Permissive Parents: Should Responsibility Be Added To The 3 R’s?

Water_Balloon1

Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to raise his or her kid, but hang on a second. HANG ON!

Today I heard a story about a group of students at a Long Island high school that were suspended for taking part in an annual water balloon fight. Unfortunately for the students, the school’s principal, assistant principal and a crossing guard were all hit with the rubber shrapnel.

Included in the group are several seniors who now won’t be able to walk the across the stage for graduation – and the students’ parents are up in arms, many saying the punishment is too severe. But, here’s the rub; the students had been warned prior to taking aim. That’s right, they were told they would be suspended if they took part in the water balloon fight, that they wouldn’t be able to turn the tassel with their classmates and yet they did it anyway. So what’s wrong with this picture?

Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s the parents and their misplaced anger that really makes me mad! Should they really be pissed at school officials because their little angels went against what authorities said and got their teenage butts in a sling? No they should be seething at their own children!

Those kids are being held responsible for actions they took. They knew it wouldn’t end well; school officials told them as much. But the part that really gets my goat is their adolescent arrogance. Where did that come from? Those very parents are now trying to smooth things over for them. See, I’m convinced these kids did what they did because they knew their parents would bail them out; they’d probably been doing it since they put their thumbs in someone else’s push pot in the second grade.

Parenting is a hard thing and the utterly cruel thing is that there is no manual. So we end up having to feel our way through the dark, doing the best we can to prepare our kids for adulthood. Are these kids going to be better off, equipped for adulthood if their folks are always waiting in the wings to clean up their poor choices and bad behavior? Uh, no – they won’t be. What they are going to assume is that the rules that everyone else plays by don’t apply to them. That’s going to be a huge problem when they find out they actually do.

Sure we’ve been down the road before – remember the story of James Tate and his cardboard prom sign? But for me this story doesn’t feel the same – in that case, I did feel officials were being a bit ridiculous. But please don’t tell me, “It was just a water balloon fight” because it was not. This was willful disobedience and now their parents want it excused. Yes the punishment is harsh. Yes it sucks. Yes it’s too bad that these kids screwed up four years in a moment of stupidity. But at the risk of showing my age, as rapper Kurtis Blow famously said, these are the breaks.

If I were one of these parents, I’d be pissed too, but not at the school. I would suck some of the joy from right on out of my kid’s summer by grounding them and taking some of their allowance but not before explaining why. The things is these kids will learn a lesson, but if the school caves and parents win, it won’t be the one that will help them get through life.

Okay that’s my take, what about you? Do you agree with the school’s hardline approach? Should the kids be allowed to graduate with their class and be punished in some other way? How would you feel if one of these kids was yours? Would you back the school or beg for mercy?

Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create GoodEnoughMother.com . When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.

12 Comments

  1. Irene

    June 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    First of all….Gem I don’t think grounding a graduate from highschool for a whole summer would work but that is just me….

    2nd….I see your point and I would be mad at my kids too for doing something they were warned not to do…this thing though with rites of passage and what other seniors were allowed to do in previous years that caused this no water balloon rule in the 1st place is part of the whole problem at play here too.

    Our seniors have a parade every year the last week of school…they meet at the community center and decorate cars and floats and caravan to school. Well, one year a new principle decided this would end…no more senior parade. (from a safety & liability standpoint good idea for the Red Rebel seniors :-( ) So, a parent used his company dumptruck put a bunch of seniors in the back and dumped them off at school on not~a ~senior~parade~day…Of couse, no one said you couldn’t dump your kids off at school right???

    I would go beg for mercy with my kid doing the apologizing but I don’ think senior pranks rise to the level of not getting to walk the stage for graduation. Afterall, many others who helped that kid make it to the tossles look forward to that day.

    P.S. Cole will be a senior one day and given his cheery disposition I am glad you are thinking about this one now!! Just kidding! (don’t kick me out of here)

  2. Sonia

    June 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I agree completely with the author of this article. Kids really need to learn some responsibility. If the administration doesn’t stick to their word, future classes may take this situation/prank even further. In addition, the administrators trying to quiet this situation were directly attacked with the balloons (along with the poor crossing guard)–getting hit directly and intentionally in the face and privates with balloons that may or may not have been filled with water (rumor has it that some balloons were filled with sticky soda, urine, and Nair). I don’t think the punishment is too harsh, especially since they were warned.

  3. m.e. johnson

    June 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Boy, the lazy, cranky, hard-nosed, zero-tolerance, no-teaching asses in schools these days make me glad I’m done with all that. The ‘punishment’ is too severe and comes off like “how dare you…” So many of the rules are just to make it even easier on the employees ~ don’t have to think, make decisions, etc. And the children know it. They have more sense than you’re giving them credit for. Perhaps they’ll be the ones with backbone to stand up to our corporate masters and “git ‘er done”. Oh the spoilt ones will learn, as they always have in the past millenium that stuff like this has happened.

    If there is a decent solution, it would be for both sides to do some civil negotiating, i.e., students will spend one month painting or cleaning for old people, volunteering at a center or food bank, etc.

    I’m hoping for an amicable solution here because ~ I have to say it ~ all it takes is 1 or 2 students to be revengeful and do something REALLY stupid and ruin things for everyone.

