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Can Generational Changes in Parenting Send Modern Dads to Jail?

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For a good year, securing my then two-year-old into his car seat was like getting toothpaste back into the tube–impossible and messy.

One ploy we used was telling him the police would arrest us if he wasn’t safely buckled in. We didn’t really expect a screeching police cruiser to pull up if our son wasn’t perfectly secure, but when you’re desperate you try almost anything.

Today, that tall tale seems downright… believable.

Parents across the country are getting arrested for things that might seem either harmless or just mildly inappropriate. One parent got hauled off to jail for letting her son walk to a park located less than a half mile from their home by himself. Another got cuffed for talking too long at a school board meeting.

A South Carolina mom landed in jail after uttering an “F-bomb” at a grocery store. That alone could lead to mass parental arrests. I fear I might be one of the many well-intentioned dads staring out from a police car, assuming an officer can hear what I mutter when my sons misbehave at our favorite restaurant.

It’s impossible to miss these stories. They light up Facebook and Twitter pages, so even if you avoid the nightly news or your incredibly shrinking newspaper you’ll end up reading them all the same.

Thank you, social media.

Truth is, the parenting times, they are a-changing. What once was perfectly normal is now unacceptable or at the very least frowned upon. I grew up riding my bicycle without wearing a helmet. I spent countless hours trapped in the family car while my parents puffed away.

I’m glad kids wear bicycle helmets today, and that most moms and dads think twice before lighting up around their children. Not every change is for the better, but overall we’re becoming a safer, more enlightened society.

Could these isolated incidences of parental punishment be a sign that we’ve pushed matters too far?

Perhaps, but it’s a healthy conversation for a culture to have. And, frankly, it’s up to today’s parents to stay up to speed on generational changes. In fact, a new poll says most of us think the parent who let her child go to the park by himself did the wrong thing. The telephone poll by Reason-Rupe says 82 percent of Americans think it should be illegal for children 9 years old and younger to be unsupervised in public parks. The boy in question was seven.

What’s a parent to do? Certainly he or she shouldn’t sweat every time a police cruiser drives by. But thinking through situations involving your children is rarely unwise. And, if a social media story involving a dad arrested for his parenting decisions makes you give extra thought to your own rules, that could be a very good thing.

Photo credit: W-MUR TV

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