Father of the Year, Or…?

A story this week by True contributor Jennifer Weiner struck me the wrong way, so I sent it back for a rewrite. I thought you might find the original story intriguing, as well as her reaction to my rewrite request.

Let’s start with the original she submitted — verbatim (minus one typo I found):

Submitted Version

Matt the Ratt

The kids of an Ipswich, Australia family are in a heap of trouble. Their father stated that he caught his 17-year-old son, and his daughter, 15, bashing a 13-year-old boy so badly that they broke his jaw. Matt grabbed the victim, took him home to his parents, then took his two children to the police station and turned them in for the crime. He also sold his son’s car and his daughter’s horse as punishment. He said he was so enraged because he had been a victim of similar attacks when he was younger, and had suffered long-lasting consequences. The two children have now been charged with assault. A police spokesman said that Matt relayed the story as part of the area’s “Anti-bullying awareness week”. According to Matt, he was once bullied for the same reason as this victim: wearing eyeglasses. He claimed he would avoid wearing his glasses just to prevent the bullying, which eventually did permanent harm to his eyesight. Matt said he will support any charges pressed by the victim’s parents. The two children are reportedly remorseful and hope the money from the sale of the horse and car will go to the victim. (JW/Sydney Morning Herald) …I wonder why contact lens sales have skyrocketed in the last few weeks.

No Bully Zone
Photo by Eddie~S on Flickr

Try It Again

I didn’t really like the “Matt the Ratt” slug — it dissed the father without backing up the dis in the story (or tagline). And I thought the tagline was based on story details that were only added to support the tagline; the “why” of him being bullied as a child wasn’t really relevant to the point.

Jennifer responded with a bit of a rant (which is fine with me — I do it plenty!):

Let me at least tell you where my mind was coming from on the original:

I thought the father was a pri*k. You don’t turn in your own family members to the cops — they will be convicted felons for the rest of their lives and they are only teenagers. This same kind of beatdown apparently occurred once before. He should have done somethign THEN to make it so they would rather die than to ever try such a thing again. He didn’t.

I cannot even endure the thought of that kind of bullying, but if it happens, there’s more likely to be a psychological component, not so much a criminal tendency (IMHO).

He should have handled it at home. Yes, sell the horse, the dog, the car, the whatever. Ground them for months. But isn’t there some kind of a little ‘rule’ that says, you DON’T have your kids arrested (unless we’re talking about, like, MURDER). These kids need to go through a CLOCKWORK ORANGE brainwash, not prison for some of the most important years of their lives. They can NEVER undo the conviction, the criminal record, etc. It’s a HORRIBLE thing to do to your own kids. They could have made their kids’ lives a living HELL at home, but at least they wouldn’t have to be judged and discriminated against for the rest of their poor lives. That’s where that angle came from.

I am going to guess why [you didn’t like the tag]: it fails to make an effective statement about the seriousness of the topic, and therefore it wastes an opportunity to do that.

I replied:

Right — and to make it work, too much irrelevant detail had to be added to the story. You can definitely take that angle if you want, but make it more clear; USE THE OPPORTUNITY to make your point known. That’s really hard to do in such limited space, but the payoff can be enormous.

She actually didn’t go there, though. Here’s where the story ended up:

Final Version

Guaranteeing a Lesson Is Learned

The kids of an Ipswich, Qld., Australia, family are in a heap of trouble. Their father says he caught his 17-year-old son and his 15-year-old daughter bashing a 13-year-old boy so badly that they broke his jaw. The man, identified only as “Matt”, took the victim home to his parents, then took his two children to the police station and turned them in for the crime; they were charged with assault. Matt said he will support any charges pressed by the victim’s parents. He also sold his son’s car and his daughter’s horse as punishment. Matt said he was enraged because he had been a victim of similar attacks when he was younger. A police spokesman said his timing is good: it was “Anti-bullying awareness week”. The two children are reportedly remorseful, and hope the money from the sale of the horse and car will go to the victim. (JW/Sydney Morning Herald) …I guess “anti-bullying awareness week” worked.

I told Jennifer I’d put both versions in my blog, and let the readers “duke it out” in the comments. After all, the kids did commit a crime — a serious assault. What do you think: was the father right, or wrong? Bullying is a real problem in schools; is this one good way to handle it? Why or why not?

Or, to put it another way: if you had a brief sentence to send a funny, ironic, or thought-provoking message to “Matt”, what would it be?

But please read the comments first to make sure someone else hasn’t already said it.

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156 Comments on “Father of the Year, Or…?

  1. I guess “daddy” wanted his parenting failure for all to see. Might as well get the cops involved, dad sure can’t parent.

  2. I would say that the father was right in this case to take it to the police – the victim has a broken jaw! That is a little more serious than just “picking on” another kid. Up until there was a serious injury, I would agree that the father should have handled it without involving the police. Once it crosses that point, the police need to be involved.

  3. Matt did the right thing. In her return note, Jennifer said that he had caught the kids doing something similar previously. If they did not change their behavior after initial inhouse discipline and at their nearly adult ages, then the police are a fine option.

  4. I absolutely agree with the father. Bullying victim or not, what his children did is a crime and they should be punished accordingly.

    My parents always told me that if I ever got arrested not to waste my phone call on them because they would not bail me out of jail. I will tell my children the same.

  5. Judging by the news… the father is portrayed like a hero.

    Judging by her reply… she has a point in mentioning the lasting effect it would create to the children’s emotional growth.

    If that father was not bullied when he was a kid, his reaction would have been to apologize to the parents and settle the problem at home like any normal parent would do (Grounding them for months and selling their favorite stuff).

  6. I think the father did the right thing. If he did not turn his kids in to the police, and the other family did press charges, would the father have been in risk of being charged as an accessory? Also, the kids may not end up as “convicted felons.” The article doesn’t mention anything about convictions.

  7. BLECH! You’re asking us to have the wisdom of Solomon, so here goes my try:

    Sell the car & horse to pay for the kid’s medical bills. Have the brother/sister team present the $ to the kid & his parents with Dad observing, no lawyers. Let the chips fall where they may. The victim may press charges, or he may not. Some of our Aussie cousins are more tolerant of dumb behavior if there is true remorse than many of us Yanks.

    This way Dad isn’t a rat, and the kids face the real world: sometimes you are forgiven for misdeeds, other times you’re not. If the victim did press charges, by showing remorse the Judge or DA may allow them to plead to a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

  8. Addendum to my earlier comment:

    How can making your child’s life a “living hell” at home any less horrible than turning them in to the police when they commit a violent crime like this?

  9. I think the father did the right thing. It doesn’t matter who it is that committed the crime, they should do the time.

    Had it been a total stranger that witnessed the attack on the 13 year old boy, that total stranger might have called police. Would the situation be any different? No, who reported the kids makes no difference. They should be arrested for what they did.

  10. Unless you have experienced the problem you have no way you can comment. I turned my son into the FBI on a drug charge many years ago. He did his time and all is OK now with him.

    Now there’s the voice of experience! -rc

  11. Sorry, an assault that resulted in a serious injury? If the dad didn’t turn the kids in, then the police would have come knocking.

    Where do you draw the line between ‘criminal’ and ‘childhood mistake’?

  12. The father is a rat and a child abuser. He has betrayed his family, and none of his relatives ought ever to forgive him. His wife should divorce him, and should be awarded sole custody of all kids, without visitation unless the kids ask for it. Whether his kids deserve to be arrested is entirely irrelevant; if the victim or his parent had pressed charges, that would be another matter entirely.

    Indeed, if the victim or his family pressed charges, any punishment at home would be inappropriate: You ought to stand by your family in such cases as much as you honestly can.

    As for giving money to the victim, that is not appropriate unless it’s part of an agreement, with the consent of all three teenagers (the perpetrators and the victim), to avoid litigation.

    And selling what were probably the kids’ most valued possessions — one of which was an animal! — makes him even worse.

  13. I agree with the re-write. Did this story hit home with me. I too suffered from bullying after I started wearing glasses in the second grade. I became reclusive and extremely shy because of it. The bullying affected me my entire life so I have no sympathy for the kids. I told my two boys if you screw up you will pay the consequences. Seemed to work because they both are responsible adults. I believe it is totally irresponsible for a parent to shove this behavior under the rug. Kids today do not and will not accept responsibility for their actions.

  14. This page omits data that would be useful to give an informed response. Would the kids’ experience actually stay on their records for life? What are the rules with respect to juvenile crimes in that jurisdiction? Where I live, it certainly would not. The only record it would remain on is their memories, which is where it counts.

    FWIW, I also think this is a failure of parenting, but in a slightly different way. Rather than turn in his kids, I think he should have made them turn themselves in.

  15. I feel that the father may have erred in taking this to the police, since a felony conviction will haunt them all their lives. that said, absolutely they committed felony battery. they BEAT this kid so hard they BROKE HIS JAW. do you have any idea how hard it is to break a jaw? for what? what horrible thing did the kid do? he wore glasses.

    now, as a person who wears glasses, and was bullied in school for other reasons, i think that those kids should be in mandatory counseling at the least, and maybe jail if counseling doesn’t work.

    and heck YES you sell their car (i hate to think about someone with anger issues like that behind the wheel) and their horse (if they treat a fellow student that way how does she treat the poor horse?) and use it to cover the victim’s medical bills.

    i would have liked to see this handled in juvenile court at the worst, or in mandated binding arbitration, but you do what you have to.

  16. I think the hardest thing for a parent to do is decide when to address issues in-house and when to involve outsiders. In this case, I believe the father did the right thing. The offense was far more serious than simple bullying, resulting in a serious injury to the victim. The fact that the children had committed similar offenses in the past would indicate this is beyond Dad’s ability to resolve, and the severity of the attack rather mandates police involvement. As far as the write-ups for the story go, I think the 2nd is the better story.

  17. It’s sad to me that people think it is more important not to “rat out” your kids, than to teach them to take responsibility for their actions, especially when they hurt other people.

    The article states that he caught his kids in the act; meaning they were in the middle of their attack when he stopped them. They had already broken the poor kid’s jaw at the point, who knows what further damage would have been inflicted if he hadn’t intervened? Obviously, since it wasn’t the first time he caught them, they didn’t learn their lesson. How many times was he supposed to let them get away with that behaviour? 5? 10? Forever? Until they beat someone up so badly that they accidentally killed them?

    There comes a point where the best thing you can do for your kids is let them learn a lesson the hard way, instead of coddling and defending them no matter what they do.

  18. I agree with Jennifer, you never turn your kids in for something like this. I was in a fight and convicted of battery when I was 17. 30 years later it turned up again to haunt me.

    Maybe the father should have nipped this in the bud years ago. Kids of this age don’t just start bullying, as evidenced by the report that this happened before, and probably more than he knows.

    I feel this is a case of another parent refusing to raise their kids and want someone else to do the hard work.

  19. If it was me (I too was bullied when young, and have kids, but they are ten years younger than in this case),
    I would have sold the horse and car, and then sat my kids down to have a long, long talk.

    This is what the father should have done the FIRST time this happened.

    A talk about why what they did was wrong, and what the consequences COULD have been; Not just for themselves (losing possessions, arrest, jail time, paying compensation), but for the boy they were bullying. (Psychological (long term) as well as physical (short and long term) damage.

    Once I was sure they understood all that, I would have then made them go and apologise themselves, (and then followed them to apologise on my own behalf, for not raising them better.

    I would ASK that charges not be pressed, as the kids are showing remorse, and the legal system can often be TOO unforgiving, but I would understand if the victim’s parents chose to follow that path, as that MAY carry the lesson (If their remorse led to mitigation in their favour), that facing up to one’s mistakes, and showing remorse, can be the best way to react to them, rather than running or shifting the blame.

    One thing that bugs me about it (I haven’t read the full story, this is based only on the way it is written on your blog), is the reason the father gives for being so severe. It came across to me that he was in some way exacting revenge for his own experience as a child, against his own kids; punishing them for what happened to him, not what they did to another child. (if that is true then Jennifer’s assessment of him is probably accurate.)

  20. Another voice of experience here. I was watching Crime Stopper videos one night and saw a story about serious vandalism and something twigged in my mind that it might be my son and his friends. Long story, short I confronted the teens and they admitted that it had been them. One of their acquaintance had had a “bad day” and started the damage and they got caught up in the act with him. They caused over $10,000 damage that evening.

    I knew I had to turn them in. I called one of the other parents and told them what I planned on doing because he is a cop and I did not want it to come as a surprise and his response was “turn their asses in”. I informed the kids that I was turning them in and the ones I told (3 of the 6 involved) agreed that I should and told me who the other 3 involved were.

    They were all 15 yr old at the time (now 23) so under the Youth Justice Act here in Canada 5 of the 6 went through the Youth Justice System which states if you keep your nose clean for 4 years (I think) after that the incident it is pardoned but if they continued in crime it would be held again them. They had to do community service hours, pay retribution, write a letter of apology to the victim and more I can’t remember.

    The one who did not cooperate was shipped to another province to live with her grandparents I found out later it was because the parents were drug addicts and did not want to be in trouble with the law themselves – she is now pregnant and has already claimed 3 different guys are the father (my son included) another long story.

    Results: I lost contact with 2 of the other 5 so I don’t know. The starter of the vandalism continued a life of crime. The other 2 turned themselves around and are productive members of society – that would be my son and the cop’s son.

  21. There’s got to be more to the story. If his children truly beat a younger kid so savagely that they broke his jaw just because he wore glasses, they are monsters and deserve whatever punishment the law can provide. I have a hard time imagining a kid using that level of violence for that reason alone. Either they are true deviants who need to be removed from society or they had another motive driving them to use extreme force.

  22. If I found my kids involved in this then the Police Station would only be the first stop of the day. The second would be the Emergency Department of the local hospital to show them what happens to the victims of Assault.

    There can be no soft options when dealing with this behaviour and “ratting” on your kids is the absolute right thing to do in the long run, even if you don’t get Christmas Cards for a few years afterwards.

    I was listening to the radio station when this guy first came out in public to tell his story (it was a call in on bullying stories) and he was given huge support by the listeners. In my opinion he is a great dad and did the right thing.

    He called up a few days later and told how the kids didn’t realise how mean they really were and were showing “real” remorse. I hope that is true, for both their sakes.

  23. We don’t know what the father said to his kids after the last time. I believe in keeping one’s word, and if he told them if they did it again, he’d turn them in himself, I think that is ample justification for him doing so.

    If they haven’t figured out by 15 and 17 years of age that beating up another person is not okay, I think it’s time for drastic measures. They were not being innocent kids by doing this. They should suffer the consequences of their actions.

    Lots of us have things that we will have “hanging over our heads” all our lives. Most of us didn’t actively ask for them, even though these kids did, in my opinion.

  24. Hmm, so many fronts here. First, I’ve seen every combination of good/bad parents/kids to know that nobody can point the finger with authority. Besides the obvious good kids from good parents, and bad kids from bad parents, I’ve seen good kids from bad parents, as well as bad kids from good parents. There is no universal, or even general, predictor. All parents and all kids have a mixture of good and bad qualities, as well as influence from many sources around them besides themselves.