  4. Jennifer

    June 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I would support the idea that it was all in fun, but if any of my three kids decided to do something like this, even after being warned what the consequences were? I would say ‘tough shit’ for you and you can explain to your grandparents why you’re not allowed to walk on stage and get your diploma. When are our kids supposed to learn about consequences if we keep bailing them out? This is our job as parents. Call me crazy if you like. I’m going through sometihng very similar with my 14 year old boy right now and I’m trying to teach him that his actions have consequences for the bazillionith time in his lifetime and I passed crazy two exits ago about three hours ago … he’s a very, very bright boy, but he’s not getting it – hopefully after this round of punishment that I doled out, he will. I’m not holding my breath. His punishment is the loss of his cell phone and FB page for two weeks. If you could hear the drama and see the tears … and yes, I said tears – you’d think I’d cut both his hands off without anesthesia!

  5. Cee

    June 21, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    And if someone had gotten hurt from the water balloon throws–say the “target” slipped and fell, or worse–not walking during graduation would have been the least of their problems. Especially if any of the little darling water pilots had just turned 18. If it had been been me hit and injured, you bet they’d be hearing from my lawyer. They basically told school officials “f-you”. If you deliberately threw it, then you should accept full responsibility for whatever happens next.

  6. Irene

    June 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Cee…that is one of my issues about this…everything boils down to making a mountain out of a mole hill….I remember when I was in highschool in the 80s we teepeed the teacher’s homes, vaselined their desk handles….but now a kid makes a mistake and we are calling in the lawyers. I remember in highschool my uncle who was a county cop…small town school I was from would throw parties knowing darn well people would find out….if my uncle was on duty and called to the scene of the latest parent out for the weekend whose home was now party central…all he would have to do is knock on the door and ask if my brother or I were there. Of course people said, “no” so he would then say, “I am going to come back in xxx amount of time….” That was it he would see the party over in his rear view mirror…nowadays this same thing happens and parents are prosecuted, kids are charged as adults…..

    I think you make a good illustration Cee and I think the kids should have not done it but to miss graduation??? I am more convinced after 2 hours of thinking about this that the kids should get to walk for graduation. Just do what M.E. suggest make them do a Saturday community service….

  7. Margit

    June 22, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I’m in complete agreement with you Rene. How do we teach our children that actions really do have consequences if we pick and choose? How do we get them to believe us if we say, well, I was just kidding this time, but next time I’m serious…well, I think, maybe.

  8. Pat

    June 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I agree with Rene. We moved from that town because parents weren’t being parents. Children as young as 8 or 9 were allowed to be disrespectful to adults and authority. No consequences when they were that young, so no wonder they don’t respect authority and the rules as seniors. The parents are just as responsible as the kids in this case. I would be furious with my kids, not the school. Time for parents to stand up and be parents, not friends, to their children.

  9. Will Jones

    June 22, 2011 at 10:34 am

    If the administrators let these kids off now, they’re setting themselves up to catch hell next year. I agree whole-heartedly with GEM.
    But I think this is a case of threatening with a punishment that was too severe in the first place. As parents, we’ve all been guilty of this one. The old “if you do that one more time, I’m gonna…”. And once you’ve threatened a child with it, you have no choice but to back up the threat or lose all creditability. I told my son he’d be grounded for a month once for what was actually a minor offense. The next time it happened, I’m fairly sure it actually was a mistake, but he and his younger sister were both waiting to see if I’d stick to my word. I did. 30 days of not leaving the house, no phone, no games, no computer, extra chores… the whole nine. I felt a little bad because I was angry when I made the threat, but once it was made, it had to be enforced. “Rules is rules!”

  10. Irene

    June 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Well hey there Good Enough guy…..
    So, the seniors get three punishments for one offense, suspension, no prom and no walking graduation??? What about a junior, sophomore or freshmen??? will they get the same three punishments…..

    Sorry but day after this just wasn’t well thought out………..

  11. Jack

    June 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    I graduated East Rockaway High School last year. Every article i have read so far keeps stating that these water balloon fights are “Annual”. No grade in any of the recent years has had a water balloon fight as a senior prank.
    My grade 2010 had a slip and slide on the front lawn (we got permission). 2009 unleashed massive amounts of crickets into the hallways, painted a marijuana leaf on the bell tower, and had a mosh pit in the rotunda (the ones that were caught weren’t allowed to walk, but since nobody fessed up for the bell tower the school took money from each grade to pay for the damages).
    The class of 2011 has gone down as one of the worst behaved classes of all time. I will not go into all of the things they have done over the past years because that would be annoying, but i can tell you this when not a single teacher in the entire school wants to be your class adviser, well you’re not doing something right.
    Also less than one week earlier at the 2011 Senior Banquet, these kids (many of which were also involved in the balloon fight) thoroughly trashed the banquet hall, destroyed the cake throwing it all over the walls, were puking all over the floor from drinking to much, and one girl was caught giving oral sex on the back deck of the banquet hall. For all of that these few kids had the prom taken away.
    As for the kids in the lower grades involved in the balloon fight, they are not allowed to go to the prom and some are not allowed to participate in sports next year.

    Every year the school sends out the same exact warning and we always either head the warning or pay the consequence it should be no different than with this year.

  12. Betty

    July 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    I agree with the author. If these stupid kids want to rebel against something why don’t they rebel against hunger and poverty? Rebel against bad grades and bullying! Idiots could have went to a park away from school if they wanted to have a water balloon fight. The problem with this happening on or near school is that kids that don’t want to partake are often bullied or victimized under the guise of “fun”. These idjits ought to be glad the school is letting them have their diplomas at all. The parents ought to be grateful they weren’t charged some kind of fine. I bet if we start holding parents accountable for their children’s actions there would be considerably less permissive attitudes towards irresponsible behavior and blatant disregard for rules.

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