If you owned a home and you discovered pictures online of 300 teens partying in your home without your permission, what would you do?
The pictures show teens breaking out windows, dancing on top of your dining room table, spilling beer on your carpet, spray painting graffiti on your walls, punching holes in your ceilings and more. They did more $23,000 in damage and stole some personal belongings.
A) Immediately call the police and press charges, or;
B) Invite them over for a picnic and a cleanup party?
Former NFL player Brian Holloway found himself faced with that exact decision after discovering pictures that teens posted online of their escapades at his home in Stephentown, N.Y. He opted for decision B, inviting the teens and their parents over for a picnic and saying that, if they helped clean up the mess they created, he would not press charges.
He also launched a website, helpmesave300.com, where he reposted pictures the teens had posted, listed their names and requested help from others to give these teens constructive opportunities to make a difference in the community.
Most would probably agree that pressing charges would have been the first line of defense had they been the victim of this crime. But in an interview, Holloway said he was more concerned with helping the teens choose a better way than pressing charges against them.
What happens next in this story is shocking. Only one teen took Holloway up on his offer. Additionally, parents of some of the teens actually threatened to sue Holloway for posting their teen's name on the website.
Does anybody remember back in the day when you did something wrong or took something that didn't belong to you, your parents would drag you back to the scene of the crime and stand there while you apologized for your wrongdoing? Wow, times have definitely changed.
Let's fast forward to when these teens who committed this act are living on their own. When parents refuse to hold their children accountable for their behavior, they learn lessons such as:
• Don't worry if you do something wrong. You don't need to take responsibility for your behavior; someone else will do that for you.
• It does not matter if it belongs to you, feel free to destroy or take something that isn't yours just because you want it and believe you deserve it.
• Right and wrong totally depends on your own perspective on the situation at hand.
Wouldn't it be interesting to see how these teens would react if someone broke into their homes and destroyed or stole their personal belongings? Do you think the teens and their parents would invite the guilty party over for dinner and offer to forgive them if they made restitution? Or would they press charges and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law?
This scenario is a great teachable moment for parents and their children. Read this story to your children and ask them what they think about it. Does Holloway have a right to be angry? Was launching the website wrong? What consequences should these teens face?
Bottom line: Parents are responsible for teaching their children right from wrong. When it comes to taking responsibility, your expectations of your children matter.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.