    While I tend to agree that parents should try to protect their children while properly guiding them, when it comes to committing a felony assault, I cannot pass it off as a “youthful” mistake. Which felonies (murder, rape?) cross the line, while others are merely serious, but “okay”? (Assault with severe bodily injury?)

    But the front that causes me the most concern is the idea that this is a story fitting of this format. There was nothing weird, ironic, silly, stupid, or funny about this story. It’s simply an all-too-common tragedy, both from the victim’s and the family’s point of view.

    Perhaps Jennifer feels it’s strange that a father would have turned in his own (near adult) children. If so, she’s incredibly naive. But Randy, in rewriting the story, legitimized her assessment, although from a different perspective. Give the man credit for backing her up, even though their perspectives may differ. My own perspective is that the story doesn’t fit the “True” format.

    As for whether the father is at fault or not, that’s up to the court and to his own conscience as a parent. As a father, myself, I’ve had to make hard decisions, but I’m grateful that I’ve never had to make any as hard as Matt’s.

  25. I have no sympathy for the parents who say that they would sit their kid down and “explain” things to them. Explanations are meaningless at that age. Kids need a shock to the system that sticks in the memory, not a lecture.

    I was both the kid being bullied and the kid being arrested when I was in my teens. I was the runt in the area, four inches shorter than the other kids and constantly being bullied. The bullies’ parents told them it was wrong. It didn’t stop the bullying.

    I was also arrested just a month before my 16th birthday (which kept me out of adult court in Canada). The shock and terror of being arrested and popped into jail, stopped my bad behavior dead in its tracks. My parents didn’t bail me out. They picked me up when I was released and informed me that forgiveness was not forthcoming.

    My mother finally forgave me a couple of months before she died.

    That arrest stopped me from going down a path where I would never have been forgiven, not by her and not by myself.

    Butch up parents. If that fellow didn’t do what he did, it’s more likely that no amount of lecturing would have stopped those kids from sliding into hell.

  26. So easy to pass judgment on dad and forget that he’s dealing with kids. Guess what? Kids aren’t born perfect. They make mistakes and bad choices, even when parents do all the right stuff. As for “He should have set them straight about consequences, and he should have talked hard to them after the first offense,” we don’t know that he *didn’t* already do that.

    If he told them the consequences could be severe and affect their futures, and they repeated their mistakes, then it’s his tough love duty to follow through with the lesson. Brother and sister, bullying as a team (or pack) is a horrifying emotional bond to have to overcome, and not something ‘rulebook’ discipline is written to address.

    Was he right? Was he wrong? We can have opinions but I, for one, will not judge harshly a dad who took measures to let his kids experience the consequences of their bad choices, rather than trying to shield them from the fall out of what seems to be a repeat offense. I’m hopeful for both families, since the kids are expressing remorse.

    Parenting ain’t for sissies and there are no easy answers. He didn’t give up on his kids. He determined to teach them a hard lesson. All three kids will be affected for the rest of their lives. The injured party has the right to seek justice – or mercy, if he chooses.

  27. Heck yes he did the right thing – well, *a* right thing, I’m not going to claim it was the only right thing to do.
    – We have no information on what he’s done before to try to rein his kids in from bullying others, so we can’t say he’s refusing to parent his own kids.

    – They committed a serious assault for a stupidly minor reason. The police were practically guaranteed to be involved anyway – if anything, turning them in instead of waiting for someone to come and arrest them has probably lessened their eventual punishment.

    – Giving his kids a “Clockwork Orange” brainwash and making their lives a “living hell” at home would have been abuse (which I note previous commentators are accusing the father of based on the sale of the kids’ possessions and turning them in. Er, no.)

    – The “little ‘rule’ that says, you DON’T have your kids arrested (unless we’re talking about, like, MURDER) is what leads to families where cowardly parents protect their children from the consequences of their acts, through theft and assault and who knows what and yes, eventually murder… because they’re family, or they insist they’re repentant, or because it’ll ruin their lives, or because the neighbours will talk (horrors!).

    – And as for the argument that any conviction will follow them for the rest of their lives and make things harder for them: GOOD. Of their own free choice, they took action that now has consequences.

    What about the victim? 13 years old. Two and four years younger than his assailants. SERIOUSLY HURT, physically and almost certainly psychologically. How long have they been bullying him? How many lesser injuries has he suffered? How much of his trust in the people who should have protected and helped him is gone? How many other kids have they bullied? How many adults have looked the other way, or wagged a finger at them and let them go without consequences, because “kids will be kids”? or “it’s not that serious”? or “we don’t want our school to get a rep for bullying”? or “he must have done something to start it”? or “if you just ignore them they’ll stop”? or “if he weren’t a wimp he could take care of it himself”?

    To the people who are angry at the father, I ask: which of these excuses are you using to make the kids’ action somehow okay?

    To Jennifer Weiner: Yes, sometimes a bad parent gives up on doing their own discipline and essentially tells the police “I can’t control them, you fix it”. And sometimes a GOOD parent brings in the police as the only effective fix for a situation that’s gone very, very wrong.

  28. I doubt this was a second offense for these two children. A parent turns in children as a last resort, when they are at their wits end and their hearts are breaking.

    A broken jaw is a very serious and very painful injury. This comes from being hit with a bat or a boot, not a fist. And for wearing glasses these two children took it upon themselves to…what? What were they trying to do? Teach him a lesson? Bolster their own self worth? Release pent up anger? Or worse, assuage their boredom?

    Keeping children who act out to this extent at home is not a remedy for such a serious act. And this was a serious act. Every act and decision has consequences. The broken jaw was a consequence for wearing the glasses; A consequence force upon a young boy by two others. Can you imagine being him. Why should the other two not be forced to suffer the consequences of their actions.

    If as a society, we view a child receiving a broken jaw for wearing glasses as a prank, then it is not a society in which I care to live. I applaud the father!

  29. A few years ago, my “adopted nephew” was taken to the hospital after a bullying incident. He was being taunted by a boy from his school. He had enough and started a fight. The other boy finished it — with a knife. Fortunately, although there was lots of blood, nothing vital was hit.

    By the time I got to the house, the police had been called and the “adopted nephew” was already at the hospital.

    The knife-wielding party was arrested, and entered the juvenile justice system. I would not have thought well of the family if they had shielded him from the police system.

    In this case, too, a serious injury occurred. Broken jaws are less bloody than the stab wounds my “adopted nephew” sustained, but take a lot longer to heal. I think the broken jaw is arguably more serious than the stab wounds, where the police were definitely involved. If it’s worth involving the police in one case, it’s worth involving them in the other, and calling the police should be the responsibility of anyone who’s in the mix.

    Of course, this leads to the issue of judging what amount of injury is sufficient to justify involving the police. I think both cases, involving serious injury, are clearly over the line. Bruises and bloody noses have traditionally not crossed the line (but might in a “zero tolerance” culture). Then we get in to the realm of mental injury. This has generally been dismissed — “sticks and stones…” But “willful infliction of mental anguish” is a valid claim under tort law. Is it only adults who can suffer mental anguish?

    One of the commenters speculated that the father in this story might have been motivated by a desire to avenge the bullying he suffered. Well, what if it was? I still think his action was justified, and may have morally necessary. If his actions were motivated by his memories of his own bullying, maybe it’s a sign that his skin was too thin. Or maybe he’s aware of the emotional damage bullying causes to its victims.

    I wish more people had taken bullying more seriously in my day.

  30. Jennifer assumes that because the kids (reportedly) did this before (we only have her reference to it in her comments back to you) that the father is a failure. Hmmmm, she has NEVER had to tell her child (if she has any) no more than once for the same thing? By her logic if she did than she is a failure as a parent. Some kids will say yes they understand and no they won’t do it again just to stop the lecture and then go ahead and do it again. Most of the time they can’t put together actions = consequences. Look how many wrap themselves and their friends around trees and telephone poles because they can’t grasp that speeding can lead to death. And we only have two incidents we know about, how many times did it really happen?

    I don’t know how the juvenile system works in Australia. In PA if they are not adjudicated as adults their juvenile record (yes, even felonies) is expunged when they turn 18.

    Was the father wrong for turning them in? I don’t believe so. He tried to stop it the first time and they did not listen to him. Yes, it is now time to bring in the police. If this wake up call doesn’t help, then they will be well known at the police station for the rest of their lives. I work for a small department and we have several residents for whom the jail cell has a revolving door. They started as juveniles and have continued being worthless to society as adults. Did their parents fail? Maybe and maybe not. But to lay blame on a parent is also to take the responsibility for their actions away from the child. “Too bad I killed your son by bashing his head in, but it is not my fault. My parents did not raise me right.”

  31. If convictions at the age of 15 and even 17 end up “sticking” for life, then I believe there’s something wrong with the legal system. In the UK, short and medium sentences are considered “spent” after a certain time period; a spent conviction generally need not be disclosed on employment, insurance, etc applications (although some jobs still require their disclosure). This period is reduced for under 18s, so in the UK a youth convicted of assault would have the conviction spent after 2 1/2 to 5 years. For these teenagers, that gives them plenty of their life ahead of them, and won’t even put a notable gap in education/employment histories.

  32. I agreed with the previous posts that this is a very serious issue. The victim got a broken jaw. This means a trip to the hospital and not something that can be glossed over as just another mild bullies. I would presumed that this victim must have been bullied multiple times by these two before the broken jaw happens. The victim’s parents would definitely wants to involve police in this matter. I know I would have.

    I also agreed with Jennifer that the father should have done something to nib this in the bud or at least sooner than the broken jaw happen. He said that he was bullied for the same reason as this victim. He should have acted sooner. Or perhaps he already did and it didn’t have any effects on his children.

    Lastly, I think the emphasis here is that the bullies, age 17 and 15, broke a 13 y/o jaw in a beat up. Any responsible adults would have involve the police. Dare I say that if this happens in America, lawyers will also be involved and make a big circus out of this.

  33. I’ll add my voice to the “dad did the right thing,” chorus. To those who call this incident a mistake, please note that these kids are 15 and 17, and they were beating up a 13-year-old. Two older kids beat a younger kid so badly that they broke his jaw. That’s not a youthful mistake, and they are more than bullies: they are violent criminals. We don’t know what else they’ve done (besides the one similar incident mentioned), but it seems likely that there’s a pattern of behavior here. If so, then it sounds like the father may have acted out of desperation, since nothing else seemed to work. Regardless, I am appalled that anyone would consider this incident anything other than a violent crime against a child.

  34. I don’t know about Australia, but in the US, a parent is held accountable in court for the criminal actions of minor children in his charge. In such a case, by simply failing to bring it to the attention of the police, he could be criminally charged with accessory after the fact. Had he taken steps to actually prevent his children from being found out, he could face criminal charges as a co-conspirator. Whether a prosecutor would push it depends upon the actual circumstances, and conviction may well be difficult. But the sheer cost of defense could disintegrate what little remains of the the family fabric.

  35. Interesting timing on this story as the episode of Hawaii 5-O tonight concerned a father who hid his son for weeks and then smuggled him out of the country after he had committed murder. Then when someone found out about it he also committed murder to further protect his son. Does this make him a good parent?

    You can’t protect your children from life. Letting them get away with this and permitting this behavior to continue without punishment is the reason our society is becoming more and more violent. When I worked in a convenience store some years ago we were ordered to give the criminal what they wanted to avoid being shot, now they are as likely to shoot you first and then demand your money.

  36. In Response to Steve, Sunnyvale’s comment;

    In Queensland, since both offenders are juvenile they will not be imprisoned for a crime of this nature unless they have a history of juvenile convictions for violent offences. In reality they will most likely receive no punishment from the state (incarceration, community service) if they plead guilty and show remorse genuine enough to convince the Magistrate. Their juvenile records cannot be used against them in adult life if they are tried for another violent crime. The argument that this will affect the rest of their lives (due to a criminal record) is just not valid in this case.

    In response to Alexander, Charlottesville’s rant;

    I fail to see how buying your son a car and your daughter a horse qualify as child abuse. OK, that was a cheap shot. In Australia it is very common for parents to “dob” their own children into the police for offences they have committed. In cases such as repeated drug use it is the last act of desperation, in the case of theft or shop lifting it is a chance to have your kids “scared straight” by the constabulary. The juvenile justice system in Queensland is quite fair, balanced and lenient (arguably too lenient). I believe that “the rat” knows this and is not inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on his children. After all they did gang up on and violently beat a child several years their junior. How many days without X-box would you give your own children for that?

  37. I agree with the parent, especially if this kind of behaviour has happened before. Perhaps he has already tried the home-grown version of punishment but it didn’t take. If your recalcitrant teens are going to play rough, then it’s the responsibility of the parent to show them what rough-play is going to lead to — prison.

    This is, in fact, a very positive story. More often than not, one is far more likely to see parents who are even worse behaved than their kids and won’t take responsibility for their kids’ behaviour; indeed, they’re quite possibly largely responsible for that bad behaviour. I suspect this poor man was completely at a loss as to what to do about these children and can’t understand how he’s managed to raise two dangerous bullies. So he took drastic — yet sensible — action.

    In any event, in Australia kids under 18 have their criminal records sealed, and it’s much more likely these two will receive good behaviour bonds, community service or similar. It’s highly unlikely these children will come away with anything more than a good fright and, hopefully, a new-found respect for their father.

    No one but a parent knows what they are going through with their child/children. I believe it’s entirely inappropriate to judge others at all, let alone with such limited information; and if those criticising him are parents themselves, then it’s hypocritical at best.

    Good onya, Matt!

  38. It occurs to me that perhaps the most effective punishment would be, in addition to the sale of the kids’ favorite things, making them each wear a shirt to school every other day for a month that says “My name is _____. My dad caught me bullying somebody weaker than myself. If I do it again, he’ll take me to the police and help my victim press charges. If I bully you, please call him at this number: xxxxxxx.” Tell the kids that he’ll be asking teachers, and if either of them skips class or fails to wear the shirt then the idea of waiting for next time is gone and they are going to the police that day. They would be instantly humbled, and very likely bullied by kids bigger than themselves — getting a taste of their own medicine.

    I don’t think encouraging more bullying (even of a bully) is a proper way to end bullying. -rc

  39. The full story isn’t here; we don’t know what happened before. We don’t know if Matt was a good parent or not BUT based on what we do have:

    1. Matt acted correctly by aiding the victim, punishing his children appropriately, and turning his kids into the police.

    2. Matt didn’t break the law by beating his kids or by hiding their crime from the police.

    3. In Canada, and most of the British Commonwealth, crimes committed before 18 are a “closed” record and can not be opened except in very rare and extreme situations.

    The background on my comments is that I was fired from my position as principal because I couldn’t “control” my children when my 12 year old son committed 3 thefts in our small community. What was not known to the community was that the 12 year old and his 8 year old brother were adopted by us less than a year before when we were in a different community (& school system). The closed record system worked against us because we hadn’t been informed that our son had been before the courts repeatedly for similar crimes before the adoption and only found out during a closed session with the judge during the following trial. The good news is that I made a very successful career change. The bad news that the 12 year old, now 43, is doing 5 to 10 for theft.

