Got an unruly kid? Is your child a burgeoning delinquent or little sass factory? Live in Florida? Wrinkles the clown will scare your kids straight… for a price.
This is Wrinkles.
He’s a 65-year-old military veteran and retiree, and he is here to help. For a small fee, he’ll show up at your event, but recently he’s stumbled across a lucrative little side business: menacing your coulrophobic kid until they’re too terrified to be defiant.
Wrinkles is actually a pretty friendly guy, and he mostly just sees clowning as a way to “have a little bit of fun before [he dies].” But there’s no denying the fact that he’s creepy as all get-out, between his weird red onesie, holes-for-eyes mask and stoic wave.
That’s why he’s so effective as a disciplinary tool. Wrinkles told The Washington Post that he was recently hired by a mother who was fed up with her misbehaving 12-year-old: “He was scared of clowns and I showed up across the street from him at the bus stop and he just started crying in front of his friends and ran home… His mother called back a few days later and said ‘Thank you!’ Now when he acts bad, she just has to ask him: ‘Do you want Wrinkles to come back?’”
It’s a story that would almost be funny if the main player wasn’t a child. But the fact is, negative reinforcement, while it seems like an easy answer and is undeniably a little bit satisfying, is typically a temporary fix. There’s also something just a smidge cruel about capitalizing on your child’s fears — in this case, clowns — to “fix” their bad behavior. We see Wrinkles through the lens of adulthood, and he’s still pretty terrifying, so you can just imagine what it might feel like to see him wave at you with his big bouquet of bobbling balloons across the street from where you live as a child.
Discipline is usually more effective when you don’t inject serious negativity into it. And while some people are all for nothing but positive reinforcement and nothing but, the reality is that most parents don’t have the patience or large enough supply of post-bedtime wine to keep it up for very long.
So it’s just realistic to say that, on occasion, you’re going to have to use the threat of negative consequences to get your kid to suck less. It’s better, though, to just let those consequences be the natural byproduct of their poor choices. That way, it’s not even really threatening; it’s just a life lesson. If your child refuses to do their homework, they’ll get bad grades. If they get bad grades, they lose their privileges.
Sometimes the threat of that alone is enough to get your kids to self-correct. Sometimes they actually have to experience the horror of not being allowed to use their phone for a week before they get the picture.
“Wrinkles the evil clown will sit outside your bedroom window and maybe eat your face if you don’t stop talking back” is not a natural consequence of anything, unless you live in an American Horror Story episode. So while Wrinkles himself may be the beneficiary of this tactic, your kid won’t take much away from the experience other than an even more intense fear of murder clowns.
And who knows? It may start them down a dark path in life, one where they retire to Florida and hire themselves out as seedy nightmare clowns intent on scaring the next generation of kids straight.
— Craig Pittman (@craigtimes) November 2, 2015