When your child is the guilty one 115



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It’s never easy for a parent to admit their child is the one at fault – we all know that. Even when our son or daughter was playing up at school, we’d plead their innocence. But when they get older, it is a completely different story…and I learnt the hard way. You see, my son is in prison.

No, no, he didn’t hurt anyone or does something really awful, but he was guilty. He’s been in jail for a year and I’m still heartbroken over the incident but I’ve had to get through each day for him and the rest of our family. My son is in jail for business tax fraud and will be eligible for parole next year. It’s hard for me to say what he did, still, because I can’t believe it. When he was marched out of his home, leaving behind his children and wife, I screamed at the police to release him. He was not guilty in my mind, but the law had other ideas.

When the details came out about how dishonest he had been, I could not believe it. I refused to believe it, frankly. This beautiful boy I’d raised was put behind bars because he thought he’d never get caught. As a parent, you immediately feel immense guilt. You wonder what you have could done or said – did you love them enough? Did you teach them about the world? I’d sent him to one of the best private schools in Sydney, yet here he was, appearing in court.

I thought I was a good mother but when your child stands trial, so do you. You are trialled in front of your family and friends, who look at you and shake their heads. For shame, their looks say. But in this life we make choices, and my son made a bad one.

When my grandchildren ask where Daddy is, I’m honest with them. I tell them that he will come home one day soon and he loves them very much. He did a bad thing and he needs to pay for it. If this jail time teaches him anything, it’s that he should make it clear to his children that you can never outsmart the law, and the truth prevails.

I have heard about  so many mothers and fathers in court rooms on TV who shout out when their child is sentenced, who bat away the media and swear their heads off. They fiercely insist their child is innocent and yet, it’s them who has been sentenced too, which some onlookers forget – just ask the parents of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan. They’ve been sentenced to death too, and the unimaginable guilt and responsibility they feel for their children is immeasurable.

I hope people who have “perfect” children realise that there’s no such thing as a child who doesn’t stuff up. But it is our responsibility as their mum or dad to make them accountable, but to also love them unconditionally. We can never judge, for none of us are perfect.


Has your child ever been guilty or a crime or otherwise? What happened? Did you refuse to believe they were guilty? Tell us below.

Guest Contributor

  1. The writer stated the reason why it was suddenly so hard to admit her son was wrong right at the beginning of her story.

    She claims when our children are little we plead their innocence even though we knew they were in the wrong.

    I NEVER did that. I don’t do that with my grandchildren. That is not a good message to send children. Those little things they do wrong as toddlers, as kinda and primary school kids, they are the things we are supposed to use to teach them lessons. We are not supposed to defend them when they are in the wrong. We are supposed to acknowledge it, deal with it and love them anyway.

    Pretending to them or ourselves they are innocent, or showing them no matter what they do you will lie for them or defend their actions to the teacher or other parents, even though they were wrong doesn’t create young men and women who take personal responsibility. Doesn’t create nice people.

    3 REPLY
    • Well said Margaret. There were times that I pleaded with the schools to deliver more appropriate punishment than detention, for the misdeeds of my spirited sons. We had to be very tough on them at home, to keep them in line, but school discipline was a joke.
      My boys grew into good men and great fathers and they realise the value of our tough love.

    • Very well put Margaret. I totally agree with you. Many of us will no doubt have felt that urge to defend our children but unfortunately those that did have done their children a great disservice in the long run.

  2. If your child gets punished for something he/she did wrong as an adult you can’t help but feel you have failed in their upbringing which is totally untrue.

    2 REPLY
    • I spent the morning in Court supporting my son, he has a personality disorder and I often blame myself, what did I do wrong, but at 33 , the choices he makes are his now, but I am all he has and will always stand and support. Guilty he knows he pays , but not , I will back him 100% to help him through a system that is not sympathetic

  3. I used to wish that parents could accept that their darlings had not done the right thing and worked with teachers to address problems. I always wondered how parents felt when the kid lands in jail. After all the parents have condoned undesirable behaviour.

