Radical parenting technique: holding your kids responsible for their behavior

Here’s an email I received after my show today:


I’m a middle school teacher. I don’t live in your area but I heard your conversation today. I’d like to say that parental denial is a HUGE problem for teachers. I deal with their kids all day and when I attempt to tell them about the trouble their precious children cause in the class so often they resist. They REFUSE to believe that they are raising children with crappy attitudes who behave badly in the classroom. Some kids refuse to do ANY work and then their parents blame me for it. What happened to holding your kids responsible?? Sorry to rant but this really gets to me. I give my all for those kids but some of them just have NO interest in cooperating and their parents just aid and abed them. What is wrong with some of these people?? They want to find a thousand people and things to blame for their kids behavior…. except they never want to blame… THEIR KID.
Please don’t use my name if you use this.

I responded to this person privately.

But let’s explore the themes in her/his message.

You see, generally, when a kid acts like a jerk, we, as a country, engage in all sorts of philosophical contortions and mental gymnastics to figure out who we can blame for his jerkiness. Johnny cuts third period, or picks on the overweight kid in gym class, or shouts vulgarities at his teacher, or otherwise acts inappropriately, and we begin to weave our tangled Web of Blame; desperately attempting to pin the guilt for his malfeasance on some third party. Should we point to the teacher? Or the school system? Or TV? Video games? Perhaps the medical establishment ought to be called onto the mat for this one? Maybe the politicians in DC? What about the UN? The wealthy elite! Society! Society is to blame! Soon, we are hovering high above planet Earth, indicting all of God’s creation in this complicated game of Whodunit.

Yet, somehow, one lucky guy manages to shrink out the back door, while the rest of us smack each other with broken bottles and pool cues: Johnny. Johnny, the kid who actually did the bad thing. Why is it that we can blame the entire universe for a kid’s behavior, yet the kid who committed the infraction isn’t even included in that universe? Why can’t we ever explain the bad actions of a child by coming to the conclusion that the child chose to act that way, and ought to be the sole individual implicated?

Sure, he could have horrible teachers. Or he could be a victim of an unfair system. Or there could be a conspiracy against him.

Or, you know, he could just be a human being with free will who chooses to do the wrong things.

Sometimes there isn’t any need to add complexities to an issue that is really quite simple. Your kid is a human being, he has a brain, he makes choices; occasionally, or (in some cases) often, he makes the wrong choices. Sometimes that wrong choice needs to fall on his shoulders. We can discuss societal, systematic, and environmental factors that contribute to the overall picture, but his free will transcends all of that.

I am no apologist for the public school system. I’m not the president of the Government-Run Education Fan Club. I’m not in the club at all. In fact, I often find myself at odds with its more active members. I’m a home school advocate, but even I can recognize the impossible position we put teachers, like the one who emailed, in when we start from the premise that OUR special snowflakes could NEVER be responsible for their own actions. We discussed this predicament on my show today; I reiterated my “sometimes kids are just jerks” thesis, which also prompted this message from a concerned woman:

“Matt… what an awful thing to say. Kids can never be jerks.”

Yes. That’s real. An adult human actually typed that sentence. “Kids can never be jerks.” And we know what she really means when she says it: MY kid could never be a jerk.

This is the sort of parent that teachers have to deal with on a daily basis.

Teacher: “Ms. Johnson, your Billy cussed me out this afternoon when I tried to get him to take a test. His actions were inappropriate.”

Ms. Johnson: “Inappropriate?! How dare you! If he refused to do his school work right before verbally assaulting you, I’m sure he had a good reason. I’ll be reporting your bullying to the principal!”

I especially feel sorry for middle school teachers. God bless these brave souls. I’d rather be a guidance counselor to serial murderers at a maximum security prison than teach English at an American middle school. Good Lord in Heaven, middle school students can be absolutely horrible. They might be OK on an individual basis, but you mix all of them together, with all of that puberty and all of those hormones, and you’ve got the ingredients to bake yourself a Lord of the Flies flavored cake. Kids can be challenging at any age. People, in general, can behave badly when put together in large groups. It’s the mob effect, and it’s a very real phenomenon. But there’s something about middle school — it’s just different; it’s worse. A lot worse.

A case could be made for abolishing middle school entirely and banishing them all to a desert island, or another planet. You simply can’t put these kids in groups of more than four without half of them turning into rabid raccoons. Last week seven middle schoolers came to my door selling candy bars for a fundraiser for their soccer team. I turned the hose on them. What choice did I have?

I remember my days in 6th, 7th and 8th grade when parents would come to visit during class time. I’d look at the dad of the kid who made the substitute teacher cry only a few days before, or the mom of the girl who spends all day thinking of new ways to ostracize and humiliate her less popular female classmates, and I’d think, “do you people realize that you’re raising barbarians?”

Answer: no. But only because they don’t want to realize it.