  40. I support the dad’s actions. My wife and I escorted one son to the troopers after he admitted shoplifting with a friend. A younger son apparently learned enough and refused to accept stolen goods from his friend.

    If the son was only one year older he would suffer for his actions much longer with a felony conviction. If he hadn’t learned how to behave by 17, when would he have learned?

  41. Unless Jennifer has previously done exemplary work for True, I would suggest that her characterization of the father as a pri*k and her arguing that he should have become an accessory to the assault have made her unfit to contribute further.

    The guy did exactly what he should have done. He taught his children that actions have consequences.

    We don’t know Jennifer’s background, either. She could well be reacting to something that happened in her own life. Indeed, we all color our responses based on our pasts. That’s just one of the reasons why I edit the submitted articles. -rc

  42. To get a better idea of the whole story flip it around for a moment. Jennifer, let’s say your 13 year old son was attacked by a brother-sister team and they beat him so badly his jaw was broken. You then discover the father of those siblings saw the fight and while he stopped the abuse he is now trying to keep the police out of the picture. How do you feel about dear old dad now? This is not a case of little junior getting pushed in the mud or coming home with a black eye. We’re talking seriously violent behavior.

    Yes, a criminal record follows you around for life but so does a criminal attitude. The former can be a hassle, the latter a devastation to yourself and anyone nearby.

    In the USA the 17 year old might be tried as an adult but any juvenile record is sealed away once the kid reaches 18. I guess we’ll wait for word from someone Down Under to clue us in to the laws there.

  43. In my not very humble opinion, yes, the father did the right thing. Battery on other living things is NOT ok. When my oldest son was about 10, he and a neighbor boy teased a pit bull with a kitten. You can guess how that ended. I couldn’t do anything about the neighbor kid, but I marched his behind down the street, made him retrieve the dead kitten, and take it home and bury it. I can assure you that he will never hurt another living creature or human, (except in self defense) as long as he lives. Sometimes, a parent is forced to use extreme measures, and I hope he wasn’t too late.

  44. All for Matt!!! Hope to meet his kids in future, rather than Ms Weiners, sorry to say….

    And in her defense, after looking at the comments so far, she is clearly not the only one who condemns Matt. -rc

  45. I Googled “broken jaw recovery.”

    You have your jaw wired shut for 3-5 weeks, and during that time you’re on a liquid-only diet. You might not be able to open your mouth completely as much as three months later.

    That’s just the broken jaw. There must have been other injuries, including some pretty serious psychological ones.
    I’d love to know what the law is in Australia, but I doubt that a teenage conviction will follow them for life. I rather think the USA is unusual that way.

    On the other hand, if the father had dealt with this at home again, and it didn’t work again, the son might well have done it again next year. Apart from another traumatized victim, that would mean an adult conviction which probably would last for the rest of his life. Much better so give the kids a really good scare now, or there’s a real danger they’ll spend the rest of their lives in and out of jail.

  46. I don’t particularly care for either story version, and as a longtime Premium subscriber, I have to express my overall disappointment in JW’s work. She really doesn’t ‘get it’ when it comes to this genre. She often makes statements that assume facts not included in what she’s written, and her taglines and slugs fall somewhere between dud and annoying. Please find a better contributor.

  47. I think the father was 150% RIGHT in turning his kids in. I would have done the same thing, especially if his kids had done this once before. Well, once that he knew of, at least. His kids are bullies and should be treated as such — they beat up a younger kid, breaking his jaw. Selling all of their things isn’t going to teach them that they can’t bully and beat up other kids, but a night or two in jail just might.

    Should the father have intervened earlier? Yes. Would it have made a difference? Who knows. Maybe his kids are just mean kids. Maybe they never learned how to treat others. I hope they have learned their lesson now. That lesson being that their father is an upstanding citizen who won’t even let his own kids get away with crimes.

    Kudos to the father! He deserves a medal for being brave enough to stand up to his kids and teaching them that they can’t get away with hurting others.

    Jennifer – you have a lot to learn about real life. You need to grow up and see that what these kids did was wrong and what the father did was right. I truly feel sorry for your kids if you can’t see that you are wrong here.

  48. I think this is a case where Jennifer should have done a bit more research. One, in Australia any crimes committed by persons under eighteen years of age are NOT held against them as adults unless they’re major felonies and they are tried as adults (allowed in some states but not all). Two, if this was the first offence the only time they’ll be behind bars is from being charged until they’re either bailed out by family members or they appear before the magistrate and get a talking too — same likely result for the twenty-first offence as well. Of course, if this was the fifty-first offence then they could get some time in a detention centre and some schooling. Three, under Australian law, if the father hadn’t reported the matter, the moment the assaulted boy’s family reported it the father would have been charged as an accomplice after the fact, and his would have been a permanent record.

    If no bones had been broken he may have been able to keep it quiet, but the broken bones mean medical help and since that’s all paid for by the government through medicare, that means police involvement on explanation of how the bone got broken. Police involvement was inevitable, regardless of anything else.

  49. Of course he should nip it in the bud — but what if he did and it didn’t take? Why give the kids a third chance? Any bullying is bad, but “bullying” that results in broken bones is a criminal assault and should be treated as such. Why teach one’s kids that they’re above the law?

    Personally, if I ever find myself in a similar situation and home discipline hasn’t worked, I hope I have the fortitude to do the same as he did.

  50. I’d like you to consider this from the perspective of the victim. Would the parents of the victim, simply said “no, don’t call the police? They’ve beat up my child to the point of broken bones. I’m certain they’ve learned their lesson and won’t do it again.”

    This was much more than a school yard scrap.

    I applaud the father for taking his children to the police. If this was a repeat offense, as is suggested by Jennifer, then the kids didn’t learn the lesson from earlier discipline. Let us pray for all those involved that they learn the lessons now.

  51. Let’s be clear: obviously there was SOME level of parental breakdown for a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old to beat up a 13-year-old, but the father’s response in this case was picture-perfect. He drove home the very real consequences of his children’s actions, refused to bail them out, and is fully supporting whatever punishment they receive from the victim’s recourse through the legal system.

    Is it tough love? Yes, it’s very tough love, but it’s the right kind of tough love. His kids will never forget this, and they will go in to future situations far more aware that their actions carry consequences. He didn’t go off on a rage bender and beat his children, as some parents might. He didn’t cover his eyes and pretend his kids hadn’t done anything wrong, as some parents might. He didn’t slap them on the wrist and try to sweet-talk the other kid’s parents into not pressing any charges, as quite a few “good” parents might. He simply made sure that this would never happen again as best he knew how.

    It would have been child abuse to have done anything less.

  52. As a teen I was bullied. from minor taunting to being pushed in the stairwell of the school. Yes I fell but did not get hurt.

    Was the Father Matt wrong for turning in the Children. Hell no. They permanently hurt someone. I know the stated injury was a broken jaw, but as a health care provider the force to break a jaw… Everyone assumes it was the lower jaw but if it was upper jaw OMG. And was there a closed head injury involved a “concussion” is not mild and sometimes can have life long issues.

    I just hope that my father would have done the same if I had caused injury to another. When do you finally take that stand against the children that enough is enough? When they kill someone?

  53. When one of my sons got into trouble for the second time, I also marched him down to the police station and turned him in. At 16; his record was expunged when he turned 18. It was a wake-up call for him.

    He went on to serve in the military, get his BA and Master’s degrees, and make his parents way proud. If kids aren’t shown that there are consequences to their actions, they think they can continue their bad behavior.

  54. The connotation of “rat” may have been misunderstood, or not even realized by Jennifer — as in “to rat someone out”, or tell the cops.

    Given that meaning, the slug was just fine. But, the double entendre would not have been too obvious.

    I’m just fine with the kids getting what they deserve. I’d hope the parent of the victim would have gone after the assailants in the legal system, and then sued the father, if things had gone differently.

  55. A good friend of mine had a son about 13-14 who had been getting in trouble. She grounded him, talked to him, had him talk to their minister, nothing worked. She thought that he had gotten in with the wrong crowd, sold her house and moved 50 miles away. Within a few months or so she thought something was wrong, searched her son’s room (which she had never done before) and found electronic equipment that had been stolen from a local church. She called the police, he was arrested. He finally learned his lesson and turned his life around.

    She said it was the hardest thing she ever had to do, but it was necessary to save him.

  56. A kid that is 17 years of age is physically bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than a 13 year old. To beat on a smaller child like this is a sociopathic tendency.

    The father is not equipped to help this boy or his sister with that. He can take away their possessions, discipline them, yell at them, but in the end what does that do?

    If these children are sick, they need professional help. If Law Enforcement wasn’t brought in, they can’t get that help until they do irreparable harm, then their lives would truly be lost.

  57. The father did the right thing in taking them to the police — the parental attempt to modify their behaviour failed, and breaking someone’s jaw is assault regardless of the age of the assailants. As children get older they need to learn that punishments don’t just come from parents.

    Also, in Australia (unless it’s changed recently) crimes committed before the age of 18 are considered “juvenile” and not kept on the permanent record.

  58. I ABSOLUTELY agree with Dennis. Kids need to learn that bullying someone is a criminal offense and not to be tolerated period. If it takes pressing charges then so be it. As far as Jennifer thinking the parent was wrong, well she can’t have any experience raising kids.

  59. Mike from Dallas: The format of True is to make you think. While the stories may be “weird, ironic, silly, stupid or funny”, or the slugs and tags may aid that, this is not “News of the Weird”. Randy has always expressed that he is trying to make people think, but doing so in a humorous way. Judging by the number of responses, this story has done exactly that.
    For the record, I THINK the father did the right thing.

  60. What if the victim had been permanently maimed or, even worse, killed in this attack? Should the father have stuck his head in the sand and left it to someone else to notify the police? While I agree that most family matters should be handled “in house,” not all should. Given the circumstances of this crime and the fact that the children had previously been caught doing the same type of thing (you know that the father had to have come down really hard on them because of his own history of being bullied), I believe the father was justified in his actions.

    As a parent myself, I know that it is really hard to accept that your own children can do things that make you think, “Is this child really mine?” but, it happens. It happens even when the parents have done everything right. Hopefully, these children will now realize how serious their actions were and never do anything like that again.

  61. In our area (Western Massachusetts) a girl recently committed suicide due to verbal bullying. She liked a boy someone thought she shouldn’t and the bullying began. That was just VERBAL. The parents or the teachers could have stopped it at any time, but didn’t because it was “just kids being kids.” Now a family is without their daughter, and 4 other families are destroyed because their children are being charged as adults (they were 16 at the time).

    Should the father have done something the first time? Damn straight. Was he correct in doing something this time? Absolutely. His kids physically beat up another child so bad his JAW WAS BROKEN! I would have expected nothing less.

    I have 2 kids and if either of them had a similar experience, I would do the exact same thing. Bullying in any form is wrong.

  62. I read this story to my husband saying, “FINALLY! a father who makes his kids suffer the consequences of their actions instead of trying to shield them”.

    So they go to jail — they broke a kids’ jaw, they should go to jail. This is not ambiguous. There is no way they can say “gee, we didn’t know it was wrong.” It’s not finding an ounce of pot in their dresser drawer. They beat up another kid.

    I was very happy with the dad’s actions –Matt, you are the man!

  63. Reading back through all the posts it looks to me like the system in Australia is set up to encourage involving the courts, without causing long term problems for kids. Good for them.

    Jennifer’s option is a big problem in this country where those with money are able to pay off victims and hire good lawyers. Money talks, the poor go to jail.

    Here in Washington “family” tried to hide and protect a man who gunned down 4 police officers in a drive-by. Wonder where they got that idea?

  64. They broke the kid’s jaw and apparently are out of control. Will the victim care that his assailants are not allowed to play Wii for a month while he has to eat his meals through a straw because his jaw is wired shut? Not sure about AUS but they would only have juvenile records. Teach the kids the lesson now.

  65. Virtually none of the preceding comments mentions getting psychological help for the bullying teens. Certainly their assault of a younger child was a criminal act justifiably dealt with by the criminal justice system. But mentally healthy people don’t behave that way out of the blue.

    If I had been that dad, after rescuing the beaten child I first would have wanted to find out WHY my kids saw fit to bash someone to a pulp. If, for example, the 13-year-old had been extorting money from them for months (admittedly very unlikely), the dad’s best response arguably would be quite different from if his kids claimed they saw the face of Satan in the beaten child’s glasses. In other words, if their aggression is a result of psychiatric illness, sending them to the police just reacts to the symptom without treating the underlying cause. It might be a reasonable first step, but should not be the last one.

  66. I think the dad was correct. How should any other adult have acted had they come upon the scene, and the perpetrators were not their own children. Yes, the kids will have to carry a conviction against them on their criminal record, but as juveniles, vice adults.

    Also, Jennifer’s line of thinking is what permeates today’s justice system. The children perpetrating the violence are the ‘victims’ in this story. I’m just don’t buy it. When people willingly act, they should be held accountable for those acts. Holding someone accountable should not hinge on whether or not they are related to you.

  67. I liked that the original mentions the reason for the assault. Beating someone up for wearing glasses is pretty deplorable. I am confused by Jennifer’s comments that the father “should have done something THEN to make it so they would rather die than to ever try such a thing again.” When? When he was beaten up as a kid? His kids weren’t born yet.

    As a parent, I would definitely support charges for my kids if they did something like this. I hope that I have raised them better, but the father here probably did too.

    The “THEN” refers to the sentence immediately preceding: “This same kind of beatdown apparently occurred once before.” -rc

  68. Nina, Anchorage, I have to agree that Randy’s stated purpose is to make people think, but I’d assume that it was about unusual stuff that people don’t ordinarily consider. In this case, there is nothing unusual about it. It’s very common, but only one instance made the news. And the poll is about what readers think is MORE important; to protect his kids from prosecution or to readily accept the blame for his own failure of parenting (negligent or deliberate). It’s opinions on both sides and just a tally of which ones respond more. I do doubt that any readers will have their minds changed by the discussion.

    However, Byron’s (Michigan) assessment of Jennifer’s work is that she is not as neat and concise as Randy. Naturally, she’s a different person AND has been doing it for a lot less time. In general, I find her contributions quite enjoyable, similar to the typical True format, and even though we may disagree ideologically, I’d hate to see her leave. Hell, Randy and I disagree ideologically on a lot of things, but I’m still a True subscriber to the end.

    I think that if there was “nothing unusual” about this story, this wouldn’t be the 68th, and definitely not last, comment about it. -rc

  69. I really can’t believe that anyone thought the father was wrong to take the 2 junior thugs in training to the police. They Assaulted a 13 year old so badly they broke his jaw. That is way past the bounds of juvenile pranks.

