It’s 7:30 on a Monday night. You’re in your car with a big bag of drive-through dinner on the seat next to you because your boss kept you late. You want nothing more than to get home, replace your dress pants with sweats, watch some mindless TV, and drink a glass of chardonnay. Just as soon as you make sure homework has been done, the dog has been walked, and that last email from your boss gets answered. It’s going to be a long night.
Your stomach drops. In your rear view mirror, you see flashing blue lights.
This day could not get any worse.
The officer approaches your car and asks if you know how fast you were going.
“50?” you guess hopefully.
“Not bad,” you think. You’ll get off easy. You suppress a sigh of relief.
“In a school zone, “ he continues. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? That puts a lot of lives in danger. Not just yours, but mine and everyone else out here.”
“I’m sorry,” you say, truthfully. You feel defeated. You want to just collect your ticket, pay the money, and be done.
“You don’t seem sorry,” says the officer. “This is serious and I need to know that you are going to learn this lesson. Hand me your cell phone.”
“And your ipad.”
The officer explains, “I know how much you care about your electronics, but until you can show more maturity and responsibility with your driving, you won’t be getting them back. And if I see a bad attitude about it, I’m limiting your time with your friends. I’m saying this because it’s my job to keep you safe and this is the only way I can get this lesson to sink in.”
If this happened to you, you would be outraged. You would probably lose faith in the officer himself and the entire disciplinary system you are forced to operate within. It may, or may not, have an impact on your speeding, but chances are you would be too angry at the complete lack of logic to spend any time being thoughtful about your driving.
Time and time again, I hear parents say when their child messes up, whether it’s getting poor grades, being disrespectful, or disobeying rules, the answer is to take away what the child values to teach them a lesson.
This makes no sense!
Consequences must be tied to the infraction to be meaningful. For example:
If your child treats you with disrespect, don’t do them any favors. Say, “I don’t want to drive you to friends house when you’re treating me so badly. You’ll have to stay in tonight.”
If your child doesn’t turn in completed assignments, say “I’ll sit down and get your folders organized every night for thirty minutes, but that is going to take away from time I normally spend doing housework, so when we’re done, you’ll give me thirty minutes of chores.”
Don’t default to taking away the cell phone, favorite article of clothing, or xBox every time. You’ll just end up with a child who loses trust in your ability to be rational and, as a result, will work very hard to sneak around you.