Tweens & Teens: Teaching responsibility


If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, then you need to put some responsibility on their shoulders ~ Abigail Van Buren (a.k.a. Dear Abby)

Hello all and welcome to the August edition of Tweens and Teens. Gwen and Shannon asked me to respond to the recent attention drawn to Robert Rausch, a father in Texas who punished his 16-year-old daughter for missing curfew. For those of you who don’t know, he punished her by placing an ad in the local newspaper offering 30 hours worth of free babysitter service from her.

For further details, here’s a link:

You may remember an earlier article we did on Tweens and Teens which says that the purpose of punishment is to decrease behavior (reinforcement is used to increase behavior). Since this father babysitting.jpgwanted the behavior of “missing curfew” to decrease, then he should have punished her, which is exactly what he did. NICE!  So far…

When I first heard about this punishment, I thought, “Wow, that was very creative!” However, I must go on to say that placing an ad in the newspaper might be not have been the best idea. (Yes, I have an alternative, but you’ll need to keep reading).

Several thoughts about this punishment come to mind, though everyone must understand that none of us (I don’t think) know this man or his family nor do we know a lot about the town (Southlake, Texas). According to Wikipedia and the Southlake Chamber of Commerce, Southlake is an affluent suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth and has about 25,000 people (plus or minus). The school system is supposed to be quite good and the average home cost is about $450,000. It was noted by Forbes in December 2008 to be one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country based upon average median family income, which was reported to be approximately $140,000. I have actually been there on one occasion while visiting a friend who lives in the area…it is VERY nice and I enjoyed my time there immensely.

So, the question becomes: Is it okay for him to punish her the way he did? Hmm, let’s explore this situation, both positive and negative.

thumbs-up.jpgFirst, the positive thoughts that I have…this was exceptionally creative and I like the way he was thinking outside the box. The daughter has also said that she doesn’t intend on breaking curfew again, which shows the discipline was effective, assuming she’s not going to change her mind anytime soon.

I also like the idea of pairing irresponsibility with responsibility. She was irresponsible, so she must make up for it by being responsible. Assuming she’s not SO irresponsible that she cannot babysit and that she’s not so angry that she is going to do something crazy with the kids, then her father pairing her irresponsible behavior (missing curfew) with responsible behavior (babysitting) makes sense and is brilliant.

Finally, I think the punishment of babysitting is quite appropriate given the offense. In fact, very appropriate. Not too hard and not too easy. Again, very nice on the father’s part to make the punishment commensurate with the offense in terms of severity level.

thumbs-down.jpgBut, there are some negative so let’s address them, as well. While I’m sure that Southlake is a great place to live (and apparently work), I imagine there are a few families in Southlake that are, how shall I say, not the family I’d want to have my teenage daughter babysitting. You don’t know who will respond to this ad nor do you know that they’ll keep your daughter safe. While everything will likely be okay, and it’s easy to assume this to be the case, especially in this town, the fact is…you never know. I’d be unwilling to take this chance with my daughter (or yours).

I also wonder about his daughter. She’s probably a wonderful and caring person, but are you sure?  What other incidents have happened with her in the past, and do I want her babysitting my children? If she’s a responsible teenage who made a simple mistake, then why didn’t he just talk to her? Or ground her? Could it be because she has done other things and the father knows that talking to her won’t do any good? Is it possible that other punishments have been tried and found to be unsuccessful? Again, we don’t know the details of the family enough to make a valid and educated decision. So I ask again…are you willing to take a chance with a teenager that is PROBABLY going to provide safe services for your child, or do you want a teenager that you KNOW will provide safe services for your child? What if you have an infant?

So…is there another option that can teach her the same lesson and yet avoid any of the possible classified-ad.jpgpitfalls? I think so. I would suggest doing exactly the same thing EXCEPT for placing an ad in the newspaper. What about having her do 30 hours of babysitting for your neighbors, friends, and people at your work? That way, you know whose family she will be babysitting, and they will know who they’re getting. They’ll also know why they are getting her services for the low, low price of…free. Safety for both parties has been taken into account while the purpose of the punishment remains intact.

Finally, this is pretty embarrassing and shameful for her. Teens and Tweens will try whatever they can to avoid embarrassment, and I imagine her schoolmates and all her friends are talking, talking, embarrassed3.pngand talking about what happened. They are also laughing, laughing, and laughing. Though this is not always a bad thing, the purpose of the punishment was to decrease her missing curfew, not embarrass her. Some may say that if her embarrassment results in her coming home on time, then everything is okay; however, I’m wondering whether his daughter is being placed in a position so that she will not trust him enough to come to him for future issues/problems/discussion for fear that he may do something like this again. That will really depend on his relationship with her…let’s hope it’s a good one.

I have to give the father credit for what he has done and the fact that he has decided his daughter cannot shirk her responsibilities; however, I wish he would have changed just a little bit about how he did it.

As you all know, this is a HOT topic of conversation, so let’s keep it going for just a while longer. I’ve shared my thoughts, both positive and negative, about how I feel, but I want to know how you feel. Was this okay and, if not, what should her father have done instead.

This is a great time for us to talk openly about how we punish our children in order to teach them responsibility. Please post your comments and opinions by clicking the big orange button below to add to our discussion.

See you next month.




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