I also recall being somewhat of a problem kid at that age myself. I didn’t do my schoolwork, I acted out; I wasn’t quite the terrorist that some of these kids become, but I had my moments. Do you know what else I remember? CHOOSING to act that way. I had a mind. I wasn’t a robot. I wasn’t an animal. I knew it was wrong to shirk my schoolwork and misbehave, but I did it anyway. My parents were awesome, most of my teachers were competent, but I still CHOSE to go against them. I chose it. I was responsible, and nobody else. Immature? Sure. Pre-programmed and destined to be a jerk, even against my own will? No. My parents understood this and so they held me accountable. I’d come home with a less than impressive report card and try the whole “the teachers hate me!” routine, but my mom and dad, refusing to be outwitted by a 12 year old, didn’t take the bait. I cried to them. “My teachers say I’m a bad student and they yell at me! Waaaah!” They weren’t sympathetic. “Well, stop being a bad student and maybe they won’t need to yell at you.”

This is in stark contrast to the way some other parents might respond. “What?! They YELL at you?! Nobody should ever yell at my pumpkin, I don’t care what you did!”

I don’t know. Maybe I was the first, last, and only middle school brat to purposefully and knowingly misbehave, but I doubt it. Maybe I’m the aberration. Maybe my experience doesn’t apply to anyone else. Maybe I was the Universe’s Only Guilty Adolescent, but I find that hard to believe.

I’ve read some of the stories about this “Knock Out Game” that a bunch of teens have started playing. Apparently, they sneak up behind unsuspecting strangers and attempt to knock them unconscious with one punch. That’s it. That’s the “game.” A bunch of cowards, of course, and they ought to be thrown in prison; I don’t care if they’re “minors.” The age of reason comes considerably sooner than your 18th birthday, and humans with the capacity for reason understand that the “Knock Out Game” is vile and evil.

But maybe we ought to consider why we seem to be producing so many “kids” who are so utterly detached and cold. Could it be that, among other things, we aren’t effectively communicating the message that YOU are responsible for YOUR actions, and those actions have consequences? Maybe we should think about introducing our little angels to things like work and responsibility. Maybe we should get them acquainted with duty and discipline. Maybe, just maybe, when the teacher calls to tell us that Susie is a disruptive delinquent in English class, we should direct all of that frustration and disappointment at Susie, not her teacher. Maybe Susie ain’t quite the saint you fancy her to be. Maybe you’re severely damaging her chances at success and happiness in life by shielding her from the aftermath of her own horrible decisions.

Maybe your kid gets in trouble at school because he chooses to do things that will get him into trouble. Maybe he chooses it on purpose, even though he knows better. Maybe it’s his fault, and nobody else’s.

Just something to consider.


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217 Responses to Radical parenting technique: holding your kids responsible for their behavior

  1. Karl W/ A K says:

    Reblogged this on The Trivium, Praxeology, and God and commented:
    “You see, generally, when a kid acts like a jerk, we, as a country, engage in all sorts of philosophical contortions and mental gymnastics to figure out who we can blame for his jerkiness. Johnny cuts third period, or picks on the overweight kid in gym class, or shouts vulgarities at his teacher, or otherwise acts inappropriately, and we begin to weave our tangled Web of Blame; desperately attempting to pin the guilt for his malfeasance on some third party. Should we point to the teacher? Or the school system? Or TV? Video games? Perhaps the medical establishment ought to be called onto the mat for this one? Maybe the politicians in DC? What about the UN? The wealthy elite! Society! Society is to blame! Soon, we are hovering high above planet Earth, indicting all of God’s creation in this complicated game of Whodunit.”

  2. Radical thinking!
    Then games like Knockout would never have been created and just where would that leave the innocent men and women merely walking down the streets of American cities?

    They would have to find some other place to get the shit beaten out of them for absolutely no reason.

  3. Nadine says:

    I was a teacher in a private parochial middle school for ten years before deciding to homeschool. I discovered very early on that kids start making choices in middle school that they would NEVER have done a year before. Parents can be blind sided by how manipulative their kids become during that time. This is developmentally normal to a certain extent. When confronting a parent, I always did my best to explain that to them. I know that parents lash out because THEY feel responsible and blamed for the kids’ misbehavior. It was my diplomatic tactic to reach out to parents as a co-conspirator. I let them know that their kid’s behavior was normal, but that there should be consequences because they were testing us. I would say 99% of the time parents responded with complete support. I noticed the way other teachers talked to parents and about students during lunch. So. Yeah. I agree but maybe teachers should get some training in diplomacy?

    • Michelle Anderson says:

      I totally support your response…i taught middle school for 13 years..by the time i reach-5..wasn’t going to work with this age group. i had to retire after 19.6 yrs with the district due to health issues….would love to go back and work with this age again

  4. Robin says:

    I’ve been a kindergarten/1st grade teacher for 25 years and this problem gets worse every year. I actually had a mother tell me that If I couldn’t handle her kid in class, maybe I should get out of teaching (after she acknowledged herself that she knows he gets hyper and is hard to handle for her, too!) I’ve honestly thought that if I could afford to retire early, I probably would. Not because I don’t love teaching, or love my babies….but because of the parents (and other govt/school district mandated stuff) that we have to deal with these days.

