Parents Charged With Locking 5-Year-Old Daughter in Truck as Punishment

cars in a parking lot

No matter how much of an angel your child is, there is going to come a day when you're out shopping with her and she decides to go bananas in a store and knock every bottle of shampoo off the counter. There will be no warning; not even a split second for you to cut the serpent by its head before it attacks. You'll be left with a floor filled with shampoo bottles, a child in the middle of having a wicked tantrum, and no other choice than to dole out a punishment -- pronto.

If when this happens to you, whatever you decide to do, DO NOT do what two parents in New Mexico did to their 5-year-old while at a Home Depot: locking her in their hot truck unattended for ONE HOUR while they went shopping.

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Angelica Lerma-Montoya and Dulces Monge-Perez reportedly told their little girl to stay in the truck as a punishment because she had refused to eat earlier that day. Despite the 90-degree temperatures, they allegedly left her for an hour, and police say she crawled out of the truck sweating, dehydrated, screaming, and crying.

The good news -- possibly -- is that this story MAY not be completely accurate, according to one of the couple's six children. Their 19-year-old daughter claims her sibling always follows her parents around, but that sometimes they don't realize she's there (uh, this excuse doesn't sound much better, by the way). She also said her parents had no idea the girl was in the truck. Where they thought she was is anybody's guess, but yeah, both versions of the story are just odd.

Anyway, all of the couple's children, including a 3-month-old, have been taken away from them by the Children, Youth, and Families Department, and both parents face felony child abuse charges. They are being held on a $40,000 cash bond.

Assuming they were attempting to punish their young daughter: boy did they miss the mark. Discipline is about teaching our children -- it's not about scaring them by forcing them to do something that may be unsafe. So many things could go horribly wrong if we leave a 5-year-old in a car alone. She could easily be targeted by a stranger and kidnapped -- or worse. She could become dehydrated and sick. Or, quite simply, she could become frightened out of her mind and take just one thing away from the experience: her parents react out of anger and are more concerned with keeping her out of their hair than with teaching her a life lesson.

No matter how heated we feel before we enact a punishment -- and believe me, I've been there, shampoo bottles thrown across aisle 6 and all -- we should think with clear heads before we dole out a consequence for their actions. Keeping a child trapped in a car to punish for something totally unrelated doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? And if a parent wants to give her child a time-out right on the spot -- I'm all for this, by the way -- like it or not, we're going to have to suck it up and stick close by while they calm themselves down and think about what they did. My advice: buy earplugs. But stick around.

The bottom line is punishments should always be safe. Our children should be forced to think about their actions and regulate their own emotions in an environment in which they feel comfortable doing so.

Have you heard of examples in which parents did things that were unsafe while punishing their children?


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