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An Example Other Parents and Our Courts Should Follow

James H. Lilley


            Steven Hambleton broke the rules and paid the price, when his mother, Jane, sold his 1999 Olds Intrigue.  The rules were simple, no booze in the car, and keep it locked.  A responsible parent stepped up and took action, not simply because her son broke the rules, but to prevent tragedy.  Cars and alcohol dont mix.  Just ask the thousands who lose loved ones each year to incidents involving drunken driving.  Jane Hambleton received nationwide praise for her actions, including an appearance on Good Morning America, and invitations from Oprah and Ellen to appear on their shows. 

But, how many parents in America are there, who would have the courage to stand up, and take the same hard-nosed action?  Unfortunately, I dont believe it would be the majority.  Dont expect many to stand up and take responsibility for their childs actions.  In todays America, far too many parents are quick to point a finger of blame at someone else for their childs actions.  Everyone, including law enforcement officers are often condemned when a child is arrested for breaking the law.  Police have even been blamed for the fatal accidents, which have taken the lives of drunken or reckless drivers.

Why?  Is it because its easier to say, If youd been doing your job, this wouldnt have happened, than it is to say, If only Id been a more responsible parent?  But, when the police arrest a child for drunken driving, or possession and use of drugs, the accusation often is, You dont have anything better to do, than harass my son or daughter.  Why dont you go out and catch real criminals?  If those pointing the accusing finger at everyone else had a backbone, theyd take the appropriate measures at home to ensure that their child wasnt an arrest, or fatal accident statistic.  Discipline and love go hand

in hand.    

             How many parents would say, Hey, it wasnt his or her booze in the car, why should I punish them?  In Steves case, the rules said no booze, period.  There were no stipulations that, as long as the alcohol belonged to someone else, it was okay.  And, thats the way it should be.  Parents should establish the ground rules, and their son or daughter should follow them to the letter, or suffer the consequences.  If this were the norm, it would also place a standard of accountability on the child.  And, as the owner and or driver of the car, the responsibility falls on their shoulders to ensure parental rules and the laws are obeyed.

            I had rules to abide by when I was growing up, and I had no doubt whatsoever that those rules would be strictly enforced.  When I reached that magic age, and obtained my drivers license, I didnt have to be told about the no alcohol restriction.  That was absolutely understood without a word ever having been spoken.  Safe driving and good grades were a must, and failure to drive safely, or maintain passing grades meant that the car would sit parked in front of the house on weekends.  I worked hard to keep at least a B average, and was often the brunt of jokes by a few classmates, because they viewed the grade as sucking-up.  I didnt really care what my peers thought, because I wanted the privilege of using my car on weekends.  And, use of the car was a privilege, not a right guaranteed by some mythical doctrine.  In America today there seems to exist a belief that it is a childs, or anyones right, to have a drivers license and drive a car.

            Also, in Steve Hambletons case, there were no second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances to get it right.  His mother didnt say, Okay, Steve, Ill forget it this time, but next time  No.  She didnt issue warning after warning, but took action on his first offense, and sold the car.  He broke the rules and immediately paid the price.

            Now, whats wrong with our court system?  Next time syndrome.  Maybe they should be taking a long, hard look at Jane Hambletons system and employ it accordingly when dealing with those who break the law.  Continued threats of, The next time you appear in my court, youre going to pay the price hasnt been working.  The thugs have no fear of the judicial system, because they know theyll get unlimited opportunities to return to the streets to continue their life of crime.  Murderers, rapists, drug dealers and car thieves are returned to society day after day, deemed rehabilitated and ready to be productive citizens.  And, they certainly become an example of how theyll be productive members of society.  They generate more murders and rapes, and continue to engage in their trade as drug dealers and car thieves.  Still, the responsibility begins in the home with the parents.  If responsibility would become a part of every home, there would be little to no need to look to the courts to solve many of our problems.  But, when there is a breakdown of discipline and responsibility in the home, the court should not be the next step on the ladder of leniency.    

If we take Jane Hambleton, and assess carefully exactly what she accomplished, what do we find?  As a parent, who openly declared herself the meanest mother in the world, she isnt visiting her son at the local jail.  Why?  Because her tough stance  prevented Steve from possible arrest for possession of alcoholor worse.  Did she prevent him from becoming involved in a fatal automobile accident, where alcohol was a contributing factor?  Did she open his eyes to the fact that rules, and laws are to be obeyed?  In the end, did she show all of us that it is far better to be the worlds meanest parent, than a grieving mother arranging her sons funeral?        

Simply put, Jane Hambletons actions define parental responsibility and love. 



James H. Lilley is a former Marine and Police Sergeant with the Howard County Police Department (Maryland). He worked in the Uniformed Patrol Division, Criminal Investigations Division, Forensic Services (CSI) and Drug Enforcement Division. His Street Drug Unit was featured in the book "Undercover" by Hans Halberstadt and published by Simon and Schuster. Some of his awards include The Medal of Valor, Four Bronze Stars, Four Unit Citations and the Governor's Citation. He is also an 8th Degree Black Belt in Shorin Ryu Karate and the first American to be promoted to the rank of Black Belt by Mr. Takeshi Miyagi. James Lilley is the author of six books: A Question of Honor; The Eyes of the Hunter; The Far Side of the Bridge; Just Retribution; A Miracle for Tony Clements; and, Death Knocks Twice.



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