  5. Beth Stevens says:

    I taught middle school English for 3 years. I no longer teach. Many of the kids ARE jerks and most of the parents of THOSE kids NEVER hold the kids responsible and often blame the teacher. Then to make matters worse, the administration will often side with parents. I tried to hold students accountable, like strict deadlines, and I can’t tell you how many times I had parents call administration who would tell me to accept little Johnny’s homework after deadline. The whole thing just disgusted me.

    • Edik415 says:

      The problem is often compounded by administration, too. In my limited experience (also 3 years of public school teaching), I saw principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors, and even a superintendent bend over backwards to please parents, even supporting their accusations without EVER hearing a teacher’s side of the story.

  6. Matt! You are my hero:) Looking forward to another post:)

  7. A few years ago there were several boys who were bullying my son. The offenders were witnessed by several adults choosing bad behavior. The vice principal just wanted me to talk to the parents. Um, what happened to the “zero tolerance” handbook I had to sign at the first of the year?
    But talk I did. Surprise! One of the parents did not take responsibility. I appreciated those that did because the bullying from those boys stopped. As for the one who didn’t, that same boy brought a knife to school a few months later. Thankfully we had already moved into a new school district.

    I also want to mention that this was fourth grade! Scary.

    Parents you are responsible in teaching your children what is right and what is wrong.

  8. Suzanne Olden says:

    Been saying this for years. Parents, please stop dumping your parenting failures on the rest of us!! I have two teens and I have always held them accountable and made sure they knew that actions have consequences.

  9. Emily M says:

    I can think of at least one (or two) other individuals that may be to blame in all this… the parents. I’m not saying that parents are always to blame for their kids’ bad behavior, but when parents shield their children from the consequences of bad actions–by berating teachers and administrators instead of holding their child accountable–they are enabling the bad behavior and are, in my opinion, even more to blame for the bad behavior than the kids themselves.

  10. I agree with the theme of the post but is no one else bothered that the teacher used “abed” instead of “abet”?

  11. betty ogerelta says:

    Aiding and “abedding” (abetting) is a legal term used for harboring criminals. The teacher can’t spell and refers to our children as criminals. Yeah, teachers are blameless for a student’s bad attitude. Maybe she should push to have the little demons medicated like so many teachers do. I know parents are too overprotective. In my day the worst thing a teacher or cop could do was to tell my parents. They were who I feared and I’m not the least bit scarred by it. But if the kids spend more time with their teachers than their parents they cannot ignore the influence they may be having on the attitude of the students.

    • Edik415 says:

      Good lord. “The teacher can’t spell and refers to our children as criminals.” You’re missing the point entirely. You omitted several commas, assumed the teacher was female, used “who” instead of “whom,” and your use of “they” in the final sentence is ambiguous…but that doesn’t make your message invalid.

    • Luscinia says:

      It’s not just a legal term. Just ask Vossler York Azelas.

  12. Hannah says:

    We practice “reality discipline” in our home, and we started very early. For instance when my son was three, he thought he wanted to play with my hair straightener. It was on at the time, and at first my heart jumped into my chest and I panicked. I almost snatched him away from the device. But instead, I used a loud voice to get his attention, got down to his level and pointed at the straighter and said “This is very hot. If you touch it, it will burn you. It will hurt.” He stared at me for a moment, then reached down and grabbed it, all four of his fingers making contact. Cue: mommy was TOTALLY right.

    There were tears, and we spent the better part of the next 3 hours with our hand in a cup of ice and eating popcicles, and I’ve told that story to people and they think I am a terrible parent because I did not just “remove the temptation.” But any time he saw the straightener after that, he gave it a wide berth. I think the benefit from this kind of parenting is two fold.

    1. You are not the enemy. Too often parents don’t want to discipline their children because they feel like dictators, like they are crushing their little spirits. They also don’t want to be seen as the bad guy. With reality discipline, you aren’t. You are in fact warning them, you are trying to protect them and it is THEIR decision that gets them hurt. In the four years I have done this with my son (who is now 6), he has never looked up at me with giant puppy eyes and asked “Why did you let me do that?” Just the opposite – we have built a lot of trust between us, and when I advise him that something is dangerous or unwise, he normally listens.

    2. The lessons apply whether you are in the room or not. If I had snatched him away from the straightening iron, he wouldn’t have learned anything except “mommy doesn’t want me to do this.” Not only does that not teach him anything useful, but it actually makes the object more interesting. It becomes a coveted object in his 3 year old eyes and consumes him with the desire to play with it and me with worry over whether he will succeed. If you let children make their own decisions, and then suffer the consequences of those decisions, they will act appropriately when you are around AND more important when you are not around.

    The last thing I will mention is that of course I would never let my son wander into traffic or engage in any other life threatening activity. A little pain or discomfort is okay, permanently crippled or dead is not. The opportunity for children to do truly life threatening things is surprisingly rare, with the exception of getting hit by a car. How did we learn that lesson? A neighborhood dog taught us. A friendly golden retriever that roamed the neighborhood miscalculated when my son was about 3 and a half. We went out to look at him (and I needed to move him from the middle of the road and call the city to come pick up his body). We discussed what happened and why, in a way that was appropriate for a toddler. He wasn’t traumatized, he was very pensive about the whole thing. But I knew the lesson had taken root when we were walking the following day and I started to cross the street and he tugged on my hand and said “Be careful, mommy!!!”