    First of all a 17 year old male and a 15 year old female are never supposed to get into any kind of fight with a 13 year old boy. Oh and to the brilliant advice to ignore the bullying and it will stop. Regardless of what Hollywood movies say that is untrue, I learned that from personal experience in high school. Maybe they will learn from this mess and become decent citizens instead of juvenile delinquents.

    Anyway i Love This is True. I have subscribed since about 3 months after i discovered it, It always makes me think and for that I thank you Randy. I especially love the “HONORARY UNSUBSCRIBE” as i usually learn or relearn facts about the person.

  70. I applaud the father for doing what he did, and wish more parents had the courage and wisdom to do that. That’s my “brief sentence” for Matt.

    As for Jennifer, I vote we give her a break. People are entitled to their opinions, and Droid knows we haven’t all agreed with Randy over the years. Granted, she may not walk on water yet, but at least she got out of the boat.

  71. “Mike from Dallas: I do doubt that any readers will have their minds changed by the discussion.”

    I disagree with you on this one. I think this has led to a good conversation on bullying and what the role of parents in this is. Everyone hates to have to deal with supporting your bullied child, but in many ways it’s worse to have to deal with your bullying child instead. Nor is this an especially common story; many kids are in this situation, but not so many parents turn their kids in for what they did wrong.

    I disagree as well that we know that the father’s parenting failed in one way or another. It’s true that frequently bullies have parents who make unwise decisions; it’s also true that kids can get messed up through no fault of their parents. Perhaps, for example, the two bullies in this story had been abused and bullied by their classmates, or by someone else. Matt might not have known if they didn’t decide to tell him. Perhaps, like one of the other former posters, Matt had adopted his children and this came from pre-adoption issues. Perhaps something else. We don’t know.

  72. It saddens me whenever I hear sentiments like Jennifer’s. I firmly believe that no one is above the law. The modern world is founded on the principle of equality, which means we left behind notions of letting anyone be treated differently simply because of their birth. It’s backwards thinking, not to mention self-centered, to act as though everyone else’s blood is inferior to yours. The phrase does not go, “Justice for all who are not my own children.”

    I understand what Jennifer is saying about being protective of one’s children, especially when they are still young. However, letting them get away with a crime is not “protecting” them, any more than doing their homework for them is “helping” them. What’s more important to protect, one’s reputation or one’s personal integrity? In addition, getting away with a crime encourages future crimes, which would be potentially more harmful to a child’s future than any teenaged mistake could be.

    A police record or bad reputation is like a stain on a ladder, but a lack of moral character is like a crack through the rails. I know which ladder I’d rather depend on.

  73. I have read many of the comments on the story and so far I am getting no agreement. I can only hope that there are people out there who would have agreed with me but aren’t the type to send in comments.

    HAVE YOU ever seen a fistfight among teenagers? I can guarantee you that the victim hit back, he wasn’t tied up and beaten to a pulp. He probably got a good one in on the sister and the brother lost it.

    I am so sorry for those of you who come from families which would call for a police arrest. They could have done anything, ANYTHING else and been just as effective. I know nobody in my family would EVER call the cops on me nor I on them (unless it’s murder or armed robbery).

    They should have taken them to a psychiatrist.

    THE VICTIM HAS A GUARANTEED assault case here. They should have gone that route. That gets them into court, etc. but that would probably have taken a different route through the judicial system.

    IF ANY of you were ever in that situation, I PROMISE you that if you went ahead and turned the kids in to the cops, whatever the outcome, you’d regret it with a broken heart sometime later – whether it be days or decades.

    I also think that society is currently on a ‘bullying’ trip, and you’re getting into the trap of when you get a new hammer everything looks like a nail to you.

    Did any of you ever beat up your younger brother or sister when you were young ?????? Maybe not jaw-breaking but how can you tell how a body will react when hit?

    I hate what they did, but I hate what their father did more.

    Actually, there have been several comments that agree with your stance. -rc

  74. As a previous victim of bullying as well as then and current wearer of glasses, I’ve never understood why kids pick on those of us that wear glasses. Do they want to punish us for the crime of not being able to see as well as them? Is it a biological encoded drive to destroy those that are “weaker” or “flawed” to prevent future procreation? I just don’t understand if the kids were torturing this kid for the enjoyment of torturing someone with the excuse of glasses or if they thought the 13-yr-old was going to “learn” a lesson and stop wearing glasses or what was it they hoped the result would be from the beating?

    Regardless, I’m not saying the kids are in any way justified and I agree whole-heartedly with the father’s actions, I’m just, as a former victim of bullying, trying to understand what “logic” if any is in the bully’s head.

  75. The father most certainly did the right thing. When I was quite young, I was caught stealing something from a 5&10 store in my old neighborhood, and had to tell my Mother, who took me back to the store to apologize – put the fear of God in me. BUT, no one got hurt – just my pride. I have to strongly DISAGREE with Alexander from Virginia that the father is a child abuser. There is nothing in the story that indicates that, and considering that the parents most likely purchased the car and the horse for the kids, they were within their rights to sell them. Alexander, step back and take a deep breath.

  76. @Jennifer Weiner, I honestly cannot believe your follow up comments.

    “HAVE YOU ever seen a fistfight among teenagers? I can guarantee you that the victim hit back, he wasn’t tied up and beaten to a pulp. He probably got a good one in on the sister and the brother lost it.”

    This was NOT a fistfight among teenagers. This was a 17 year old boy, and a 15 year old girl teaming up on a 13 year old boy. Both of them years older, and likely quite larger than said boy. I can’t believe that somehow you twist this around to “probably” being an older brother protecting his younger sister, by breaking the jaw of a kid 4 years younger than him! A kid of that age beating up on someone so much younger is not okay at all, nevermind throwing his sister into the mix. How you react by saying “he wasn’t tied up and beat to a pulp” and think that somehow makes it just another fistfight is completely unbelievable to me. Especially since this apparently happened at least once beforehand, and he was being bullied over wearing glasses. That doesn’t sound like a “regular teenager fistfight” where a 13 year old is (who is barely a teenager) is pitted against 2 older people who are bullying him.

    “I am so sorry for those of you who come from families which would call for a police arrest. They could have done anything, ANYTHING else and been just as effective. I know nobody in my family would EVER call the cops on me nor I on them (unless it’s murder or armed robbery).”

    Now, I’m sorry to say this, but this comment is extremely stupid. I’m not saying you are extremely stupid, as I am sure you aren’t, but this comment…wow. Apparently in your world, doing ANYTHING else would be as effective? Really, ANYTHING else? That must be a pretty amazing fairytale place you live in, where anything a parent does aside from turning their children into the police is going to be just as effective at teaching them a lesson in personal responsibility. Especially since this had happened before, and obviously whatever else the father did then had no effect whatsoever on them.

    The only thing you said that I do agree with is that all of the children involved could likely benefit from seeing a psychiatrist.

    You think that society is on a “bullying trip”, I think society is finally paying attention to what has been happening all along, and trying to do something about it. It’s about damn time.

    This is not a situation of an older brother or sister beating up on a younger one, this is far more serious, but apparently even a broken jaw bone does nothing to convey that to you. You want to turn a blind eye to the fact that these “kids” are old enough to know that physical violence is wrong, are far older than their victim, and that if the father hadn’t intervened when he did, it is more than likely he would have had more injuries than just a broken jaw bone. Thankfully it wasn’t worse; there have been many cases where children have actually DIED from injuries sustained while being bullied (and I’m not talking about kids who have committed suicide afterward).

  77. “HAVE YOU ever seen a fistfight among teenagers? I can guarantee you that the victim hit back, he wasn’t tied up and beaten to a pulp. He probably got a good one in on the sister and the brother lost it.”

    I have, yes. I’ve seen many that weren’t bilateral — you make a great many assumptions about the fight, including assuming that a 13-year-old is evenly matched against a 15-year-old AND a 17-year-old. What on earth makes you assume that he “got a good one in on the sister”?

    Jennifer, you have your opinion. But you time and again make the egregious mistake of assuming more than you know, and assuming that your way is the only way things could have happened. And the arrogance of blaming the victim (which you must agree that your remark above reads like) is typical of the thinking that I often experienced growing up.

    From the victim’s perspective.

    “I am so sorry for those of you who come from families which would call for a police arrest. … I know nobody in my family would EVER call the cops on me nor I on them (unless it’s murder or armed robbery).”

    What about rape? Or tax fraud? Domestic abuse? Animal cruelty? Neglect of a child? If you’d staked down somebody’s cat and dismembered it, would you have been reported? If you’d keyed someone’s car, would you have been reported? Where do you think the line should be drawn?

    A crime is a crime, and you are asserting that you believe that anyone you are related to should be above the law. Either that, or you’re saying that your parents had the arrogance and disregard for the law to believe that they could pick and choose which laws would apply to their offspring.

    “THE VICTIM HAS A GUARANTEED assault case here. They should have gone that route. That gets them into court, etc. but that would probably have taken a different route through the judicial system.”

    What different route? It would still be a criminal case (unless they opted for a civil suit, in which case the punishment would be financial rather than custodial, and probably affect the parents more than the perpetrators of the crime), it would still be a prosecution, and the only difference in outcome is that the father could have found himself facing charges of perverting the course of justice.

    Or are you still adamant that he’s to blame for their crime?

    “IF ANY of you were ever in that situation, I PROMISE you that if you went ahead and turned the kids in to the cops, whatever the outcome, you’d regret it with a broken heart sometime later – whether it be days or decades.”

    Many have been in that situation. I’ve spoken to many — both parents and delinquents — who have done exactly what he did. In the vast majority of cases, it has worked; the kids have understood that they can’t flout the law, that their actions have consequences, and that beating a vastly weaker child (after all, this is technically a case of child abuse) is never acceptable. Of those I’ve spoken to, there have been no broken hearts. And, of course, in this case there would – as several have already attested — be no criminal record remaining after the age of 18.

    “Did any of you ever beat up your younger brother or sister when you were young ?????? Maybe not jaw-breaking but how can you tell how a body will react when hit?”

    My sister did kickboxing and plays rugby. We’d have the occasional fight, but it was never in anger. Are you seriously suggesting that beating A CHILD UNTIL HIS JAW BREAKS is acceptable or excusable?

    “I hate what they did, but I hate what their father did more.”

    This remark has me absolutely fuming. You can have your opinion. But you are condoning the abuse of a child and pillorying a man for taking responsibility and disciplining his children in a proportionate and utterly appropriate way.

    I am bloody glad you never had anything to do with raising me.

    Oh, and so what if the kid hit back? Do you not understand how much difference there is in kids between the ages of 13 and 17? So what if he hit back? That’s called self-defence. What was he supposed to do, lie back and think of England?

  78. It seems there are too many variables here to make a moral judgment on either side. If, for example, there was severe punishment the first time and the kids again decided to inflict SERIOUS harm on this child, perhaps an official arrest that will dog them into compliance for the rest of their days is a GOOD THING. What kind of home situation do they have? Was “wearing glasses” the real reason? Had he informed them of his intent to take them to the police before? Had they looked their father in the eye afterward without a shred of regret?

    I cannot see any parent making that decision flippantly, so I don’t feel anyone can reasonably say, given the scant details available, that he made a wrong decision, or that he is a “bad parent.”

  79. Trying to suggest points that may not have been made before:

    1. If the objection to the father’s action is that the juvenile justice system can be bad for the juveniles, then the solution is to reform the juvenile justice system.

    2. Even accepting its premise, the original tag line just wasn’t funny. If the idea is that contact lenses would keep bullies from beating you up, it just didn’t fit the major/unusual/newsworthy part of the story.

    3. A 17-year-old is a very short time away from legal adulthood. It’s better to learn consequences in juvenile court whether there is still some gesture toward rehabilitation, than to be taught that consequences can be ducked, re-offend a few years later, and enter the adult system where you are just a piece of meat (and a source of profit to private corrections corporations … which is a whole ‘nother subject).

    4. We can imagine a variety of scenarios that, by adding a few facts, can make any of the parties in the story morally justified or the situation morally neutral, but that means nothing; going on the facts presented, the father simply saved the cops the effort of coming by to arrest the 17-year-old which, it must be noted, can be a very unpleasant experience especially if the person being arrested is surprised and/or stupid. NOTHING the father could have done would have stopped that arrest; by taking the kid to the cops himself, the father ensured that he was present and the kid was not beaten while resisting arrest. It also and not incidentally helped the kid associate the punishment with the action; too often when punishment comes long after the act, some people blame “the system” for the punishment instead of their own actions.

    5. I hope that Jennifer learns from this experience. Writing well is not easy and the ability to profit from criticism is key to success.

  80. Father did the right thing.

    Responding to just one variable mentioned — a 17 yr old male has usually attained his full adult growth and a 13 yr old is just starting his growth spurt: an adult beating a child.

    My daughter got involved with shoplifting at the age of 8 with older kids of 11 and 12. The other parents’ response was, ‘oh, my child would never do such a thing’. One mom said her daughter ‘used to do that, but didn’t do it any more’. I took my child to the security police of the affected store, along with all the merchandise she had, and she got a strong lecture from the police, as well as from me, and a tour of the local juvenile detention facility. At the age of 8 that made quite an impact.

    Parents who protect their kids from consequences, or refuse to acknowledge bad actions, are not doing their kids any favors.

  81. By turning the kids in, he can try and get them tried as juveniles. If they had been arrested (and with a broken jaw, charges WOULD have been filed), the judge would most likely insist that the 17 year old be tried as an adult and get him thrown in prison for months at least. Dad didn’t “rat them out” as much as throw in the towel for them.

  82. Family is the exception to the rule in these cases.

    I’m just glad I’m not in yours and you are not in mine.

    There is nobody in my family that would EVER have done that to me or any other of us. Had it been a crime that made it obvious the perpetrator had a mental problem, then perhaps it would be appropriate to get them to a shrink. But to turn your OWN KIDS into the police is, to me, an atrocity.

    I am so surprised at the number of people who don’t agree with that. But in any case, it’s probably been around the block enough times that it’s getting tiresome. I’m moving on.

  83. Interesting insight into the process of producing just one of the ten or so stories in each week’s edition. I’ll bet you used to have these arguments with yourself when you were the sole writer (and maybe still do). Thanks for sharing.

    I always love it when someone sees the meta. You’re welcome! -rc

  84. Matt is absolutely right.

    Unfortunately, one parent with a good head on his shoulders (i.e. a good ‘moral compass’) cannot make up for the millions of parents whose children can do no wrong – & its the teachers, police etc etc who are wrong & just picking on ‘my innocent children’.

    Go, Matt, go!

  85. I have no problem at all with what the father did, but I personally would have left it up to the victim and his parents to decide the punishment — and told them life would indeed be hell (no GOOHF card for them) for both children for quite some time.

    I doubt there would have been any life-long recorded conviction for the 17 year old. If the boy had not come before the courts previously, Magistrates here in Australia tend to take into account the long term consequences of such a conviction and, if the boy was indeed remorseful for his actions, will usually set a 12 or 24 month probation period with no conviction entered if he behaves.

