Monday, August 23, 2010

Who's Your Daddy?

See article on

Dad buys newspaper ad after daughter breaks curfew
By The Associated Press

SOUTHLAKE, Texas - A Texas teenager who broke curfew is headed for a reluctant adventure in babysitting.

Robert Rausch placed an advertisement offering his daughter's free babysitting services in the community newspaper in Southlake, a wealthy suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth that is home to business leaders and professional athletes.

The advertisement names Rausch's 16-year-old-daughter and says, "Want a FREE BABYSITTER for a night out?" It explains that she is in trouble for missing her curfew and offers 30 hours of free babysitting, KXAS-TV reported.

Rausch says he wanted to discipline his daughter and help others at the same time. And it appears his daughter has already learned a lesson. She says she won't violate curfew again or throw any more late-night parties.

(end of article)

Now, I believe in old-fashioned discipline, grounding and restitution, as per my own upbringing. But there's something about this punishment that just feels wrong to me.

On the one hand, if you break curfew in your home, you should be ready to face the collasal combined power of both mom and dad and their wrath. That's fair enough. Extra chores, no going out privileges, help out your siblings, wash the car, whatever. All of that makes sense to me. Maybe a break in your allowance, which is painful, but allows you to appreciate it once you get it back and for once, you're not worried about increasing it. None of these things seem out of line.

Where this seems out of line to me is the fact that this man has taken it upon himself to offer his daughter's services for free. As if he owned her in some way. She's 16 years old, and while that still makes her a minor and subject to his authority, it doesn't mean that she's his labour to hand out at his will. It would be one thing for him to get her to volunteer somewhere, particulary if that assignment had something to do with her actual misdemeanor, but this is not the case.

For example: a teenager gets in trouble for taking the car without permission. Have them volunteer at a garage. They learn more about cars and the responsiblity that goes with them and what could happen if an accident occurs. Another example: a teenager gets in trouble for drinking underage. Get them to volunteer at a place that treats people for alcohol addiction or in a hospital.

It doesn't make sense for a teenager who violated curfew to 'work off' their punishment by babysitting for free for the neighbourhood. First, it makes what should be considered a small, normal transgression for a typical teenager into a public affair. Second, it implies that the parent owns the teenager's labour and can use it when they want. Third, the punishment is irrelevant to the crime and does not teach the teen anything about the importance of time or sticking to your word or the dangers of being out late at night, all of the things that a curfew is made for.

Now, it seems that this teen learned her lesson and has promised to be good. Maybe spending hours alone with children as they pull each other's hair and have screaming contests in the living room is an efficient deterrent. Maybe work is the best punishment after all. I just hope that this forced labour comes with fridge privileges.

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