    I think the purpose of parenting (not teachers, mentors, guidance counselors etc), is to raise responsible, compassionate and accountable individuals, who own themselves and their actions. The only way to do this is to allow them to experience the consequences of their decisions.

    • I had the same philosophy (sp) when my kids were young. For example: we were headed to the store on a rather chilly day. I didn’t harp at them to wear a coat. On the way home they whined that they were cold. I told them, you should have worn your coat. They learn from their mistakes better than me nagging and expecting me to bail them out on every occasion. My mother thought I was being too harsh. I said it’s not going to kill them and they will remember to be responsible.

      • Scott Fenner says:

        Nice job on your parenting skills, Kimberly. Perfectly logical approach, your kids didn’t die from pneumonia, and they learned something.

        How did you turn out to be a better parent than your mom? I don’t mean that to sound as harsh as it does, but you know what I mean. If children are the product of their parents’ upbringing, it didn’t compute with me that you could do a better job. YOU should have been just like your mom and coddled the little darlings and made them wear TWO coats just to make sure they were protected from EVERYTHING.

        • My mom was an enabler. She had an alchoholic husband (my dear dad) and didn’t kick him to the curb soon enough. Thankfully I didn’t pick up that traight. Only by the grace of God have I been able to become a survivor and not a victom of my childhood and raise my kids to do the same.

    • Chelsea says:

      My mom was the same way, not with me, but with my son. He wanted to see what fire was like. So she got matches, a candle, Neosporin, band-aids, ice and was ready for what she knew would come. She said, “If you touch the flame, it will hurt. It will burn you and it will hurt.”

      He did it anyway. There were tears and she used the pre-set-out medical implements, but my son NEVER messed with fire recklessly again. He’s now 11.

      Well, I guess she also did it with us and cigarettes. My brother and sister asked about cigarettes and mom bought a pack and set out a lighter and said, “Give it a try.”

      My sister was the only one brave enough to try it. She hated it. I hated the smell. We’ve never smoked.

      • Scott Fenner says:

        Your mom is an evil, evil person.

      • Frank says:

        How old was your son at the time? That’s messed up. If my mom or MIL pulled that stunt with MY kid, it wouldn’t end well.

      • Hannah says:


        That’s really interesting – and it reminds me of when my mother. She smoked a cigarette when I was little, just one, and just before bed outside on the porch. I walked out one night, around 7 years old, and asked her what they tasted like. She offered a “puff” to me, and I tried it, realized it was absolutely nothing special (and tastes/smells gross), and I haven’t touched a cigarette since then.

        Likewise I wasn’t denied a chance for a sip of wine or beer if I wanted to try it. To this day I think it’s vile. Though I do wish I had a taste for wine sometimes, wine tasting seems like such a romantic, sophisticated grown up thing. 😦

    • Sue says:

      Hannah you are my hero!! Finally another parent who thinks along the same lines that I do. Because I used this same basic approach with my children, I feel I have a much better relationship with them then most of my friends have with their children. My children believe what I say and they trust me completely. Even though they are grown, they still come to Mom for advice and guidance and many of my friends, whose children do not have such a good relationship with their parents, are quite envious. It’s funny though…many of those people think that I was a terrible mother for allowing my children to find out on their own the consequences of their actions, yet do not have real relationships with their children.

      • Hannah says:

        Sue – I think more appropriately you are MY hero. Your experience and relationship with your children just reassures me that I’m not screwing up my child for life – which I think is a fear at the back of all parents’ minds. Thank you for that validation! 🙂

  13. Allison says:

    Have to comment on this one! Although I homeschool, I have a Master’s degree in early childhood education . . . my very favorite professor made the argument in class several times that Middle School should be done away with. He said that we should send them home for those three years and keep them away from each other. Because of hormones and physical changes, he pointed out that they end up learning very little during those three years (other than how to be the most popular and make teacher’s/parent’s lives miserable) . . . and they can make up the content they missed when they arrive back in 9th grade. This really isn’t a workable solution . . . but Matt’s comments about Middle Schoolers brought it back to mind! Enjoying the blog.

    • Deb Tritt says:

      I hated middle school for the very reasons you talk about. A time in my life that I wish I could forget.

    • Dusty Hepler says:

      My mom actually did do this. She withdrew me mid 6th grade (at the end of my grade school years) and homeschooled me through 9th grade. I returned to school for highschool naive, but unscathed. I don’t think her intentions were to protect me from public schooling those years. She had hoped to homeschool me through graduation, but had to return to work. But I have heard nothing but horror stories from my peers about middle school. Not a single wish-I’d-been-there moment. I earnestly believe God shielded me from the hell fires of middles school. I now homeschool my daughter. Early on, my husband and I related that we have a lot to be responsible for, but that her toys were not part of our responsibilities and we have increased that which she is accountable for over the years. We are cynical and hardly the most fun parents. But she is well balanced, understands that she is responsible for who she is and what she does and generally is a pleasure to be around.