  86. I don’t agree with the whole thing about there being a golden rule that we don’t turn in our own family. That mindset probably contributes to people not turning to the police in domestic disputes, as well as to people covering up for family members and said family getting away with things time and time again.

    My brothers were horrible people when they were teens, and I was nearly killed by one of them when he cut off my oxygen in a drug-induced rage because I was smiling when he entered the room and there was “nothing to smile about.” My mother just didn’t believe me. Funny how she believed my other brother who had been attacked with a metal baseball bat while sleeping, and had blood pouring out of his head. I wanted to call the police, because he scared me and I was afraid he might really kill me one time, but I didn’t and instead I ran away from home to escape my insane family. He never killed anyone that I know of, but he hurt lots of people, including his girl friends. My other brother was a real jerk and got into a lot of trouble with the police, who harassed him a lot for minor things because of the way he looked (bald head, sagging pants, white t shirt) and the fact that he was a skater. I once saw an exact likeness of him in our city newspaper, the drawing of a suspect at large who had knifed someone not far from where I lived. The kid had died. I showed the story and picture to my mother, who just said, “He’ll steal and lie, but he won’t kill anyone!” It was like two blocks from our house, and he had a terrible history, and was on methamphetamines for several years even though he was only nineteen or twenty at the time, and the drawing looked *just* like him. He had been in lots of fights before. Was it really that hard to conceive this fight just got out of hand because there happened to be a knife? But my mother never accepted that he was a bully. I should have called the police. They could have proven his innocence as much as his guilt. But I didn’t. What would my family think? He was my own brother, right?

    Later, I married a guy that (surprise, surprise) ended up being abusive toward me, his kids, and ours. It took a while for me to admit I was in an abusive relationship. I had pride, you know. And when I tried to confide in his sister that I was scared he might hurt me (not admitting he already had) she said, “That’s my brother! He’d never hurt you!” Ok, I guess steak knives thrown at my face while I lay 9 months pregnant sobbing and shielding my belly didn’t count. You know what I got a year and a half later, with a two week old child in my arms that had been born out of forced, threatening rape by my separated husband, when he went to jail on Christmas Eve? And this was the second time I called the police on him. “How can you do that to him on Christmas Eve?” Uh, I guess it wasn’t obvious that he must have done something. It’s not like we were happily eating dinner together and I nonchalantly called the police who were bored and had nothing better to do than oblige and take him away to jail on Christmas Eve. Everyone ignored the fact that he, like my brothers, had been a bully when younger, and had retained many bullying, threatening, controlling tendencies. They had it in their minds that things must be kept within the family, and that actions must be downplayed.

    This father of the two young teenagers didn’t make the decision lightly to take his children to the police. If he hadn’t, the family of the child they hurt most likely would have filed a police report, and the two would have been worse off. And, considering an instance of bullying had happened before (that I doubt he ignored) and yet had been repeated to an extreme degree, he may very well have thought that the extreme measure of taking his children to the police could help them more than it might hurt them.

    I don’t know if my brother really killed that boy near our home when we were younger, but if he did, I blame both of my parents and the judges that went easy on him for his “minor” adolescent antics. They downplayed every bad thing he did, and lots went on that never came to the light of the court house — had it, judges probably wouldn’t have looked so kindly at his age and the idea that something bad on his record would be there forever. There should have been plenty on his record. On the records of both my brothers, but judges let them go with community service or fire camp or fines or strict lectures.

    Those two teenagers got a good lesson out of this — either they’ll straighten up a bit, or they’ll figure out better ways of not getting caught next time. But, either way, at least they didn’t learn the lesson that they’ll *always* get away with it just because they’re kids or just because they’re family.

  87. This is my second comment. I already stated that I turned my 15 year old son into the cops.

    Jennifer, I do NOT regret it and never have. My son also doesn’t regret. I spoke to him about this just this week to get his thoughts and remembrances.

    He knows he was in the wrong and deserved to be punished appropriately and as I stated before he is now an adult and doing well. So love is tough and sometimes you have to be tough to truly love someone.

    My ex-husband was bailed out by his grandmother for theft and he went on to be a drug addict, alcoholic and drug dealer. I left his sorry ass in 1989 when my 23 year old was 19 months old so I raised him on my own and I am very proud of the way he turned out.

    Another example that paying the price pays off. My older brother was a look out on a liquor store robbery in the 1970’s, he was caught, got probation and went on to get a Master’s in Computer Science and become the VP of a significant computer company that was one of the pioneers in wireless technology. SO THERE! !

  88. Having subscribed since 1994, I know we’ve not always had the blessing of a public forum to gauge readers agreement on the story. Still, it seemed in years past, the majority of readers agreed with Randy’s take on a story. That, in turn, made the rant letters so interesting to read.

    In this case, I see a majority of readers disagreeing with the original story’s take on the issue. I know there’s no requirement that readers agree with the author’s bias, but does that change the author/reader dynamic of This is True?

    To be fair, if we had only seen the rewritten article and not the original, I’m not sure we’d be discussing it. It does make me wonder how many times Randy wrote an article like the initial one, discarded it, and wrote a new copy that does not directly illustrate his bias.

    Above all, I’m undecided on whether more public discourse of the author’s viewpoint helps. I know myself and other readers have conversed (and disagreed) with Randy in the past via email, but that seemed more private than a forum response. Possibly there was (and is) some value to being aloof in public responses, forcing the readers to connect the dots instead of spelling it out.

    Mainly, I was just surprised at the comments — rather than the story itself — and I was curious as to whether I was missing something, or what. I really did want reader opinions on it, which is why I titled the page as I did. I wanted input, and got it! -rc

  89. Jennifer: you say, “Family is the exception to the rule in these cases,” but I have to wonder where you draw the line.

    My uncle, from the time he was ten years old, sexually abused all of the girls (and some of the boys) in my family. No one turned him in. Is this okay with you? After all, he is “family”.

    If this is not okay with you, then my next question is, what things *are* okay, and what things are not? Is it wrong to molest a boy, but just fine to break his jaw? Both of those are crimes, and the perpetrators should be punished. Grounding the teens is not suitable punishment. Put yourself in the role of the victim’s family: if your own son was assaulted in this manner, would you say, “oh, good” if the father said he was going to ground his children for two weeks?

    I know what my decision would be, because I’ve had similar experiences. When my sister was a teenager, my father found drugs in her room. He called the police and had her arrested. A dozen or so years ago, my stepson attacked his mother with a crowbar. I called the police and had him arrested. It doesn’t matter that they were family: they committed crimes, and spent time in jail.

    Assault and battery — which is what these kids did — are crimes. And criminals should be arrested, regardless of to whom they are related.

    I want you to consider this incident from a completely different perspective. Suppose the children of your town’s mayor broke some kid’s jaw, but, instead of acting properly, the mayor used the power of his office to sweep the entire thing under the rug. Do you find this scenario acceptable? After all, they are “family”.

  90. Congratulations and attaboy. Seems a shame he hadn’t taught them sooner so that this was not needed. If kids knew their parents would hold them accountable it would go a long way toward preventing such and worse.

  91. It’s interesting that, as far as I can see, all the comments from Australia support the father. I suspect that the reason is that getting the police involved is not the ‘N’ option that it is in certain states in the USA. As has been pointed out, most likely the kids would get a warning or community service and the record of this will be wiped off when they reach 18.

    It seems that Jennifer comes from a mindset that believes these kids are going to finish up in prison with hardened criminals.

    Also, am I the only one who thinks that Jennifer’s response to this discussion is maybe not as mature as one would expect from ‘True’? Simply reiterating her case (with block capitals) is not a good discussion technique.

  92. Funny how most of the people who have been bullied or have witnessed something similar are in agreement with the father. We don’t have ALL the facts here (for example, what DID he do last time his kids did this?) so it’s very difficult to make a judgement. I don’t have kids myself, so it’s VERY difficult to make a judgement. However, I reckon this comes under the category of “tough love” and hopefully it gave the kids such a jolt that it would stop them going further down this path.

    I mourn the end of caning in schools. I got caned for numerous misdemeanours. My headmaster was fair and never wrongly caned me, I thought. And that stopped me getting into worse trouble. My parents smacked me as well when I was naughty and I’m very grateful for it. I reckon both my parents and my headmaster imbued me with a sense of values, and that is something that is very apparently missing from the vast majority of kids today. You see kids playing unsupervised in the street at 9 or 10 PM sometimes, and stories of parents beating up teachers or referees for trying to discipline their little darlings at schools come up with monotonous regularity. It’s no wonder kids grow up with no respect for anything or anyone. If I got caned at school, and my dad found out, he’d say “Good, what have you done this time??” The one and only time I felt I got punished unfairly he supported me too, though it must have been hard for him. He was the best Dad.

    I moved to Australia 9 years ago and one thing that got me down was the way no one ever seemed to take responsibility for their own action — idiotic behaviour always ended up being someone else’s fault. So to see Matt’s conduct is, to me, very refreshing. You asked what we would say to him and I would say “Good on ya, mate!!”

  93. Having been one who was violent as a teenager, and ultimately having my mom make my sister call the police on me while my mom and I were fighting one day, I must disagree with Jennifer and respect Matt’s decision to involve the police. The police involvement changed my life and it may change the lives of these young kids.

    Clearly the attackers are old enough to know that there are consequences to their decisions. These consequences may involve a life-long impact. I don’t believe withholding criminal punishment would solve anything.

    Liken it to children who regularly choose not to do their homework and end up with poor grades and thus a bad transcript. Maybe they’ll graduate, but it is still something they’d always have to answer to. There isn’t an escape for a child who has done this. It’s a result of their life choices.

    Criminal behavior is no different in this regard. If they end up with a criminal record as a result of committing crimes, that’s something they’ll always have to answer to. I don’t think they should be free of the justice system because of the potential life-long impact. Hopefully they’ll use it to learn from.

    Lastly, I want to address Jennifer by saying that I hope the comments here do not make you feel as though you were thrown under the bus. I don’t believe Randy did this for that reason at all. He has done blogs like this after he received letters to articles he has authored and has gotten feedback of this kind himself.

    And it has often been much more vicious! -rc

  94. Good for this father [Where is mom?] I had a brother who was constantly “finding” things. Dad would ask Steve where he found that new portable t-v sitting in his bedroom. Steve’s standard answer was always “by the side of the road in the ditch. And as usual dad sent him down the road once more to return it to the ditch [The rightful owner]. The last straw for Steve living at home anymore was when Steve found a new car “by the side of the road in the ditch. Steve died in prison. He never saw his family again.

    So… he finally found himself in prison…. -rc

  95. I can’t believe that anyone would object to this. Of course the father was right! Kids that age need to realize that they are responsible for the consequences of their own actions. They are much too old to be picking on other kids. They committed a crime. They need to know that committing a crime gets you in trouble with more than your parents. Good for that father! He did what was needed to get that nonsense stopped before they killed someone.

  96. Sorry, but the “handling things at home” option sailed a long time ago if your two kids are viciously beating a kid hard enough to break his jaw. So dad’s a “pr*ck” for insisting his kids face the consequences, huh? Jennifer obviously considers him just a few steps ahead of those in Nazi Germany who’d turn in their relatives, but it’s obvious she never considered the fact that the victim and his parents would certainly press charges for criminal assault. Matt’s bringing his offspring to the cop shop is sending his kids the message that not even their dad is behind their actions — that they stepped so far over the line not even family will have their back. THAT is the way to enforce discipline, because making excuses for your kids only reinforces the notion that consequences can be skated around. Too bad Jennifer doesn’t think that making your kids accept responsibility when you can let them slide is the way to go. Even if their record is a juvenile one and may not follow them though life, those kids committed a pretty horrible felony — so tell me again just what immature mindset thinks they could — and should — skate?

    Re caning — so tell me, how many stripes do you give a kid to teach him that beating another kid is wrong? Oh, goodness, here come the Irony Police! Sorry, I don’t believe caning is ever the way to raise a kid — it only reinforces that violence will result if you put a foot wrong and that people in control have the right to physically hurt you. Hmmm — not that far off from the traditional concept of bullying, is it? Sorry, but if the most creative discipline you can come up with is to wallop someone, you’re the last person who should be raising a child.

  97. Sorry if I’m flogging a dead horse by this point, but as someone who has been bullied throughout school, and having many friends who have suffered various combinations of violent and sexual abuse, Jennifer’s childish “I’m finding this boring so I’m going to move on” approach is really getting my goat.

    So one last time, then — and Jennifer, please read this carefully, and THINK about it before you respond with another knee-jerk “you’re all picking on me” response.

    “Family is the exception to the rule in these cases. … There is nobody in my family that would EVER have done that to me… Had it been a crime that made it obvious the perpetrator had a mental problem, then perhaps it would be appropriate to get them to a shrink. But to turn your OWN KIDS into the police is, to me, an atrocity.”

    I find it sad that you lack the empathy or maturity to even try to understand why your take on it strikes many as repugnant.

    “I am so surprised at the number of people who don’t agree with that.”

    I am so surprised that anyone could continue to maintain your blinkered, never-mind-the-victim approach even after dozens of people have explained to you why it is offensive.

    “But in any case, it’s probably been around the block enough times that it’s getting tiresome. I’m moving on.”

    You’re finding it tiresome? You, Jennifer, are an apologist for every bully who’s even got off the hook because of their parents pulling strings for their little darling, for every criminal who went free because their father made a call to a golf buddy, and for every child molester who goes unpunished because “Uncle Bob wouldn’t do that, stop telling tales”.

    You are the sort of person who empowers those people to do what they do. You are perpetuating the mindset that “we don’t turn in family”. You have highlight in glorious technicolour one of the reasons that personal responsibility has become a rare commodity.

    So please, before you “move on”, answer these few questions from someone who wishes his tormentors’ parents had shown the guts “Matt” did:

    – You’ve said you’d never have been turned in “unless it was murder” — so where does the line go? Attempted murder? Child abuse? Rape? Child sexual abuse? Armed robbery? Dealing drugs? Exactly which of those crimes do you in your wisdom believe can be adequately handled at home by a parent? How long would you have been grounded if you’d, say, beaten up a pensioner and broken their jaw?

    – Can you honestly look any of those who have been bullied (a term that in its blandness really doesn’t adequately cover the actual nastiness of that abuse) in the eye and tell us that it was right for our tormentors to get off scot-free? Can you tell those who have been beaten, severely injured or raped — not me in this case, but several close friends — that because they weren’t murdered it’s all right for their attackers to just lose their Playstation privileges for a month?

    In conclusion, I don’t begrudge you your opinion, however repulsive and arrogant it strikes me. What I do really take offence at, though, is your stubborn insistence that you are right, your bone-headed refusal to even consider anybody else’s point of view, and your attempted moral outrage and “surprise” that nobody’s agreeing with you.

    You, Jennifer, have sided with bullies and criminals against their victims. You show no sign of understanding why that’s raised some hackles, or even trying to see anybody’s side of the story but your own.

    At the very least, you owe many people here an apology, and maybe even an attempt to understand — not necessarily agree with, I think that might be pushing it at this point –our point of view.

