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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 23, 2001
Latest update: March 23, 2001

For Me and for Others

Are We to Blame
for Our Children's Vindictive Behavior?

On Thursday, March 22, 2001, Lois Cole wrote:

Hi Jeanne,

From the Textbook "Not Only For Myself" on page (25) Martha Minow quotes the words of Rabbi Hillell.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?

These lines are impressive to me as they speak to the concern, consideration not just for selfish (me) but for others, and it is about time for us to learn how to practice this.

If adults decide to accept the differences of others, rather than condemn those differences, perhaps the younger generation would cease the senseless retaliation and handle their frustration in a different light.

Jeanne, somehow I feel we have confused our children. We send mixed messages to them. Are we to blame for their vindictive behavior?

On Friday, March 23, jeanne responded:

No, I do not believe we are responsible for our children's vindictive behavior, for humans are unique and do have agency, though sometimes that agency is sorely limited. But we are responsible for disciplining and teaching our children, to the extent that we and they are capable of such endeavors. Actually, because children are a "state interest," meaning that the whole community depends on them for the future, all of us collectively need to take responsibility for them.

  • Parental Responsibility Legislation and Young Offendersby Andrew McNaught, Research Officer, Ontario Legislative Library, Legislative Research Service.

    More later . . .

    love and peace, jeanne

  • I agree with Lois.

    On Friday, March 23, 2001, Valencia Ross responded:

    Hi, Jeanne.

    I agree with Lois' comment because people are constantly criticizing and stereotyping others because of their differences. Often times trying to dehumanize people just to make themselves look good. Children learn these bad habits and tend to practice what they see. So it is up to the adults to be aware that youngsters are going to mimic their actions.

    Valencia Ross

    On Friday, March 23, 2001, jeanne responded:

    Valencia, that's what makes some of these fundamental social issues with which we are coping today so complex. I agree with both you and Lois. We do need to heighten our awareness of the adversarial behaviors in which we engage, for our youngsters learn a great deal from modeling our behavior.

    But, at the same time, I would like, especially in criminology, that you recognize how easy it is to cross over the line from making parents aware of the extent to which they can influence their children to the structurally violent imposition of dominant discourse that parents simply ARE responsible for what their children do. Here, it's important to realize that children, as unique human beings, have agency, as do parents, and that agency is interdependent with the structural context, which is generally controlled by the normative expectations of dominant discourse.

    See the problem. There are no hard and fast always true answers. These are complex issues. It is this complexity we wish to address on our site. Discussions such as this constitute real public discourse. And they matter. For we ARE the public. We are part of this whole society, and ultimate peace and prosperity are going to come from our collective efforts.

    Some references:


    I agree and disagree with Lois.

    On Saturday, March 24, 2001, Anita Johnson wrote:

    Hi Jeanne. this is Anita again. i'm writing regarding the article that lois read (Not Only For Myself" on page (25) Martha Minow quotes the words of Rabbi Hillel.), and i agree and disagree because that subject is very personal to me. i am a probation offricer and i have a family member on probation and locked up. right now i'm saying that most parents that i come in contact with have done the best they could to raise their children in a way that they would be productive citizens. however, there is this thing now where children think that behaving in a negative way is the way to get attention from adults, especially their parents. sometimes these kids are growing up in single parent households, and the parents have to work and go to school and do what ever it takes to provide for them. some kids don't understand what the parent is going through mentally trying to be there for them. some time it seems like the parent is being selfish. however, that parent is often doing the job of two people.

    there are instances in which the parent is being selfish and doing their own thing but in my years of working with juvenile deinquents, they are just basically trying to find their way into adulthood, but they are going about it the wrong way.

    Jeanne, i hope i didn't fall too far off the subject. i feel that 90% of the parents are doing the best they can for their children, but the chidren are just finding their own way, which is the wrong way.

    On Saturday, March 24, jeanne responded:

    Well stated, Anita. I think that you and Lois might want to work together on this topic for the essay test. What you have just said very well in your own words, Anita, is that both parents and chidren have agency in this matter. For further understanding of this take a look at Joanna Carillo's shared comments on Agency and Social Structure in the Family.

    This is one of those complex social problems to which there are no definitive answers. It helps if we bear in mind that none of us "knows" the answer. For this theoretical piece, see Jonathan Lear on "knowingness."

    Good thinking. love and peace, jeanne