  14. Jo says:

    As a step-parent of a now 25 year old who never had to take responsibility for his actions or poor choices, it doesn’t get better until the parents have had enough. To this day, his mom will still bail him out of everything. Spent all his money on DVDs and music? A quick call to his mom and he has money for gas to get to work, eating out, and buying clothes. Can’t afford to live on his own…and worse of all, he expects that it will always be his parent s responsibility to take care of his needs. Why? Because it’s their fault that he is alive in the first place. They shouldn’t have had him if they didn’t want to take care of him. His words.

    • Marie says:

      Sounds very much like a family member of mine. Never had to take responsibility for anything. His parents constantly bailed him out of one stupid mistake after another. Can’t hold a job to save his life. He finally struck out on his own at the tender age of 25, and within two months became suicidal because he literally couldn’t handle reality. He didn’t know how to deal the pressures of real life. So what happened? Mommy bailed him out again, and the cycle continues…

  15. jvdlandersen says:

    I’m constantly amazed at your ability to hit the nail on the head with every topic you choose to write on. I was a middle school English teacher for several years. I LOVED it. I think you have to have a heart for that age group. It was difficult to teach English above and beyond teaching responsibility. Thank you for this post.

  16. lnichols says:


  17. I taught 7th grade English in 1968-69. Early in the year, I took a girl to the Principal’s office and administered 10 “licks” to her bottom because she had “sassed” me. After that, she loved me, and the others gave me no trouble. Fear and pain? Good, it works!

  18. Gary Mayo says:

    Parents these days are so stressed out these days, overworked, financial troubles, sporting events with the kids, behavior problems from the kids, trying to be friends with their kids, it is utterly amazing, the answer to their problem is take your kids as serious as you do your other problems, Parents prime responsibility is the welfare of their children, food, housing, financial, yet somewhere in this mix the education of their children is farmed out to the schools only. Parents you are the primary educator of your children, you teach them who they are, how they act, how responsible they need to be, you teach them love, compassion, and grace, or you don’t in that case they have to piece it together and guess what is right or what, or wrong, and wrong is cool, and cool is in fashion in school these days. Unfortunately cool is not a very marketable skill in the workforce, so if you don’t you need to anticipate that your children will live long drawn out lives filled with extra problems which are not even known to children of families who took the time to raise their children. In a nutshell your kids will fail in life, and all of the associated problems with failure will be because of your lack of parenting skills!

  19. Great post! We need to stop raising entitled brats and start expecting responsible, caring people.

  20. Gene says:

    My favorite is when some teenager commits a robbery or murder or some other horrendous crime and the mother is interviewed on television. 99% of the time you hear, “Johnny was such a good boy, I just don’t know how this could happen. He just got caught up in the wrong crowd.” Lady, little Johnny didn’t get whisked away unwillingly into the “wrong crowd”, he IS the wrong crowd.

    • Scott Fenner says:

      Gene, you left out the ones who say (after everyone–from the police to the DA to the judge to society as a whole-agrees there is sufficient evidence that her child mutilated thirty of his schoolmates and then went on to kill four more people at the local mall), “My little Teddy would NEVER do such a thing”

      I just LOVE IT when they say that!

  21. Kris says:

    I have a daughter in Junior High and a son who is in 6th grade (still in elementary) and I can honestly say, I have pretty good kids. But, I can openly admit that they can both be jerks sometimes and when they jerks, I openly tell them they are being jerks. My husband and I have worked very hard to raise good kids, teach them morals and values, teach them to work hard, and we have taught them there are consequences for bad behavior. They get grounded, they go to bed early, they miss out on “treats”, etc. I feel like most parents these days are afraid to take action against their kids’ bad behaviors because they don’t want their kids to dislike them. Too many parents are trying to be friends with their kids and not their parent. And when their kids act out, of course it’s not their fault…..they are best friends with their kid and they know their kid would never act like a jerk. Wake up and smell the coffee parents….all kids can be jerks. Take some ownership!

    • Scott Fenner says:

      Kris, you can tell which parents have done a good job (and sometimes, even an outstanding one) when they are with their two-year-old at the store and he/she is quiet–NOT scooping everything off the shelves and into the cart, NOT screaming at a frequency and decibel-level that could bring the building down, NOT running up and down the aisles with no adult in sight. (That last bunch, by the way, are the ones who just can’t understand how little Betsy could have been abducted.) “I only turned my back for a second.” And then they proceed to sue the store, the parent corporation, the shoppers who were there at the time, the teachers, and the video game manufacturer … oh, and the guy on the corner. (These parents don’t own any mirrors.)

      The good parents did the required work when it really counted–during the first couple of years.

      If you tell Billy that he won’t get to go to Disneyland if he “does that one more time” and he does that one more time, then DON’T TAKE HIM TO DISNEYLAND!


  22. can'tbelieveteacherscan'tspeakEnglish says:

    You should edit the teacher’s email before you post it, as her grammar and punctuation do not lead to her credibility as a teacher.

