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Banished to a tent: Parents trying different approaches to discipline

Posted June 26

A New Mexico couple said they tried many things to curb their teenage son's stealing. Then they hit on an idea that has proven to be controversial in their attempt to rein in the youth: They've banished him to a tent in the backyard for a month.

"Jacob and Angela Boggus, from Belen, a small town about 30 miles from Albuquerque, said their son had been stealing from them and, when other forms of discipline failed, they banished him to the back yard," wrote Lindsey Bever for The Washington Post.

The story said the 16-year-old must spend his days in the tent, but can use the bathroom in the house. He's also allowed to sleep indoors. He's provided with food and water. The youth is halfway through his unusual sentence.

Neighbors, reportedly, have mixed feelings about the unusual punishment, some applauding it and some calling it cruel. At least two have complained to local police, who declined to intervene.

“I don’t see anything that is abuse or negligent,” Valencia County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Gary Hall told KRQE. “It’s not like he’s been banished out to the mesa a hundred miles away from civilization.”

The Boggus family isn't the only one willing to try something different to discipline their kids.

The Marshall Project last year reported on judges who resorted to some form of "public shaming" to try to get offenders to change their ways.

"Ohio Judge Michael Cicconetti, who’s well-known for his unconventional sentences, has required men arrested for soliciting sex to walk around in chicken suits," the project's Christie Thompson wrote. "Another individual who called a cop a 'pig' was, in 2002, made to stand alongside an actual pig with a sign saying, 'This is not a police officer.' And a couple arrested for illegally rafting down the Grand River in 2011 spent hours standing in a kiddie pool at a town festival, handing out literature on water sport safety."

Parents sometimes use great creativity to curb unwanted behavior. BuzzFeed wrote about a Utah mom whose daughter was making fun of other kids' clothes. The mom went to a thrift store and bought what her daughter would have considered the stuff of fashion nightmares, then made her wear them to school for two days. Behavior curbed.

Listverse.com also wrote on the topic of parent-delivered and controversial punishments: Consider the parents who sentenced their son and daughter to carry shaming signs after they stole a gift card, or the dad who shot his daughter's newly upgraded laptop after she posted a nasty message on Facebook without remembering to block them from seeing it. Other parents have sold a child's favorite possessions.

There are stories of punishments gone too far, like the parents who starved a child for not completing homework, a case that ended up with child protective services. Or The Washington Post story of the mom who allegedly burned her son's hand for stealing her marijuana.

Even somewhat popular forms of discipline, like spanking, are controversial. Recently, researchers reviewed studies on spanking to conclude it doesn't accomplish what parents want. The findings, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, didn't make kids more likely to obey or behave better. The researchers told the Deseret News that spanking increases anxiety, depression and aggression.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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