  98. I agree with Randy that a rewrite was definitely needed. Adding to the story just to make a tagline fit is not in the spirit of “True”. Of course, I’ve never been able to come up with a good tagline in the monthly challenge, so I can’t criticize Jennifer for a lack of writing skill. The one thing that did stand out to me was Jennifer’s response to Randy’s rewrite request. She came across as just another “obliviot”, who just didn’t “get” it. As a “True” correspondent, Jennifer should have been able to take Randy’s note as it was intended — constructive criticism that would only improve her article.

    To the story itself, I hadn’t heard of it until I read my newsletter. I completely agree with the father, the best way to deal with it was to scare the living crap out of those kids. They won’t be left with a permanent criminal record — once they turn 18 the records will be expunged, as are all juvenile crimes.

    I have one question. Is Jennifer Australian? I doubt it, as I feel if she were Aussie her reaction would have been very very different.

    No, she’s from the east coast of the U.S. -rc

  99. Like the second one better. The father would know what would make the best lasting impression upon his children. I’m not going to second guess him. I think he did the right thing to sell the car and horse, too! If more parents would make solid stands on things like this instead of accepting their children’s actions we would have less repeat offenders and a safer society!! When I grew up the parents would have likely beat the two kids to a pulp for their actions!

  100. Jennifer said “HAVE YOU ever seen a fistfight among teenagers? I can guarantee you that…”

    I find it amazing that you admit to watching teenagers fight enough to be an expert on them, If I see children or teenagers fighting I do all I can to stop them, you seem to watch and analyse the actual fights you see.

    I know nobody in my family would EVER call the cops on me nor I on them (unless it’s murder or armed robbery)….

    Again I find it incredible that you would let a family member sexually assault or rape someone and not report them to the police, I find you arrogant that you would think a family member would not report you to the police if they found you hiding a kidnapped kid in your basement.

    THE VICTIM HAS A GUARANTEED assault case here.

    Learn how the Australian legal system works, a victim does not bring an assault case to court, only the police can bring criminal charges, reporting it to the police was the right way to bring the matter before the court.

    Did any of you ever beat up your younger brother or sister when you were young?

    I never did, nor did my brothers or sisters beat me up, and none of us beat up other people, I think the fact that you and your family beat each other up, and find it acceptable to beat up others and hide each others actions from the police, to be much more telling of where your bias in your reporting of this story comes from.

    Maybe it is a culture difference where as Australians we trust our police and our legal system to respond in a rational and proportionate way to matters that are brought before them.

    I wish we could here, but we can’t — it’s a crapshoot. Some cops remember their job is “problem solving”, while others think it’s “get them on as many charges as possible”, which can cause more problems than it solves. -rc

  101. Firstly, if I hadn’t read the whole scenario with Jennifer’s first rendition, I would never have known that this whole scene was over the victim wearing glasses. Secondly, we don’t know what the punishment was for the first time these kids did something similar.

    That being said, I don’t think it matters! I’d like to clap Matt on the back for having a set and showing his darling children that it is NOT acceptable behavior! The fact he sold the car and horse is wonderful. Those things are a HUGE privilege and kids who display that kind of behavior don’t deserve them. And giving those profits to the victim? Priceless.

    I highly doubt that they’ll be considered felons the rest of their lives. Probably only until they’re 18 or 21 or some such thing. In the meantime I hope they’ve got plenty of community service projects lined up.

  102. Matt did the right thing. You correct behavior before it gets to murder. Not after.

    And if you think the punishment is less if the victim reports the attack rather than the aggressors parent you would be wrong.

    Additionally, in the US, records are expunged when the age of 18 is obtained if requested by law.

    By the way, I wore glasses. I was teased one time. I was called a four-eyes. I answered, “The better to see you with my dear.” The crowd laughed and I won that round. No further comments were needed.

  103. I am probably not qualified to have an opinion, as my children are 6 years and 22 months old respectively. However, my general parenting “style” is to allow my children to feel the natural (or simulated) consequences of their actions and choices.

    Had this been a schoolyard scuffle with a bruise or two, I think a simulated “jail sentence” at home would be appropriate, to give them a taste of what would happen if this had escalated and/or they had done this as an adult.

    If it happened again, we’d be making a visit to Juvenile Hall and/or the jail, so they could see what their future held.

    In my opinion, this situation went beyond that. They broke a child’s jaw, and have clearly not learned anything from prior incidents. I feel it is definitely time for them to pay the piper.

    I do not think it does your children any good to try to “protect them” from the consequences of their actions.

    My daughter is only 6, so of course I remind her to do her homework, and help her if she needs it. However, if she refuses to do it, gives me a hard time etc.I shrug and explain that I’m not the one who will have consequences, she will. I tell her that I will gladly write her teacher a note, tell her that she refused to do her homework, and ask her to do whatever she does with children who do not turn in their homework. This is done without emotion or malice, just fact. We apply this same philosophy to everything. Don’t wear your coat? You’ll be cold. Careless with a toy? Shame it’s broken. You’ll have to save your money to buy a new one.

    I want my children to grow up to be responsible adults who understand that they control their own lives, and I believe it is never too early to start.

  104. Personally, I think its that family’s business how they handle it. The kids will be fine. If Australia is like the US, their juvi record will be expunged when they turn 18 anyway. Fresh start with harsh lessons. Now would I do that to my son? No need. He would probably beg to be arrested as opposed to dealing with me. “No not the wii! Don’t take it mommy! Please! I’ll be good!” 🙂 I have a lot of ideas, all humane yet torturous as to how I’d handle our business at home if that was my child. Starting with a personal apology to boy and family. Than he would have go to families house every day and perform the boys chores and also help with the boy in case he needs extra care. This is all assuming the boy and family don’t mind it. Maybe they just want $, then my boy has to work to get it. But he can do both, work for them and pay them. I would hope his hard work would be a lesson but to top it all off — I’d ask him to prepare a presentation on why bullying is bad, and he has to convince me or he has to do it over. These are just ideas off the top of my head. He’s only 7 now and he’s good. Check back with me after puberty.

  105. Good for Matt! Dad did the right thing. If more parents handled this type of situation the way he did, more kids would get the message. Both of his kids are teens and of an age that they should have known that beating the child was a crime. You heard the saying “you can’t do the time don’t do the crime.”

    It is time that parents stop covering for and babying their kids and start teaching them the hard lessons of life. Maybe our future generations will be able to live in a world with out violence when they are taught violence is wrong.

  106. The father was completely correct in hauling his children to the police. As a mother who has had to do this to her own child for behavior which was beyond my capabilities to handle without planting said child 6 feet under, the father is most likely saving the juveniles from much worse later in life. My son told me 10 years after I had him arrested that what I did, though painful for us both, was the best thing I could have done as it was truly an eye-opener for him. I wish more parents would realize that sometimes drastic measures must be taken in order to forestall larger problems down the road. It does NOT mean the parent is a failure, but quite the opposite: the parent CARES ENOUGH to try to help the child by whatever means necessary, no matter how harsh it may seem at the time for both the parent and the child. Jennifer’s attitude of “handle it at home” is PRECISELY why children these days seem so out of control — the at-home consequences are not enough to make the child stop and think about the repercussions of what he or she is about to do.

  107. Matt definitely did the right thing, and if I had the chance to talk to him I’d say “I really sympathize with you in this situation, it must be incredibly hard, but I fully support your decision and hope with all my heart that it benefits your children in the end.”

    Covering for your children when they’ve broken the law just teaches your children that they can get away with breaking the law. Period.

  108. From the way Jennifer persists in defending her misguided stance on this issue, it would appear that she herself has been the bully (and perhaps still is) and sees nothing wrong with picking on others. What a shame as she is definitely part of the problem. It used to be the mindset of “boys will be boys” to justify everything from mischievousness to date rape or even more. I for one am glad that we have opened up our eyes to the damage that bullying does.

  109. Reading the original article (Sydney Morning Herald) brings a slightly different point of view than either of the re-writes. One thing I got from it is that the father would do it a little differently if he had the opportunity to do it over.

    There is a big area between “You don’t turn in your own family members “ and “always call the cops”. This was not a first offense, which means to me that you can’t just fix it at home. In this specific case I think the right approach (for me) would be to tell the victims parents what you saw happen and that you would support their decision.

    Bullies will repeat. Putting them in the corner for a timeout isn’t a solution. The consequences of their actions must be made clear and in a way that overwhelms whatever drives them to do it in the first place. Sweeping it under the rug repeatedly will quickly set a lifelong pattern. Sometimes tough love means that neither of you wins, but hopefully there will be no more victims. It reads to me that the father’s actions might have worked, but he paid a heavy price.

  110. I personally think the father did the right thing in calling the police for many of the reasons mentioned previously.

    Calling this a simple case of bullying is, however, incorrect. Simply put, this is an assault — most likely with a weapon. I come to this conclusion by considering the amount of force needed to break a human jaw bone.

    From Answers.com:
    “in layman’s terms, a lot [of force] (fyi ur [sic] average guy will have a hard time of it without a weapon), but its hard to give a specific answer to this question as there is a lot of difference in each persons bones especially when you consider age as a factor. From early teenage years to roughly 33-34 years of age (when your bones are at there strongest) the force required to fracture almost any bone in the body multiplies by a factor of 2.5 to 3 times. So Your looking at at least around 3-5000 Newtons of force, and for those of you who didn’t do Physics in school this is roughly like having a medium sized guy jumping on your head.
    so don’t try it, your more likely to break several bones in your hand then to break someones jaw.”

    Other sources mention speed equivalents of a 10-15 mph collision to cause such damage.

    This was not a slap and tickle – kids will be kids incident. This was a serious battery which goes beyond mere parenting and family based punishment. It was a criminal offense.

    PS: These numbers are from the internet, so caution is needed, but I suspect that further research would conclude that the solidity of the jaw bone warrants high force to break.

  111. When my nieces were younger, the older one got into some trouble. Not as bad as this but still her father said she had to go to the police. Believe me, I have great respect for Matt. A lot of families will not do what he has done. I think more families should. By the way, my niece turned out an excellent young lady.

  112. Well, I like both versions. Why? Both versions have merit.

    I can see the dad was a pr*ck idea, but I also see that maybe the dad was right, too. We, on the outside, just do not have enough facts to make the decision. We do not know the family history, etc. There may be religious, cultural, and other factors involved, for instance. We do not know if this was over-reaction or a desperate measure.

    The important issue is what happens from now on: How will the kids be “treated”? (By dad, courts, friends, victim, etc.) Will they get counseling? What happens to this family, and to the other family? Is forgivance possible? Will the kids actually learn and profit from this lesson? Will they become good people?

    Depending on local laws, if the kids were under 18, then their records, if they are good from now on, can perhaps be later “sealed” with the help of a lawyer, a good sympathetic judge, and so on.

    Who knows, maybe this will be one of those stories where future follow ups are possible. (Randy & co have done some amazing follow up work on some stories.) We may yet learn more of the outcome…. (HINT: I’d be curious.)

    Let us all agree to disagree, and all go on as friends, not arguing the outcome. This was obviously not an easy story to cover. Personally, I am cutting both Jennifer and Randy some slack here, and will not issue judgments or engage in side taking.

    I don’t do “agree to disagree.” I state my case, and listen to their case, and then let the other person accept it or not, just as I may change my mind, or not. I think Jennifer is stubborn and wrong — and admire her ability to stick to her guns in the face of so much opposition. -rc

  113. Somehow, Jennifer’s attitude makes me think she is rather young.

    Yes, Jennifer, I did have fights with my older brother up until he was about 12. However, we didn’t draw blood or break bones. I did see a fight between two teenagers once. Neither had any broken bones.

    However, fights AMONG teenagers who aren’t gang members usually means many against one. The daughter of a family friend was the “one” in a “fight among teenagers”, but did not survive the experience. The parents of some of the less violent attackers turned them in. Those kids then testified and admitted she had done nothing to provoke the attack, except be a different color. If she succeeded in landing a punch while trying to defend herself against 8 attackers punching and kicking her, does that mean it was partly her fault, and they are somehow less guilty? Is she less dead that way? Even the more violent offenders will be out of jail in a few years (juvenile offenders, you know).

    The father probably saved them further trouble with the police by taking them in, rather than waiting for the police to come and get them, as they surely would have after the victim’s parents complained. Now, they will probably serve their probation do their community service, perhaps get some counseling, and have their records sealed or expunged when they become adults. They won’t suffer much.

    But you’re right in saying the victim will need psychiatric help, or the results of this could be lifelong.

  114. I don’t have much more to add that hasn’t been said already, but I am puzzled by Jennifer’s argument that Matt shouldn’t turn in his kids, as it could have a lasting effect on their lives.

    What about the victim? Will this not have a lasting effect? Should the kids be allowed to walk through life, trudging on other peoples’ lives without repercussions? I just cannot even remotely “get” Jennifer’s point of view. I hope to never have to interact with anyone from her family either.

  115. I agree with Jennifer. Handing your children a permanent criminal record before their eighteenth birthdays is hardly the act of a loving parent. But these things don’t happen in a vacuum. As was made clear, this was a repeat offense. How poor has the person’s parenting been for how long to allow this to happen — more than once? Seems to me that Matt turned his kids over to the cops because he hadn’t been doing his job as a parent for a very long time. Should the state be used to get Matt off the hook for being a poor parent? and should the taxpayers pay for it? And lastly, who actually believes that incarceration will WORK? Not anyone in the criminal justice system — that’s what “recidivist” means!

  116. Gee whiz Jennifer’s comment later on really lost me: “I can guarantee you that the victim hit back, he wasn’t tied up and beaten to a pulp. He probably got a good one in on the sister and the brother lost it.” Where does she get that from? A 13 yo up against a 15 & 17 yo; more likely he was cowering just hoping the attack would stop, esp as it was a subsequent attack on him by these bullies. The dad did what he thought was the responsible and morally correct thing to do. Good on him for being a good role model in this sense. As a teacher/school principal and parent it reassuring to see that there are some parents out there who accept that their children make mistakes and must be responsible for and face the consequences of their actions. Too often in today’s society people want to blame someone else for their actions.

    Hopefully now the brother and sister will see the error of their ways and be valuable members of society.

  117. To Deborah in West Virginia: Have you not been reading all these?? It’s highly unlikely these “children” will have a permanent record after they turn 18, and as for Matt’s parenting skills, bravo to him. None of us except Matt knows what happened before, but whatever it was, at least what he did in response to his children’s horrible and violent acts will have an impact on them. We can only hope it will show them that their acts have large consequences. It truly IS the act of a loving parent! If he didn’t love them, he might well have done what you and Jennifer would have done: let them get away with it. Our society has become so tolerant of this type of behavior that parents are becoming frightened of their own children. I may have received corporal punishment from my mother and teachers while I grew up, but I generally deserved it. More power to you, Matt. I’m keeping my kids far away from West Virginia.

  118. Deborah, have you even read any of the comments? It’s *not* a permanent record, it’s a juvenile record that gets expunged when they turn 18.