  23. Deb Tritt says:

    Oh my word!! You must have been in my house when my three boys were growing up. Many times I said to them ‘God gave you a brain that lets you make choices’ Also, since they were into Star Wars I also told them that they had The Force, God’s strength and power. Did they always make the right choices??? Of course not as their boy brains don’t fully develop until they are well out of school.Did we allow their ‘underdeveloped’ brains give them an excuse? No way but, we did use it as a teaching time and an accountability time.

  24. Edik415 says:

    Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim knew all about the blame game — cue “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

    I absolutely agree that we spend a ridiculous amount of energy determining who is at fault for things that are going wrong. I’m guilty of it, too. It’s easy, and probably natural, to want to point fingers. But we should focus on the solution.

    Sometimes, a child who chooses to misbehave is testing limits — how much can I get away with? But other times, a child misbehaves because he hasn’t been taught that his actions have consequences. Where should he learn that? At home? At school? If you ask me (and you didn’t, but I’ll answer anyway), the answer is both.

    When I was student teaching (geez, almost 15 years ago??), I worked with a brilliant middle school teacher who, in addition to being an absolute master of his curriculum and instructional methods, made a BIG thing about choices and consequences. It was sort of a shtick in class — someone would misbehave, and in doling out the punishment, he would ALWAYS say, “If you CHOOSE this behavior, this is the CONSEQUENCE” (his emphasis, not mine). The students rolled their eyes, every single time. But, perhaps the most interesting thing was parent-teacher conference night. This was a small community, and this teacher had been there for 30+ years…so most of the parents who came in had once been his students. Almost every single one of them either thanked the teacher directly for lessons they learned years ago, or pulled me aside to tell me how lucky I was to be “studying at the foot of a master.” Absolutely inspirational. Sure, in private he complained to me that he wished he didn’t have to teach choice and consequences — that the students should get it at home. But the truth is that many students don’t get it there, and even those who DO get that lesson from parents need to learn that the lesson applies even when you leave your house. Kids don’t necessarily make those generalizations immediately…

  25. CreationMom says:

    I frequently say, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in the sin nature…never had children.” Yes, kids need to be held responsible for their actions by their parents. Unless and until a child comes to the realization that he is a sinner, even if that means on into adulthood and until death he departs this Earth, we can expect him to act out of that sin nature. Without God’s transforming power, we can’t expect anything different from him, with the only restraining power being that which society has over him. Parents, then, have the responsibility to train him with consequences for his actions. When he is older, teachers, peer pressure, law enforcement, and the rest of society will restrain his behavior with consequences. Good parenting will prepare a child’s heart to accept the Gospel when God calls the child/adult to Himself.

    • Hilary says:

      Exactly CreationMom!

      • Scott Fenner says:

        Yes, but the liberals have done an extraordinary job of taking God out of the schools (and just about everywhere else).

        Liberals don’t know God, and so they never appreciate the consequences of removing Him from society. (Everything is Bush’s fault.)

        Hmmm … like the fools who elected our current regime; now they get to see the consequences of choosing to remain ignorant and stupid–as their health plans are whisked away. “Obama voter” has become an apt derogatory moniker for anyone who’s SO stupid, you just can’t believe it. And that tag is going to last a LONG, LONG time too.

  26. Raul Lopez says:

    I don’t know… Maybe my mom and dad were atypical. They never believed me… WAAAAHHHH… I have lifelong scars that will never heal without treatment from a psychologist that will charge me 300 dollars an hour!!!

    Riiigghhtt… There was only one rule when I was growing up and, unfortunately, the consequences didn’t stop me from doing wrong BUT… It sure as heck deterred a lot of it… The one rule I think every parent should give their kids… You play… You pay… It’s the only rule I had to live by at home and boy… my rear end payed a whole lot because I played.

  27. Kelly says:

    Matt, you and the teacher you referenced were right on! As a former middle school teacher myself with a husband that is a high school English teacher, I can tell you that so many parents refuse to believe that their little angel could do anything wrong. We have been cursed out by angry parents on numerous occasions for daring to give out detentions/referrals for bad behavior. Honestly, the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree. Who knows, maybe it is these parents leaving the shopping carts all over the parking lots :)…

  28. Having been a kid at one time myself, I remember priding myself about how well I could fool my parents and the nice ladies at church into thinking I was a precious angel, when really, I was anything but that at school. So I completely agree that parents need to see that the sweet angel that they lovingly feed and put to bed at night may be a bratty and mean kid at other times, with other people.

  29. KT says:

    I’m currently helping my son through the consequences of a bad decision. By helping, I mean he did not get a bail out, he did not get a slap on the wrist and he will not get many perks until his debt is paid. He’s young and it’s something as simple as a rock through a window. My hope is that through it all he knows how much I love him, how much I believe in him and the potential I see in him, and how much I really don’t care if we’re warm fuzzy friends right now. I don’t want to hurt him but I do want him to feel deeply the result of his decision so next time he will make a better choice.

