keyboardWe've all heard some inventive punishments for teenage miscreants over the years. Public shaming. Seriously unpleasant jobs. Turning their cellphone into a "phone home only" machine. But if you're looking for something that will really set your kid on the straight and narrow, have I got a good one for you!

A high school football player in Montana got an unusual sentence from a judge recently for an unsettling case of team hazing. The kid covered his teammates' mouths, told them not to struggle, then punched them in the groin and poked them through their pants. The players were warned if they struggled, the torture would be even more severe. So what did the judge do to the 15-year-old bully?

He ordered him to write personal letters of apology to each of his victims.

What, you were expecting jail time? Being blindfolded and punched in the groin himself? If it makes you feel better, the teen is also on probation for the next six months. But I have a feeling it's the letters that will really drive home the problem with his actions.

It's easy enough to punish our kids. Scream, yell, take something away, and voila. But does banning your teen from playing Modern Warfare 3 really teach them that their actions were wrong? Or does it just make them more angry with you for daring to infringe on their right to game?

Being forced to write letters of apology means having to face the details of your mistakes. You can't hide from them. They're written out in black and white in front of you, and you were the one who put them there.

It also requires you show some true remorse. Anyone can say "sorry" in a tone of voice that makes it very clear they are anything but. Paired with the teen-perfected eye roll, and it's easy enough for a kid to make a face-to-face mea culpa sound more like a "screw you" without using the words. But unless you're a well-practiced writer, it's harder to write an apology that rings true without meaning it ... at least without several revisions, each of which force the kid to face again and again and again just how badly they messed up. Think of it as the modern day version of writing your mistake on the blackboard 100 times, only there's the added benefit of the victim of your kid's jerky behavior getting an actual apology out of the deal.

Would you do this with your kids? How else do you make the message sink in?

 

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