In January of 2016, Ronald Jackson was found “not guilty”
for confiscating his daughter’s cell phone (Bever, 2016). The court ordered the
not guilty verdict, ruling that the state failed to provide sufficient
evidence. At the time that the phone was taken in 2013, his daughter was 12 and
sent a text message regarding her father’s girlfriend and children that
included the use of the word “ratchet”. Mr. Jackson found the word to be
offensive and inappropriate. As a result, he took his daughter’s cell phone.
After the phone was taken, police came to the home to convince
him to return the property. Mr. Jackson refused. He reported that “he was being
a parent” (Paul, 2016). Eventually, Mr. Jackson was arrested for property
theft, a Class B misdemeanor for not returning the phone. According to Bever
(2016) Ms. Steppe, the mother of the daughter, was in agreement with the cell
phone being taken but didn’t agree with Mr. Jackson not giving her (Ms. Steppe)
the phone when the visit was over. She asserts that while the phone was on Mr.
Jackson’s cellular plan, the actual phone was purchased by Ms. Steppe and her fiancé’;
therefore, the phone didn’t belong to Mr. Jackson.
Some argue that the mother, Ms. Steppe, was to blame for not
supporting the decision made by the father. While others argue that Mr. Jackson
overreacted and was at fault. While both parents appear to have valid arguments
regarding the situation, was it necessary to include the law? As it pertains to
this particular incident, what’s the message that we are sending to our youth
One of the key elements of effective co-parenting is
communication (Arizona Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation
Courts, 2011). However, effective communication can be stressful and difficult
after two parents divorce or separate. Ineffective communication may burden the
child by sending mixed messages and result in inconsistent discipline. Children
will often test boundaries and rules. A united front in co-parenting is recommended
(Serani, 2012). While both Ms. Steppe and Mr. Jackson have valid points regarding
the cellphone situation, it may have been more beneficial for them to have
communicated and come to a mutual agreement on a punishment for their daughter.
Research suggests that children’s well-being is damaged when
separated and/or divorced parents can’t agree on parenting and there is high
conflict. Placing the needs of the child first can make the co-parenting experience
positive and successful. When the child’s needs are the priority, decisions are
not made to punish the other parent but instead to benefit the child. In this
case, it appears that some of the focus was on the cellphone and who it belonged
to and the use of the word “ratchet” in reference to Mr. Jackson’s girlfriend
instead of the child’s needs.
High conflict may be inevitable in separated and divorced
families. Placing the focus on reducing conflict may improve parenting and the well-being
of the child. Family therapy can be useful in assisting the parents to establish
a united front. The main therapeutic task in high conflict families is to help
the parents separate their previous relationship problems from their current
ongoing parental responsibilities (Kruk 2012). Often times, individual therapy
for one or both parents may be needed to address the pain and difficulties experienced
during the previous relationship to ensure that those issues remain separated
from the co-parenting partnership.
In this case, it can be argued that this is an example of
the law usurping parental authority and this type of situation results in our
children demonstrating little respect for parents. Many parents argue that the social,
educational, professional, and economical contexts of childrearing make effective
parenting unachievable (Taffel, 2012). Child clinicians, educators, and law
officials often tend to blame the parents for what’s happening with the child. As
a result, many children are able to shirk the responsibility of their behavior.
With the types of abuse that many youth endure across the world, it’s extremely
necessary for them to be protected by the law and judicial system. However, in
this case, it may have been more appropriate for the parents to have mutually problem
solved on remediating the situation instead of having the law interfere.
This ordeal could have been avoided with the use of
effective co-parenting techniques. The relationship between Mr. Jackson and his
daughter has severed. Since the incident, Mr. Jackson reported that he has not
spoken to his daughter. He reported that
he can’t ever have a relationship with them again (Bever, 2016).
Arizona Chapter of the Association of Family Conciliation
Courts (2011) Communication Co-parenting Guide
Bever, L (2016; Jan 31) I was being a parent: Father found
not guilty after taking daughter’s Iphone. Retrieved February 14, 2016
Kruk, E (2012; May 15) Co-parenting and High Conflict.
Retrieved February 14, 2106
Paul, J (2016; Jan 26) Father Arrested For Theft After
Taking Daughter’s Phone Vindicated. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
Serani, D (2012; Mar 28) The Do’s and Don’ts of Co-parenting
Well. Retrieved February 14, 2016
Taffel, R (2012; Feb 22) The Decline and Fall of Parental
Authority. Retrieved February 14, 2016.