  30. Pat Bauer says:

    I used to teach music . . . a parent I was having a conference with (her child had HORRIBLE behavior) asked me, “What are you doing to my son to make him misbehave in your class??” Another time – I told a different parent I expected the kids in the room to follow the classroom rules and was told “Why should he follow the rules in YOUR room? We don’t expect him to follow rules at home!” (And yes, that was the exact quote.) I knew my teaching career was almost over at that point – and I’ve been out of it for almost 20 years . . . .

  31. Luscinia says:

    I could swear Matt posted this already…

    … but then again everything Matt posts is pretty much the same thing anyway.

  32. Great post… I loved it. I find it 100 times funnier because I was essentially having this same exact conversation on facebook about kids and how they are responsible for their own action. The “neighborhood” problem was some of the kids wanted to get out of home work by saying they couldn’t read the disturbing book. The kids and many of the parent argument was if my son doesn’t want to read it he shouldn’t be forced and he shouldn’t have his grade lowered. The Book that was so disturbing…. Lord of the Flies.

  33. Alexander says:

    I know a 9 year old who chooses to yell very rude comments in the classroom when frustrated. He chooses to tell teachers, aids, etc. what their job is and is not (it’s not to tell him what to do). I could go on with his choices..but what are his choices renamed by his parents and even the school psychologist? Impulsive behaviors. They don’t think he’s a mean kid-just impulsive. He doesn’t mean those things nor does he need to take responsibility because he can’t help his impulsive behaviors. But you are right Matt, kids can be jerks, they are humans that make choices, and I’ve had interactions with this kid while he was being a jerk.

    And you know what kudos to my own parents who told me a couple times “You are acting like a jerk.” I didn’t like it-so I chose to change my behavior.

  34. Bonnie says:

    The problem is parents don’t raise their children anymore. Someone decided it takes a village and everyone jumped on board with that idea even when they don’t have the “village” or support system that was meant by that term. So if little Johnny gets in trouble it has to be the village’s fault and certainly not the parent’s or Johnny’s. I have the 12 year old that claims his teachers hate him. I ask how it is possible that all of your teachers hate you? I’m not buying it. Kids are going to make bad decisions. It’s my job as a parent to understand and believe that my kids are capable of being jerks and hold them accountable when they are. Parents are pretty quick to recognize someone else’s children acting like jerks, why not their own?

  35. Katelyn F says:

    I recently wrote a blog post about instilling values in our kids – making good choices: http://www.whatsupfagans.com/2013/11/instilling-values-kids-making-good-choices/ and I have to say that I think it’s important to realize that parents actually need to teach their children what is right and wrong before a child is mentally capable of knowing if his choice is good or not. My twins (yea for the twin club!) are 3.5 years old. While they can make some jerky decisions (hitting their twin sister for instance) I wouldn’t call my daughter a jerk. They are 3.5! They really don’t understand yet, nor would I place such a label onto my child, or anyone’s child. I think that’s what the woman was trying to convey when she was aghast at your statement that a child was a jerk. The kid make a jerky choice for sure and needs consequences, but I don’t think labels are helping anyone, the kid especially. (Though, might be good for a few parents to hear it!)

    • Scott Fenner says:

      It took me a second to see that you wrote 3.5. At first, it looked like 3-5, and I was going to ask how your TWINS could be 3 to 5!
      Either you pulled off something that P.T. Barnum would have paid good money for, or you just aren’t sure how old they are!

  36. Kristen says:

    Matt, I read this today on my lunch break. At my kids high school where I was subbing. Oh my gosh – it was perfect timing! I can’t get over the level of disrespect I was getting from these kids. And this is a top high school in our state. I think I’ll stick to elementary school. On the other hand, one of the teachers I know said she asked a little girl why she didn’t do her homework the night before and after the kid went home and told her mom, the mom reamed the teacher and said, “How dare you question my child about her homework not being done. It’s none of your business.” Really???

  37. Pingback: Radical parenting technique: holding your kids responsible for their behavior | The Matt Walsh Blog | vivianapacheco

  38. I know I’m not a saint, and I never will be. My parents have always tried their best to make sure that I understand that I am infact responsible for the things I do. I think I have turned out better because of it. At least I’m able to understand how appalling this Knockout game is.

  39. I know I’m not a saint, and I never will be. My parents have always tried their best to make sure that I understand that I am infact responsible for the things I do. I think I have turned out better because of it. At least I’m able to understand how appalling this Knockout game is.

  40. Braden says:

    “but my mom and dad, refusing to be outwitted by a 12 year old . . .”

    There’s such a satisfying, scorching, indirect burn in that statement. I hope any parents in opposition to you who read this feel it.

  41. Kim says:

    Thanks for pointing out the truth and making me laugh out loud. I teach 7th grade social studies and I really do love it, even though I deal with these types of parents frequently. I had one parent tell me their child performed poorly in my class because he thought I didn’t like him. (I once told my mother that I didn’t like a teacher and her response was, “They probably don’t like you either” so I wouldn’t have been able to use that excuse). Ironically, I really did like her son; he was just lazy. I tried explaining that to his mom (more tactfully, of course) and I got a laundry list of his activities and sports in response. I guess his most important job – that of being a student – was not a high priority “activity”. I’m pretty sure most kids today aren’t going to make their living as a sports star so school should rank a little higher. Thanks again for making me laugh (I’m not a parent myself so I didn’t know your column existed until I saw this posted.) Cheers!

