Bad Parents Make for Bad Children


March 10, 2003

Genetics is not the only valid excuse for a child’s misbehaviour. Society prides itself in the way a child is raised by parents. Children misbehave because something vital is missing in one’s nurturing. These mothers and fathers allow young children to stray from moral equity, challenge authority and use violence as a resolution for anger. Nurturing should include deterrence from wickedness and inducement of morality all the while considering the child’s perspective. Laurie the main protagonist of the play “Charles” by Shirley Jackson is a testament to this fact of misbehavior as Laurie’s parents fail to stop Laurie’s wicked deeds while being ignorant of the five year old’s point of view.

When a child does something wrong it is the parent’s responsibility to discourage repetition of bad conduct and encourage understanding that the action committed was wrong. Parental guidance is necessary for a child’s survival because a it is born into the world knowing nothing, and thus, adapts to the world’s surroundings with the help of these leaders. Laurie’s mother shows this quality by correcting Laurie’s grammatical error as seen here, “ ‘I didn’t learn nothing,’ Laurie said. / ‘Anything,’ his mother said. ‘Didn’t learn anything’ ” (107). However, telling a child what is wrong is not enough. A young person needs an explanation for the mistakes that he/she makes and must be given a reason not to repeat it. Otherwise, a child is prone to believe one can do anything one wants. The play “Charles” is based upon Laurie’s lie to his parents of there being a boy named Charles at school who misbehaves when in reality Charles is Laurie. This is revealed as Laurie comes home and his mother explains, “Laurie thought and then said it was Charles who was bad today (107) . . . / but later I learned from the teacher that there was no Charles in kindergarten” (111). Laurie’s parents, believing that Charles is the culprit of mischief throughout the story, overlook Laurie’s misbehaviour. Granted, his parents did not know that Charles is Laurie, but knowing what Charles did the adults made no effort to console Laurie about the matter. Instead of explaining to Laurie that Charles did something wrong his mother and father assume he understands the situation. The plot of Charles’ actions is more important to the parents who ask, “What did he [Charles] do?” (107 & 108) than making sure Laurie understands the problem with what Charles did. As a result Laurie discovers that running from problems is easier than learning the consequences of the action done. Thus, his parents fail to teach Laurie that he did something wrong and why it is wrong, so his continually bad behavior is a result of bad parenting.

Failure to deter bad behaviour leads a child to challenge authority. Laurie demonstrates his parents’ loose handling of discipline by being cheeky and rude. In the following passage this neglect to enforce respect is apparent, and so, the child runs from the problem, “I [Laurie’s mother] asked again but Laurie slid off his chair, took a cookie, and left, while his father was still saying, ‘See here, young man’” (107). Society believes that an offspring should honour his/her parents. A child is supposed to listen to a parent and answer his/her role models’ questions. No one taught Laurie this is wrong; he continues to show disrespect because his parents did not emphasize to him – this is wrong.

In the same way, a child will use violence as a method of ridding frustration unless a parent intercedes and explains the danger of this action. Violence is a natural instinct that must be controlled. Role models exist to teach a growing individual that enacting this instinct is wrong. Laurie’s guardians fall short in making him realize this as he grins, “Today Charles hit the teacher” (107). Since as mentioned before Laurie is really Charles, it was Laurie who hit the teacher. He hits the teacher because the teacher tries to make him do something he does not want to do and his response is to fight back. As a result the child is doomed to repeat this misconduct. This is shown as Laurie’s teacher reports