    7 REPLY
  4. yes having to admit that your adult child has made a wrong choice and is guilty of a criminal offence is absolutely soul destroying and one that goes against all your strong value system. My son made a very bad choice 25 years ago and paid the price by spending three years in prison.. I felt shame, anger, hurt and I had to change my values to be able to accept my son whilst he was in prison. That was extremely hard. He was mixing with what I considered to be the dregs of society but I was forced to accept them as people who had done bad things and not bad people as I had to do with my own son.

    I felt that I too was doing time but with out the bars as only a parent who has a child in prison would understand.

    What made it easier was that hmy son accepted full responsibility for his choices and blamed no one or circumstances on anyone else but himself.

    Up until he was twenty years of age and left home to go and live in the city he had been a model son so I had no idea that he would fall so far from grace.

    He left prison twenty two years ago and whilst in prison learnt very many valuable lessons along the way and rehabilitated himself whilst in prison. He has never looked back since and has gone on to make himself a valuable person within his community. He has raised a family, held a steady job, married a beautiful woman, coaches football and basketball for the kids leagues and goes out of his way to help people. He has never reoffended again.

    I still keep it a secret that my son was in prison as I can accept that there are many people who will point the finger at the family and have difficulty in accepting that people can become rehabilitated and until life throws them into some life changing situation of there own, they will remain stuck with their own stilted values.

    1 REPLY
    • We cannot choose for our children when they become adults and I empathize for the trauma you went through. It is so pleasant to hear your son has learnt from his mistake and that he was able to turn his life around and is now a model son/husband/father. I trust the pride you now feel far outweighs the shame, anger and hurt you had previously.

  5. These words stood out in neon lights
    “when your child stands trial, so do you”. I haven’t had your sorrow but that is true for me too. I know that it is not right to feel that way – but our feelings can’t be told otherwise.

    5 REPLY
    • We should be able to look at our watch and say “Right! My child is 18 now” and with the click of a button turn off our protection feelings and duties.

    • When I had teenagers I was worried and my Dr said he had an 85yr old patient worried about her 65yr old daughter. It just doesn’t stop.

    • Particularly hard to sit in court and be publicly accused by our son’s barrister and the judge of being bad parents!!! That false accusation still hurts many years down the track long after the sentence is done and relationships restored.

  6. I am not going to go to hard on you because to discover than anyone you love is capable of committing a crime must be hard to cope with, lets just hope he learned a lesson from this and comes out to be a good citizen and a good parent, husband and son. Adults make their own choices in life, your son chose the wrong path but he can now change his course and move onto a happier life.. I wish you all the best

  7. I understand exactly what you are saying, as I too have a son in jail , he will probably be there for a long time every day I feel his pain and the guilt of what he did , some days I try to block it out but in reality it will never go away

  8. As parents we protect ourchildren teach them right from wrong its then up to them to grow up and be the person they are. Its then their choice as to how theylive their lives. we will always be a parent to them and will always want to protect them. When things like this happen its out of a parents control that would be the hardest to deal with.

  9. I do feel for this Mum but something in her story hit me immediiately. I was a teacher and sometimes I have had to act as Principal. There are so many parents who will not believe it when you tell them their child has not done the right thing. They will defend them to the end and so many times I have wanted to shake them. Have had a parent tell me, after her son was supended for 2 days for gross misconduct which included violence towards a staff member ….that she would take him home but it would be an enjoyable experience at home.. H e was a bully and she had basically told him it was okay. There will be times when our kids make the wrong choices…..none of us are perfect but they must also learn from a very young age that there are consequences. We are, none of us, perfect parents, but sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind.

  10. They are adults, you are no longer responsible for them. Some just don’t grow up thinking the world owes them. Having a good or bad childhood is no excuse as an adult they make their own choices.

    1 REPLY

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