    I also think it’s a stretch to condemn the guy’s parenting — particularly on the information we have — and saying he must have been a bad parent because his kids are abusive delinquents.

    Bottom line is that these kids committed a crime, and instead of teaching his kids that they were immune to prosecution he taught them that they must take responsibility for their own actions, and in a way that doesn’t disadvantage them in the future.

    Besides, chances are they won’t be incarcerated — more likely is community service, fines, or other non-custodial sentences.

  119. Might I point out an inaccuracy in several statements? In the U.S., juvenile offenses are not “expunged” after an offender turns 18. They become “sealed”, which means they still exist but do not show up in ordinary background checks. Those records are still available to law enforcement and for national security clearances, as well as judges for sentencing purposes if relevant.

    Also, certain felonies may also result in penalties that extend into adulthood. It’s a myth that no juvenile will remain incarcerated past 18 unless “tried as an adult,” although more leniency is usually shown to juvenile offenders in sentencing. However, while serious in this case, I still doubt that those kids will spend any substantial time in jail.

    As for the hype that a “record” will destroy their lives? Let’s forget the hyperbole (no, not exaggeration, but drama) that a person’s life is over once they have a record. It can be an impediment, a speed bump, for some situations, but not the end of all their expectations. You CAN go to college with a felony conviction; you CAN get a good, high-paying job, you CAN even get a national security clearance. It’s the details, not the mere record, that get in the way.


    It is time people learn that.

    Back to the stories, the original attempt was way too long, the second was a LOT better.

  121. I disagree with Jeniffer’s stand, but I have often disagreed with things that you’ve written, Randy. What bothers me more is that your sharp wit and well-reasoned, well-researched arguments always make me think about it for a bit and come away enriched and eager for the next story, but her story seemed kind of flat (no real “zing”) and her supporting arguments were poorly conceived emotionalism, with lots of CAPS used to make up for the fact that she had a poorly thought-out argument. She’s substituting her dearly held moral principles for a real argument we can sink our teeth into. I can get that at church, or from any jackass off the street.

    I read True because it makes me smarter (and sometimes I laugh). I feel “stupider” after reading what she had to say. Everyone is going to have some “off” days, but I really hope she can get it together, because as it stands, I read True to get intellectually stimulated and mostly I’m getting emotionally stimulated here. The emotion is: sad.

  122. It is just so wrong to say Matt must have been a bad parent if this happened before. My mother raised three children all the same. Two of us have been fine upstanding citizens all our lives. The third has been in trouble all his life. When he was a juvenile, my mom blamed it on my brother’s bad friends and how awful their parents must have been… until she met the parents who were just as nice and middle class as she was! And they had thought the same things about our parents!

    People, regardless of their ages, make choices and must be held accountable for them and I am glad Matt chose to do the responsible thing.

  123. I say bravo to Dad in this situation. It takes a lot of courage to be perceived as a bad guy in this situation, both from his kids AND his peers.

    I know from experience from an overnight stay in a police station after sneaking out of my boarding house and committing petty theft with a mate.

    I was never a bad kid, just made a bad choice when it looked like I could get away with it. My parents, specifically my Dad, had a “Cause and Consequence” strategy to my upbringing. When he was called by police after my friend and I were caught, he wouldn’t speak to me, just got permission to leave me there overnight. My friends parents drove 3 hours to come pick my friend up.

    Lesson learned. When you commit a crime, you must always pay the consequences.

    At the age that these kids are at, this isn’t simple reactionary behaviour you’d see in a 2 year old, these are behaviours that will exist on into adulthood if not stopped. If you protect them from punishment, then you teach “crime is ok so long as you get away with it.”

  124. My first reaction was being sort of on the fence about whether it was good or bad that he turned his kids in to the police. It seems harsh that he would report his young children to the police, but they did severely beat another boy. It wasn’t just a cuts and bruises beating that they gave, so I am very glad he would teach his children a tough lesson for doing such a horrible thing.

  125. I was going to write and applaud the Dad BEFORE I read your comments further in the e-zine. Now that I know that Dad has dealt with this before, he has earned even more respect from me! I hope plenty of people will give him their support, but I know many won’t. I’ll wager these kids will think twice about doing something like this again. Whatever he did the first time didn’t make a big enough impression.

    I’m not surprised that people are going to think this is a HORRIBLE thing to do to your kids. Society these days has raised a bunch of kids who “can do no wrong”, we don’t want to damage little “Joey’s” psyche! But what is going to damage him more? This trip to the police station now, or a stint in jail for something FAR more serious later! And why should the victim be “punished” by the lax consequences just because he was fortunate enough to not be murdered? Most murderers don’t start off by committing murder, they start small, and things escalate.

    If I could, I’d write Dad a letter and say THANK YOU VERY MUCH!! I truly hope that these kids HAVE learned the lesson this time. And I hope that the victim is able to put this behind him. More parents like this and bullying crimes would drop dramatically!

  126. Jennifer, I suspect you are still young, under the age of 30. I and many whom I have spoken to agree that one is not an adult until that age. For most of our growth happens between the ages of twenty and thirty. If this is true you may wish to revisit this story.

    Your argument is similar to most young adults, “you have to agree with me for I am your child”. Not the adult type statement of “He did the right/wrong thing because….”

    Reality is this, there is far too much not known at this time to honestly decide Matt was a Ratt. Most have assumed that these two youths just jumped and beat upon him for wearing glasses. Perhaps this is close to the truth. Perhaps it started that way, and the 13 year old threw the first punch at the girl, assuming she was the easiest prey. Perhaps the brother defended her, hit him as hard as possible on the sweet spot of the chin breaking it. Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps.

    What is fact is all of the story, good and bad will be heard before a Judge, and a proper ruling should be given.

    Did Matt do the right thing? In my opinion YES, but not for the “punishment should fit the crime” reason most cite. By bringing his children in, he has demonstrated to the system that he wishes to work within the system, and willing to help take responsibility. If I were in this situation, I would assume that a judge would be easier on a child where a parent is taking an interest than one who doesn’t. Perhaps this is the difference between a 17 year old being moved from Youth to Adult court. If one uses Jennifer’s premise of “criminal record will follow them for life before they are even 18”, would not this choice minimize that chance?

    Using that thirty year old as the measuring line, we will never know if Matt was a Ratt or a great dad. Unless someone comes back in say thirteen years to see if this brush with the law pushed the children straight, or put a wedge into the family that never recovers.

    In reading the posts, there are several, less than ten, that imply the scared straight concept. I do not believe I have read one that shows the wedge in the family.

    Randy the rewrite was needed, the original post was too wordy. Jennifer has provoked thought and debate on the same level of zero tolerance stories, so in this case she has done a good job.

    A very level-headed analysis! Thanks, James. As for Jennifer’s age, she mentioned in the interview that I linked to that she is 56. -rc

  127. If the father didnt take them to the police, I’m sure the parents of the victim would have, which probably would mean that things might have gone a bit harder on the assailants.

  128. Yeah, my Aunty never dobbed in my cousins. Not the Working Class Aussie way. One cousin suicided at 19 & the other died from a heroin OD at 21…The father did the RIGHT thing. Lets hope they follow it up with some professional help to assess & amend those behaviours. That would also go along way to ever getting the charges removed later in life. Its NOT impossible, even in QLD, but the criminal offender must make the effort. And actually WANT to be an asset to themselves & society. Good onya’ Matt!

  129. And here’s a link to a flipside ~ a story from Melbourne. I know which parent did the right thing and it wasn’t the one in the story for the link below: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/i-knew-you-did-it-teen-pleads-guilty-to-garg-murder-20110420-1do3g.html

    In this story about a cold-blooded murder, police got a recording of the mother telling her son, “Yeah, and you don’t mention about having any knives at all if they ask you.” -rc

  130. You don’t envolve the police. I’m from a small town where everyone knows everyone. There is no way I would turn my children in to the police. She would probably come home pregnant 🙂 A badge here seems to give them the right to break someone’s jaw. Police brutally has been told so much and so little has been done that no one reports it anymore. I would ground my child until he/she turned the ripe old age of 18 and tell them college or get a job and get out.

    How sad that you’re so cowed, you won’t even report it when the police commit a crime. No wonder West Virginia has the reputation it does. -rc

  131. I am a parent of two teenage boys and I would probably react as Matt did. YES he did the RIGHT thing. If no serious consequences are made, the children would go further the next time and might be ending up with repeated assaults or manslaughter. Even if it sounds hard to lose a car or a horse it is not enough punishment to learn the lesson and the rules made by the government. I fully support you Matt!

  132. I am disappointed that Jennifer hasn’t even made an attempt to address anyone’s comments, just ranted about how nobody’s agreeing with her and then thrown her toys out of the pram and trampled off in a huff.

    Jennifer, you may be an adult in terms of age, but you’re acting like a child. You have offended a number of people, you have trivialised the suffering that bullying (and, really, any crime “other than murder”) causes, and you have said that the law does not apply to you.

    You need to apologise. You need to show that you at least read and try to understand why you have encountered such a storm of disagreement.

    Randy often says controversial things, he not unfrequently gets complaints. But where he gives the impression that he tries to see both sides of the story, you have been frankly insulting to a number of people who have voiced there disagreement. You have blindly ranted about your blinkered, irresponsible, dogmatic view with no regard for anyone but yourself.

    Randy’s opinions, whether I agree with them or not, always show a degree of maturity, intellect and thought. Yours has shown none of those.

    You should not be writing for True until you can learn to accept debate, until you can learn when to apologise gracefully, until you learn some empathy.

    You have resorted to ad hominem attacks. You have been an apologist for bullies, criminals, robbers, rapists and child abusers. You whine at length because not enough people are agreeing with your preposterous opinions, but you think it’s all right to refer to (as far as we can tell) a good parent as a “ratt”, a “pr*ck” (and by the way, if you’re too squeamish to use the word, use one you think you can publish), and WORSE THAN THOSE WHO WOULD BODILY HARM A CHILD.

    You, Jennifer, have no morals, no maturity, and no integrity. If you can’t grow up at your age, please resign from True and stop inflicting your self-righteous, law-flouting rubbish on the world.

    Now and then, readers have violently disagreed with me. I’ve been called all sorts of names from “anti-Christian” (when I argued for religious freedom), to “arch conservative” (when I slammed a liberal), to “extreme liberal” (when I slammed a conservative), etc. I have always asked readers to not let one hot-button (for them) story define me, but rather look at my work as a whole.

    I don’t believe Jennifer has “no morals, no maturity, and no integrity.” I do believe she has something in her past that is coloring her response to this issue. Does she need to come to terms with it, if that’s the case? Sure. Will beating on her help? I don’t think so. Seeing the variety of opinions might help. Meanwhile, as with me, I’d prefer you judge her by the whole of her work. -rc

  133. I frankly agree with the father’s decision, with one or two caveats. Why did he not come down harder the first time, what training did he not enforce when they were younger that would lead to this kind of behavior, and what prompted their attack in the first place? I have had to deal with a similar problem with two of my children (petty theft, in one case, drugs, in another) and the biggest question I ask is where I went wrong. We disciplined our children in a loving manner, tried to teach them right from wrong, but in the end they had to deal with the results of their own choices. (They are both doing better now, btw.)

    We have had dealings in this time with bullying cops, incompetent lawyers, and a legal system that expects you to admit to what they want, not what really happened.

  134. There have been a lot of comments about the father’s lack of parenting skills. Someone once said “Parenting is the last preserve of the amateur” — so there aren’t any professionals to tell you exactly how to do it. And the old “Nature vs Nurture” debate comes in here as well. Not to mention the peer pressures that kids get at school and from their friends, that parents can’t do a lot to change. I take my hat off to anyone who successfully raises a kid — and if it takes what Matt did to get them back on the straight and narrow, so be it.

    If you can’t take your kids to the police and expect to have them treated fairly, the problem is with the police, not with the parent who does it.

  135. On the subject of parenting skills, or lack thereof, I made an earlier comment about parental failure that was challenged. All parents are failures; just ask their kids. And any parent that does not review some decision or parental philosophy with doubt is arrogant beyond belief. As David, Australia indicated, parenting is a minefield for mistakes. But mistakes can be corrected.

    Father Flanagan, founder of Boys Town (Nebraska, 1921) stated that “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.”

    People have misquoted that statement to “There are no bad children, only bad parents.” Children are NOT tiny adults with adult reasoning processes. Nor are they programmable robots where only the parents have failed to properly program them. They are individual human beings with moldable, but still prevalent, personalities of their own.

    And note an important facet of Father Flanagan’s quote, environment. All the parenting skill can be futile against a hostile environment (peer pressure, school policies, pop culture) that undermines the best parent’s efforts.

    I offer this (arrogant) opinion: Anyone who attempts to assess success or failure in a parent, based upon limited information, OR the fact that a child has done wrong, is either not a parent, or is a failure as a parent themselves. Anyone who praises oneself as a “good” parent just because they’ve survived influences beyond their control is lucky, not good.

    Matt’s decision sounds a lot like the guy trapped under the water heater who had to make the decision to continue letting his gangrenous arm rot, or chop it free to save the rest of his body. It might have been more painful, but worthwhile to sacrifice a few of his kid’s years (months?) in order to save many more years of their future.

  136. I found this discussion between Randy and Jennifer particularly ironic because neither has been responsible for raising children. I have, and fortunately to date mine have been relatively easy, with the hardest issues being how “out of it” I must be to not see things their way (there’s a Mark Twain line to the effect that his father was the stupidest man on earth when he [Twain] had been a teenager, but had learned a lot in the last decade that I find comforting).

    I don’t know what I would have done in this situation, but I also don’t know the history up til the point of the story. The father clearly was stretched past the point of handling the problem within the family. Whether this was because of the severity of the crime or the lack of response to earlier interventions is relevant in a legalistic answer, but not in a theoretical discussion.

    I do know that parenting is the hardest job I have ever tried (I’ve done construction, software engineering, and being a physician, in addition to running several kinds of volunteer groups). There is never a right or wrong answer that works in all cases, you’re often working blind and with lots of conflicting advice, and there is never a shortage of people, both adult and child, both family and outsiders, who can second-guess your choices and tell you why what you did was absolutely wrong. All I can say is, “I did the best I could with the information and resources I had available.”

    I feel blessed to have had such an easy time with my girls so far, and hope never to have a choice to make, like this father did.

  137. I agree with “Matt” for turning in his children. I have been the victim of bullying and so has my child — certainly not to the extent of broken bones or bleeding, but definitely enough to mentally damage for the rest of life to some degree. Over time, some bullying can be overcome, but not always. The mental damage is unmeasurable.

    I would have no hesitation for doing the same if I caught my son doing such an atrocity to another human being, no matter the age difference. My son knows that I wouldn’t tolerate such behavior, so family or not, you must be accountable for your actions. I believe that it is unacceptable to hold your family unaccountable. No wonder there are so many problems in our society if we are protecting those who act out and do so much harm. I would be absolutely devastated to make that choice, but I would not tolerate such a degree of mindset either.

