Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Punishment Must Send Strong Message

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Punishment Must Send Strong Message

Article excerpt

Some time ago (the statute of limitations has passed), a good friend told me his 5-year-old, in complete disregard of the rules, rode his bicycle off the cul-de-sac on which they live and was found an hour later on the other side of the neighborhood.

"We were terrified," this fellow said, referring to himself and his wife.

"All sorts of things went through our minds while we were looking for him."

"So," I asked, "what did you do about it?"

"Oh," he replied, his voice taking on a you-better-not-mess-with-the-Big-Guy tone, "We took his bike away for a day."

I couldn't help it. It just came out before I could stop it. "Oooooooo!" I crowed, mockingly.

"What?" my friend said, startled.

"You sure are mean," I replied, with a chuckle.

"Oh, right! What would you have done, Mr. Parenting Expert? Taken his bike away for a month?" he rejoined, sarcastically.

"Oh, absolutely. For two weeks, at least."

My friend looked at me for a moment, then said, "You're serious, aren't you?"

I was dead serious. Here's my prediction: Having been inconvenienced to no significant degree as a result of breaking the rule on riding his bike, my friend's child will break the rule again. He probably already has. After all, what's the big deal of a day without your bike?

On the other hand, if his parents had put the bike up for two weeks to a month, hung it from a hook in the garage for example, then this little boy would have paid a great price (relative to his age) for breaking the rule. In which case, I would predict he would have never broken the "don't ride your bike off the street" rule again. Not ever.

Most of today's parents are like my friend. When their kids do something wrong, they tap them on the backs of their hands with wet noodles. When it comes to corrective discipline, they do not want to upset their children. …

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