A few days ago, a Hawaiian father was fined $200 and one-year probation for making his son walk a mile as punishment. His young 8-year old son would not tell his father why he was in time-out at school, so the father decided to let him think about it as he walked the final mile home alone. The father dropped the boy along the side of a highway without sidewalks. He drove his other two sons home then returned five minutes later to find his son was no where to be found. While. the father was gone, strangers found the boy crying along side the road and took him back to the school. They called the police who arrested the father when he arrived looking for his son. The judge ruled the father’s punishment was inappropriate and “old-school”, noting in her decision the danger of the highway and the risk of child predators. Was she correct?
Most opinions I have read seem to think the judge was wacko for punishing the father, citing that walking a mile is no big deal. While I don’t disagree that a long walk may do a child good, I think the dissenters are ignoring the possibility that this could have easily turned out bad for the boy, changing the opinion of the father from “great dad” to “monster dad”. For example:
The child was left alone on the road. There were no sidewalks. What if the boy had been hit by a car?
The boy was picked up by strangers. What if their intentions were not good and the boy was harmed in some way?
What if the father did not return for his son? At what point does a child become abandoned?
The problem is parents never think they are hurting their child, mentally or emotionally. It’s always with the best intentions that punishment is doled out, but some scars just don’t heal. When my husband was a boy, his father abused his sons verbally through words and mentally through conflicting actions. When his reminisces about my late father-in-law, it always ends with “Daddy was just plain mean.” I knew my husband did not like his father, but I never really understood why until I read a posting by my sister-in-law on Facebook regarding child abusers. The posting opened my eyes to a side of my husband that had remained hidden for over 30 years.