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What are some effective but horrible ways to discipline a teenager?
Public embarrassment seems to work well.
Allow me to recount the tale of my friend Joe (no last names). He had no kids of his own, but he was an unofficial stepdad to 2 girls whose dad pretty much bailed out on the family. He dated their mom, who was somewhat older than he was, so he informally took in the whole family.
This incident happened when the older girl, Carla, was in middle school or maybe early high school in the mid 90s. This detail will be important.
He would go to the school to pick her up after she finished some sort of after school activity that she was involved in with a bunch of her friends. He had one very simple request — be waiting by the door when it was over, and come right out to the car, so he could get her home in time for dinner.
Well, one time she was late coming out. He waited a few minutes and finally went into the school. When he found her, she was hanging out with some of those friends just talking and basically dawdling. Joe wasn’t pleased, and warned Carla that if it happened a second time, it would be unpleasant for her.
It happened again. He waited a few minutes with no sign of Carla, then went into the school.
Oh wait, I mentioned this happened in the 90s, right?
Oh wait, I mentioned this happened in the 90s, right? There was this TV show that was fairly popular called Family Matters. One of the characters on the show was named Steve Urkel. Urkel was a total nerd, who wore his pants like an old man, hiked up to almost his chest; and he had a distinctive way of talking.
So anyway, it turns out that Joe, a 6-foot tall, white, 30-year-old man with a full beard, also did a killer imitation of Urkel.
He goes into the school, hikes his pants up, and in that patented nasal Urkel voice starts asking everyone he sees in the hall, “I’m looking for Carrrrla. She was supposed to be out frooonnt. Have you seen Carrrrla?”
And of course, these are all kids that Carla knows and goes to school with, and he’s behaving like a total dork and throwing her name around at every opportunity. It seems she was further down the hall but heard the commotion, and hustled out of there in a hurry, completely mortified and hiding her face the whole way while others snickered. From what Carla said later, her friends were talking about it weeks afterward. But she was never again late to the door when the activity was over.
Postscript: in case you’re wondering, there was no lasting harm that came from this. Carla is happily married now, has kids and a stable job at an insurance office. Even though Joe and her mom broke up many years later over unrelated issues, Carla and her sister still adore Joe as the dad their “real” father should have been.
Tim Lockwood is a writer. Read more from quora below:
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