  42. deleen says:

    Matt, someday it’s going to be your kid that’s the middle-schooler. It makes you feel so old.

    My son is in his room for the evening for telling me some story about his teacher losing his homework. It makes me sad when I e-mail the teachers in order to be supportive and hold my son accountable and consistently get responses where they assume a defensive position. I have to explain to them – “Oh, I know my son isn’t telling me the truth. I need you to tell me if he’s goofing off, or flaking out or what, so that I can force him to fix the problem.” Parents have made these good teachers scared of any parent who would correspond with them. It’s sad.

  43. Betsy says:

    This is my 15th year teaching, my fifth in middle school. Thank you. THANK YOU!! And I don’t even want to go into parents – some are exceedingly supportive, others are in the dark. People need to consider what those babies of theirs are encountering in the public AND private school systems. I am advising my own children to homeschool those grandchildren!

  44. 4real says:

    Solution: Put the responsibility to educate the children right back where it belongs; on the parents. Nothing makes a parent like actually having to be one. Biggest lie: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Public education is a lie and it couldn’t get any worse (God forbid).

    The state’s intent in offering “public” education is to convince parents they are not able or responsible to educate their own kids. (You wouldn’t be THAT audacious to think you could go it alone without them, would you?) The state needs you to work to generate revenue and so they can raise your kids to believe what they deem worthy of your child’s mind and life (you don’t even have to come up with any of it! Isn’t that easy?!). So put them in daycare as infants while you work, work, work, put them in public school while you work, work, work. After all, the only true respect comes from working. Right? It’s all about your rights, right? Oh, and the “village” wants your child. Actually, you owe the village your child so he/she will become decent productive citizens. It wouldn’t be right to leave that up to the parents, c’mon! A. You’re too stupid, so don’t even start. C. It’s way too hard. B. You need to work. Simple, right?

    And, someday when the child is grown and has kids of his own he can put his kids in the same system and work, work, work. It’s all good, you can get more stuff. And now, my God, how else could you pay for health insurance? Right?

    The state’s intent is for the family that isn’t.

    How can parents complain about the public school system while they have kids in it? It’s what they want, obviously. Hi ho, hi ho, ho hum. Keep your eyes on the trail little donkey.

    • I don’t think I could have said it any better! It DOES NOT take a village. It takes a dad and mom!

    • Scott Fenner says:

      That was funny!


      You must have gone to public school.

      • 4real says:

        Scott, glad you caught that and can appreciate the humor. And sadly, as you can see by my poor use of third person pronouns such as “they” instead of “it” when referring back to the state, I did go to public school.

        “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

  45. dossantosbr says:

    Read about interesting things on my blog.

  46. I’m promoting on your page if you let me. lol. This story touches on children, parents, and the unquestioning modern educational system…very hardcore, very experimental…http://officialkushi.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/t2-crickets/

  47. Miss B says:

    As is the case every time I read a blog post from Matt Walsh, I want to applaud and say, “Damn right!”

    I just want to echo what so many other teachers have mentioned in their comments. It is saddening when the parents who hold their kids accountable are the refreshing exception, and not the rule. This is my 5th year teaching junior high (English), and I don’t know how much longer I can stay in it with the way things are going.

  48. doppledanger says:

    Matt, love your blog! I must say as a parent of a toddler and a counselor/therapist I am often disturbed by the lack of interventions from parents with even toddlers. Today, at the library story hour, there was an aggressive little girl with no understanding of boundaries. She is NOT supposed to KNOW this, she has to be TAUGHT this. Her father (I can only assume) was either depressed or just overwhelmed, because he looked slumped over and checked out. He did NOTHING when his baby strolled around the room hitting and pushing other babies. I see this ALL THE TIME in public play areas/events for babies to pre-schoolers. The care-givers of the children who get bullied by these little angels are the ones who have to intervene on behalf of their children. Most times, we are teaching these babies about boundaries and that its not ok to hit, push, shove or take away toys from our children. It is ridiculous! This is where it starts. If we do not teach our babies how to behave socially, they will not learn. If we do not believe they have choices and are just acting on “instinct” we are bound to come up with reasons why they behave the way they do as they get older. Most likely, it will have nothing to do with them and everything to do with blaming anyone and anything else. If parents are expecting society to parent their babies, what do you think is going to happen later in their lives?

  49. John Bach says:

    Couldn’t agree more! For a teacher/administrator’s perspective, read…http://omahanews.com/2013/11/20/our-broken-education-system-john-bach/

    • Kristen says:

      Excellent article, John. I feel so bad for teachers these days. My son was thinking about going into secondary education and thankfully changed his mind.

  50. alisawaninge says:

    Brilliant post, I was just saying “YES” in my head throughout the whole thing.

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