Being a teen sucks almost as bad as parenting a teen. Your underdeveloped sense of what constitutes a good idea leaves a lot to be desired, and you do idiot things that require you to face the consequences of your actions. You’re no longer a toddler, and when you do dumb crap, your parents have the pleasure of trying to snap you out of it before your dumbness becomes a permanent feature. This is the way of the world.
It should come as no surprise to the 16-year-old in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who had the bright idea of stealing from his parents, that the consequences of his actions would result in his summer sucking. He probably had no idea, however, that the punishment they picked for him would end up with the police involved and an extended stay in a tent in his parents’ backyard.
The Boggus family, who live in a little town outside of Albuquerque, became the subject of scrutiny when it came to light that they had sentenced their son to a monthlong stay in a tent in the backyard after they couldn’t get him to stop stealing. The teen is allowed to come inside to use the toilet and at the end of the day to sleep, but otherwise he’s restricted to just the backyard, where a tent has been set up for him to use while temperatures in that part of the country climb up toward 110 degrees F. He could get out of it early, his parents told a local news outlet, if he finds the wherewithal to write five book reports on why stealing is wrong.
Neighbors were alarmed enough to see the teenager set up semipermanent residence in the backyard that they called the cops, which resulted in a visit from officers who ultimately determined that no laws were being broken.
Still, the punishment is certainly raising eyebrows.
It’s undoubtedly frustrating to deal with a kid with sticky fingers who won’t seem to learn their lesson. A lot of us know that kid from our own pasts. If we ourselves weren’t that kid, then we were likely related to or knew him or her quite well.
But is a month outdoors in scary hot weather really the solution? It’s true that this kid wasn’t dropped off in the middle of the desert with a bowie knife and a length of string and told to make do for a month, but we’re having trouble figuring out how grappling with 115 degree-plus heat index numbers has anything to do with learning to not steal. It’s sure to be unpleasant — dangerous, even, since tenting in that kind of weather isn’t really recommended for anyone, but certainly not for novice campers, and certainly not for that length of time. But what do you learn from that except to maybe not get caught next time?
He’s 16. He could get a job or work off what he owes his parents with a little manual labor. No one’s saying he needs a gentle tutting and a turn on the naughty step for behavior that could get him arrested and really jack up his life in two scant years. Or maybe a turn around the block in a cruiser and handcuffs is what he needs for the lesson to truly sink in. But a month in the heat in a part of the country that regularly warns people to stay inside all summer if they can swing it because of the dangers of heatstroke? It’s hard to see what lesson that’s supposed to be imparting.
It seems there’s been a steady rise in “unusual” punishments that are designed not necessarily to fit the crime but to be sensational. A kind of parenting one-upmanship. Oh, you cut off all your kid’s hair/made them hold a sign detailing their offenses/served them a plate of fried worms when they wouldn’t eat what you cooked? Well, look at this batshit thing I did! I’m super mean! Wink.
It definitely gets the attention it seems to crave, because it appeals to a weird sense of nostalgia. Remember when our parents spanked us and made us do X, Y or Z? We turned out awesome, and kids today need a taste of that. But do they really? The lament that features “kids these days” as soft, ne’er-do-wells in need of a tanned hide and parents with a little spine goes back as far as ancient Greece, but despite generation after generation of supposedly progressively shitty kids, the world has yet to collapse in on itself. Even with fewer parents spanking. Even with more parents attempting to treat their kids with more dignity than they themselves were afforded.
At the end of the day, when you’re looking to teach your kids a lesson, there’s a simple test to see if it’s dumb showboating or legit. Ask yourself if it’s a fitting punishment for yourself. Would you want to parade outside your office building with a sandwich board that details the write-up you got for messing up the petty cash spreadsheet? Would you want all your hair cut off because you flirted with the instructor at Mommy and Me yoga? Would you want to stay outside for a month because the checkout girl at the grocery store didn’t scan the toilet paper you stashed under your cart?
If the answer is no, then don’t inflict it on your kids. Simple enough.
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