    It saddens me to see so many who don’t want to squelch such bullying, and my heart goes out the the father who had to make such a decision.

    I had to have the police come to my home to have a “chat” with my son as he didn’t follow my direction so he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that I love him enough to take action. Granted it wasn’t for bullying, but his action could have lead to devastating consequences, so I had to nip it in the bud. I wish so many more parents would take action as opposed to “sweeping it under the carpet”. Sometimes the police need to be involved. It isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes just lecturing the child just doesn’t cut it.

  138. I’m with Andrew from Sweden in my disappointment with Jennifer’s original story and her subsequent reaction. Whether she chooses to rethink things is up to her, but it is her loss if she cannot even find some merit in the opposing position.

  139. Australia does not have a “legal” system like the USA, there are no felonies. These kids (if prosecuted – unlikely) will probably have to do a few hundred hours of Community Service, and their Juvenile Record should be expunged when they turn adults (18) – unless they make a habit of violence.

  140. I don’t think there’s enough information to judge the father’s parenting skills and certainly not enough to judge Jennifer for her story proposal or offline comments made to her editor (Randy).

    However, I wholeheartedly agree with Jennifer’s contention that you don’t involve the police. I think contacting the victim’s parents, punishing his kids, selling the car and horse, seeing through contrition, and making retribution were all excellent ideas. But, I think when it comes to your family, you should follow similar guidelines as to those used by therapists or other professionals who practice confidentiality: do not involve the authorities unless there is the threat of harm to others or to your child (e.g. your child has taken the car keys and is out driving drunk, or your child and his friend have left for school with a duffel bag full of guns).

    The penalty for involving law enforcement is too permanent, too severe, and may have unintended consequences: being in the system may throw suspicion on your child in unrelated matters; judicial punishment increases with subsequent offenses, most notably with jurisdictions that have three-strikes laws; having a criminal record may preclude your child from certain career paths, organizations, and even eligibility for student loans; a prosecutor may opt to pursue charges that far exceed anything you had expected. Heaven help your child if he is convicted of a hate crime or sex offense. These particular crimes sound heinous until you read stories of minors being prosecuted as sex offenders for sexting pictures to one another or engaging in consensual sexual acts.

    Don’t lie or falsify evidence for your child, but don’t start the ball rolling and don’t play a hand and his prosecution. I’ve seen too many instances (especially here on This is True) of zero tolerance policies and aggressive prosecutions to willfully subject my own child to such treatment.

    My wife and I have a standing policy: no matter what the kids are accused of, don’t let the police in without a warrant. Our children are only 4 and 5, so hopefully it never comes up, but we’ve already discussed the possibility.

    Thanks for the calm, thoughtful exploration of the “other side.” I think it’s sad that you have to come up with such a policy (described at the end) for your youngsters, but it’s clearly a good idea in the current era of overzealous governmental persecution (and no, I didn’t misspell prosecution!) -rc

  141. @Paul in Boston: You said: “when it comes to your family, you should […] not involve the authorities unless there is the threat of harm to others …”

    Did you read the original article? These kids broke a child’s jaw! How is that not “threat of harm to others”?

    If this is the way you plan to raise your children, then the streets of Boston will be a lot less safe in another decade.

    I think Paul was plenty clear on what he meant. “Threat of [future] harm” is very different from “harm that has already occurred.” -rc

  142. I think Paul was plenty clear on what he meant. “Threat of [future] harm” is very different from “harm that has already occurred”. -rc

    Although I agree that Paul made a very coherent argument for his point of view, I ultimately still disagree because Randy is right. Threat of future harm IS very different than harm that’s already occurred. Future harm is only a possibilitiy, while current harms is real and has been established. And that is what must be addressed.

    Fears about a legal system’s possible deficiencies guides all aspects of respect/adherence to the law and can’t be used as an excuse when one’s own family comes under its domain. Making sure the system abides by its own obligations for proper enforcement is reasonable. Hiding from it out of fear only suggests that the system is irreparably broken and unreliably worthless.

    Imperfect though it may be, the alternative is uncontrolled anarchy and mob rule, which seems to be the lesson learned by these kids up to this point.

  143. Randy is RIGHT on the Money! If I found my child beating someone like that I would drag them to the cops too! If it was something lesser as verbal assault or a lower level of physical assault suck as just pushing, then I would deal with it at home as Jennifer suggested. But something as serious as broken bones… NO that is criminal and those kids have to learn NOW they can not get away with it and being punished at home is the same as getting away with it.

  144. There is an option that I didn’t see mentioned – Tha father could have brought his children to the family of the injured child, and said:

    “What do YOU think is Justice”?

    And then, accepted THEIR judgement.

    THEY are the victims, not your readers feelings, not the perpetrators’ father’s feelings.

    Because No-one else knows what’s in their mind.

    Ask The Victim what They think.

  145. They didn’t have a skirmish, they beat the kid bad enough to do great bodily harm. That is felony assault in any location. The father turning them in reduced the need for law enforcement to go out and get them. Good for Dad!

  146. First of all I’d like to say plenty of Aussies have explained how the juvenile judicial system works in Australia and specifically Queensland. So I wish those who are going to comment on our system read those previous comments before commenting with things like ‘their record will follow them for life”. To be honest Australia probably has one off the most lenient systems for juvenile crims in the world; some say too lenient, but that’s another debate.

    Second I read comments like ‘you should stand by and support your family no matter what’ and I can’t help thinking isn’t standing by and supporting your family sometimes letting them know they are wrong? The son was 17, one year more and he would have been trialed as an adult for assault on a minor and then for sure he would go to jail and it would be hanging on his head for the rest of his life and guess how many people are willing to employ a child basher? The father clearly had to do something to show his son real world consequences before it was too late.

  147. My in-laws have an adopted daughter (she is actually the niece of my father-in-law). They have raised her as their own since she was 2. When she turned 15 she became an unbearable nightmare and was caught stealing and bullying on several occasions. When my in-laws attempted any type of punishment, their daughter would call the police and claim abuse.

    After dealing with false accusations (and almost becoming convicted abusers themselves), they called the police the when they searched her room and found a couple of thousand dollars of stolen jewelery and electronics. The daughter claimed invasion of privacy and abuse, but the police for once sided with my in-laws and arrested her.

    Sometimes, no matter how much you may want to protect or help your family, it really is better to let the authorities deal with the serious problems.

  148. When I was going to school in the 70’s, I was bullied just as much as my brother both emotionally and physically because my brother was “different”. I had to learn to defend myself (and him) very quickly or we would have been ground into the glass of the back alleys. I finally earned enough of a reputation that people stopped beating us up, but there was one kid that would beat my brother up any time I wasn’t around. One day, my mom’s boyfriend (about 6’2″ and 240, merchant marine) saw him in the back alley and mentioned that if he ever heard that the kid had beat up my brother again, he was going to make sure the word got around that there should be a fair fight between this kid and me. He never touched my brother again. I was always a defender. I never started anything.

    Then came middle school where I was going to a different school in a different state, but it was the same problem all over again. Only this time, there was a brand of disposable diapers that came out closely resembling my name. I don’t know how I passed 8th grade considering how much school I missed due to the teasing. It still haunts me, and with this year’s tax check, I’m finally getting my name legally changed. It really can haunt you for life.

    That same year, I was riding a friend’s bike, and a girl’s little brother purposely poked a hole in the tire. When I went home and told my mom and the friend, they told me to find out who it was so I could get the money for a tire patch kit (all of about $1.00 back then). When I went to find out who his parents were, big sis shows up, gets in my face, and starts threatening me. My mom and her friend finally had to get the money for the tire patch kit so I could fix it.

    The next winter, she caught me coming home from school and proceeds to beat the living daylights out of me. It was at least a 1/4 mile walk home from school, and NOBODY STOPPED to help! I looked like I’d been rolled through a rock tumbler for a week. My mom took me to the ER and we reported it to the police. It turns out I hadn’t seen her because she had just gotten out of juvie for breaking BOTH jaws of some other girl! (She apparently was a slow learner.) I’m almost willing to bet that wasn’t her last offense. She’ll be one to die in jail.

    I have 3 children who all made it into adulthood without a police record, but it was with a lot of empathy. “How would you feel if…?” “Don’t you think that would hurt if…?” I’d also like to give a little credit to reality police and forensic shows. I think if your kids watch tv every week and see that the bad guy gets caught, then it makes them think twice about whether they really want to try stupid stuff. Just my own opinion.

    Since I don’t know how Matt handled disciplining his kids before, I can’t comment on that. But I do think that his decision was right on the money. My kids have lost car privileges, computer/game console privileges, boyfriend/girlfriend privileges, and even horse privileges at the most inconvenient of times, and I still got a call from them for Mother’s Day (even my gamer son!) today. They may “HATE YOU!” for awhile, but then common sense always kicks back in and they realize that they can learn from someone as smart as you.

  149. In my humble opinion, the father was absolutely correct. It’s fairly obvious to me that he had tried other methods and they failed.

    More than once raising my son, I heard “I hate you” – my reply was ALWAYS “that’s OK, I love you enough for both of us” – the “hate you” period always passed. My sons are both over 30 now – they let me know in numerous frequent ways that they love me very much. Point of fact – my youngest called me from several states away late one night just to tell me that I raised them right – “nothing done in love is a mistake”. I had just lost my partner and was living alone for the first time in many many years – my son said he knew I was sitting there reliving all the “mistakes” I made raising them (Yup, I was) – and feeling bad. His next words — “stop it Mom. We love you – you did good”.

  150. I still don’t understand why people don’t trust the law. Law and Order requires the cooperation of the citizens to make it successful. It is not “US vs. THEM”; It is “We the People”. I think something happened to Jennifer to make her not trust the system and call the parent a “rat”.

    As for the story: The kids did a criminal act to another person and need to understand the ramifications. If the parents of the victim had to report the crime, those kids would actually be treated worse. Having the parent come forward and say “this is wrong, I am dealing with it” says much more to the victim of the crime and lets them know it wasn’t their fault. Too many times, the victim ends up wondering if it was their fault.

    Yes, I am using crime instead of “alleged crime” since they admitted to their wrongdoing.

  151. I think some posters are confusing American law with Australian law. These two minors will in all likelihood NOT be classed as felons. In fact they will probably get a slap on the wrist and no conviction recorded especially since the magistrate can demonstrably see that the parent has responded appropriately. I think the father probably knows this, most parents would.

    One shouldn’t forget that the victim had a BROKEN JAW. This was no petty injury and had his parents and the police been forced to track down these minors, they would not be getting the leniency their father’s actions have gained them.

    I applaud the father’s integrity.

  152. I believe the father did those two a favor. He put the fear of God (or Dad or the law) into them before they did something that couldn’t be fixed. I raised a problem child myself and it’s terrifying when nothing you do turns them around. I turned him in to the police at age 7 for destroying an empty home. (He was not on my watch or it would never have happened). As a teen on probation I turned him in every time he violated the terms. He thought the legal system was a joke because nothing ever came of it the times he was arrested. The last time he was arrested, I told him if he was ever arrested again, it would not be me that finally came and got him. (I always let him sit there and stew before they MADE me go get him.) I obviously wasn’t helping him and maybe CPS or whoever could. The judge wanted to know if fining me $500 was okay. I told her no, it wasn’t. I did not break the law, I have taught my son better and he chooses to do it anyway. Her jaw hit the floor. I told her that he broke the law, the consequences should be his. She put together a package of community service, drug education classes and something else that I am unable to recall at this time. On our way out of the courtroom the baliff told my son to do what she ordered or she would take his driver’s license away. My son replied “my mom won’t let me drive” and shocked the baliff as well.

    1. From all this, the boy learned that if Mom said it, he could take it to the bank, I always followed through.

    2. Driving requires common sense and a sense of responsiblity, it is not a God-given right. I might as well have put a loaded gun in his hand at that time.

    3. He FINALLY got what I’d been telling him for years — there are consequences for your actions.

    The good news: he went and got his GED, his driver’s license, joined the army and is now the wonderful, responsible, decent, fun, loving human being I always knew was there and he knows his mom loves him so much she busted her fanny to try and keep him from going down the wrong path. (How’s that for a run-on sentence? LOL)

    I hated being tough with him but I have to say it was well worth anything I had to go through to have him turn his life around. These kids did an awful thing to their victim and Dad did the right thing. Charged as juveniles, they get the fear factor and hopefully straightened up before doing something worse. The records are sealed here in the US, I don’t know about Australia. Besides, people seem to forget morality these days — it was what was right.

    Some kids “get it” right off. Others, like your son, don’t — and it takes a lot of good parenting to get them there. So many would have given up. I’m glad you didn’t, because now we (society) have a productive, responsible adult. Thanks; you’re a good mom. -rc

  153. I confess right off the bat that I haven’t read all 154 comments, although I did get through about half.

    I completely agree with what Matt did. As another reader commented, I was told growing up that if I were ever arrested that I should not call home because my father would NOT bail me out. I’m in my 40s and can tell you it stuck with me.

    From Jennifer’s vehement defense of her viewpoint, I’m wondering if she believes it was wrong of the Unabomber’s brother to turn him in. He was family, after all.

  154. Nicole in California — YOU should hold yourself responsible just like you blame your parents for not at least giving the police a ‘tip’ about your brother.

    Rob at Vandenberg AFB, CA — there is plenty of evidence of a need to have a ‘distrust’ of the police. Sad to say but most police officers are not of the Joe Friday School of “To Protect and Serve” but are instead too often overzealous bureaucrats who happen to carry guns and have the full power and force of the STATE to use against us. I can see why some people would want to shy away from any involvement with them, but typically those people have something to hide.

    Personally I think the father did the right thing. I was (mostly) verbally bullied and just outright shunned when I was a child mainly because I was fat! I get the whole ‘bullying is wrong’ thing and also know from my own bitter personal experience that most kids will NOT stop after being ‘talked to’ or even after a ‘time-out’ or having privileges taken away for a time. They either have to outgrow it or there have to be strong swift and severe consistent consequences for the behavior that will make them stop.

    There was an episode of “Dragnet” (Joe Friday comes from that show) back in the late 1960’s where a man brings his teen-aged son (approximate age 17) to the Police Station and asks if they will give him a tour of the jail — he says “I want him to know what happens if he stays on the path he is on now” and they let him have the tour. Later they come back and the kid says he has seen the light. Since the show was based on ‘true stories taken from the files of the LAPD’ one can presume that this vignette happened (or was taken as a composite of several such events). At the end Sgt. Friday says he only wishes more parents would bring their kids in for such a tour — it might save them a lot of heartache later.

    I appreciate Randy putting up both versions of the story because Jennifer’s version gave some information we did not have from Randy’s version. I also believe that some people were attacking JENNIFER and not the words she wrote. Reading “ThisisTrue” this long has taught me that we should attack ideas and not the people who express them. Randy has said plenty that has made me mad in the past but I have stuck it out because he has made me see that hitting the unsubscribe button would hurt me far more than it would him.


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