "consequence" thing. I do absolutely believe it's important. But in my case, I'm just the "silly aunt."

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Thanks, Tammy! It's hard to be a parent!!!

      Thanks for dropping by and reading! :-)

    • tammyswallow profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you Susan! I appreciate that and I think we have a lot in common.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Tammy, you are a wonderful mother who has had to make some hard decisions. I am the last of eight. My father was a raging (mean) alcoholic. My mother divorced him in the 60s when women in small towns were ostracized for divorcing. She was mother and father. She had the same rules as you. Some of my older brothers and sisters who lived in the chaos gave her her run for her money. She stuck to her guns and didn't budge. She experienced very similar things you have had to endure with your middle son. He may get mad, but he is learning and will come around to know how right you are. Hang in there. I know it is hard. Sometimes we can only do the best we can but still hit big bumps in the road. You have given your son guidelines, and they are ingrained in him and will kick in eventually. I am happy to report that all eight of us have turned out to be productive, contributing members of society. I give all credit to my mother.

      I do not understand parents like the ones you have described. I know they are out there, though. I get angry phone calls or visits from parents who enable their children for bad behavior. I don't budge as a teacher either. Usually those kids have been in and out of the office, and my administrators have backed me. Those parents have a hard time once their kids graduate and still expect them to support them. The parents don't understand what went wrong. Didn't they do EVERYTHING for that child? Yes, they did, and now they are reaping the consequences. Sad.

      Once our kids reach a certain age, their peers are who they look to. They do not realize that life changes and those "friends" will probably not be around later in life. I admire you for the fantastic job you are doing. God Bless you and be with you during your times of struggle.

      Thanks so much for dropping by and reading! I so appreciate you comment.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub Sholland. I have had to make that decision and it is very difficult. My sons are 18, 19, and 20. I raised them on my own and they always knew wrong from right and we worked tooth and nail as a team for all we had. I ALWAYS told them if they ever went to jail, they didn't need to waste their only call to me because they would sit in jail. I didn't realize I would have to stick this in the near future. Two of them are just great guys. My middle child was/ is the rebel... the cause of my gray hair.. Sure enough he was supposed to home when I was at work. He left with some bad friends and got into SERIOUS trouble. He called me casually and said he needed $2000 for bail and I had to come get him. I told him sorry, but you are going to have to enjoy your stay. He spent 5 days in the pokey. I refused to pay his fine for him. He had to do 6 months of community service. I always told them that our family resources were precious and were not going to be spent on those sorts of things. He was very, very angry.. but if I were to have bailed him out, he would continue getting into serious trouble with the assumption that I would just rescue him.

      My biggest problem in raising these boys were other parents who have NO values. I had PARENTS come to my house at 2 am to sneak this child out of the house to party with their kids while he was on restriction. Other PARENTS came to my house when I was at work to give him controllers for the XBox after I confinscated them. The best thing anyone can do is monitor who their children hang out with because not all parents have values.

      Didn't mean to respond with a novel, but that is a great hub.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Cagsil, thanks so much! ;-) I think the '60s really changed the way people looked at raising their kids. We are seeing the entitlement backlash now in our teens, 20s, and even 30 somethings. Kids need to earn their way, but since they have been told they are WONDERFUL at everything and nothing is expected from them, they think it needs to be handed to them. I feel very fortunate to have had an old fashion mother who insisted on being my mother before being my friend while I was growing up.

      Thanks for dropping by, reading, and voting!! :-)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      RealHousewife, I think our first children are our experimental guinea pigs - poor things. I was probably too hard on my first, but he doesn't have ticks or anything from the "trauma" I put him through. He is happily married with a great career. My 18 year old daughter is wonderful, but she has a "princess complex" that I constantly have to burst her bubble on. She is a great girl, but she is a challenge, too (maybe a little like her mom... just a little... ;)).

      Thanks so much for dropping by and reading!

    • Cagsil profile image

      Raymond D Choiniere 

      9 years ago from USA

      Excellently written Susan. Nowadays, when you look at much of society, you can see that parenting as a whole, has gone awry. So many things have gone wrong and off the beaten path(no pun intended). Many children don't realize the responsibilities that they have, outside the home, much less within the home.

      I wrote several hubs about different aspects on what's happening- "What Happened To Honesty and Accountability" and "What Happened To Moral Family Values". Not to mention, "Self Respect and Respect For Others" is about parenting as well. Great message you have put forth. :) Voted up! :)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I am one upping you 100 percent! I have one girl that is 23 and two 12 and under....I have learned that discipline is the hardest part. It is so hard but once the kids know you are on them...I really believe it squelches it and saves tons of tears and arguments later. I wish I had been harder on my oldest at times...but low and behold she turned out to be a wonderful young woman I am very proud of! I learned everything the hard way I think...I call her the experimental child...poor thing...I knew nothing! Lol

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      10 years ago from Southwest Missouri


      Thanks for commenting! Yes, we are responsible for teaching our children. Being a good parent is tough. We have to discern when to discipline and when to praise. We definitely need to teach responsibility.

      Glad you dropped by! Happy Hubbing!! :)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      10 years ago from Southwest Missouri


      I am so sorry I have not responded to you. I missed your comment for some reason. Thanks for reading!! I think parents should be able to discipline and teach their children how to be decent human beings. I see our society getting in the way and lazy parenting, too. Again, thanks for the comment!

    • HennieN profile image


      10 years ago from South Africa

      I agree 100%. Life is about choice and consequence. If we do not teach our kids about the consequences in life, we are not preparing them for the big bad world.

    • Sundaymoments profile image

      Matthew Dawson 

      10 years ago from United States

      Great Article; and yes now days being politically right stands in the way of raising our children right. Great Hub Thumps Up and marked it useful.


    • profile image

      d baird 

      10 years ago

      Amen, sister!


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