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Parents' new mantra: Don't do the crime if you can't do the time Add to ...

Jane Hambleton probably didn't feel like a good parent when she found a bottle of booze in her son's car.

Nor did she likely consider herself Mother of the Year when she bought a classified ad in the Des Moines Register, listing the 19-year-old's car for sale.

"Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car," read the ad, which appeared in the Iowa newspaper earlier this month. "Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."

But whatever was going through her head as she wrote the ad, Ms. Hambleton, a radio DJ in Fort Dodge, Iowa, soon found herself held up as the new hero of parenting.

"I got about 70 calls, but nobody wanted to buy the car," she said during a recent appearance on Good Morning America. "They were all, 'Yeah, thanks for standing up for yourself and doing what parents are supposed to do.' "

She has also been approached by Oprah and Ellen (she's still deciding), and has become a cult figure for parents who feel their kids have gotten away with too much, for too long.

"Hurray for all the mean mom's of the world!" one mother wrote on the Canadian Parents forum. "Isn't it interesting that some parents will go to this extent, while others are secretly sneaking backpacks with booze for their kids grad celebrations."

"LOVE IT! It is so nice to hear that some parents still actually parent! they are few and far between these days (it seems)," wrote another.

The responses, which largely celebrate the fact that Ms. Hambleton actually followed through with the punishment she threatened, highlights a growing backlash against an era of parental permissiveness, in which children's feelings are prioritized over the need for discipline.

Ms. Hambleton's story may be a welcome green light for parents to take a harder line, especially with recent evidence that many parents do not feel able to discipline their kids successfully.

Last year, a study by Shari Barkin, chief of the division of general pediatrics at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Tennessee, found that about a third of parents don't believe their discipline methods are working.

Based on a survey of parents from the United States and Canada and published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, Dr. Barkin's research found that 31 per cent said they "never" or "sometimes" thought their methods of discipline were effective.

Forty-five per cent reported using time outs, 41.5 per cent removed privileges, 13 per cent yelled at their kids and 8.5 per cent reported spanking.

But more public and extreme forms of punishment appear to be growing in popularity - at least among adults.

In December, a Canadian man posted for sale on eBay a Guitar Hero video game he had bought his son for Christmas, before the teen was caught smoking pot.

"While I doubt this will keep him from ever smoking pot again, I think it will make him think twice before doing illegal drugs on my property," he wrote in the online ad.

In Australia, a 16-year-old boy who threw a massive house party while his parents were out of town was chastised on air by a television anchor.

Corey Delaney had become something of a cult hero after a party he threw attracted 500 guests and a visit from police, earning his family a $20,000 fine.

But when he appeared on a news show called A Current Affair wearing an unbuttoned shirt and large yellow sunglasses, host Leila McKinnon was visibly unimpressed.

"Why don't you make a grown-up decision now and accept responsibility; take off those glasses and apologize to everybody that you frightened, to the police who had to retreat and whose cars were damaged, and everyone in the community who has to pay for this? Take off your glasses and apologize to us," she demanded, before ending the segment by suggesting Mr. Delaney "go away and take a good, long, hard look at yourself."

Joan Grusec, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who studies parenting practices, said she is not surprised that some adults are sick of teens getting a free ride when it comes to punishment.

"Probably we are a little too permissive these days," she said. "But what we should be looking for is some middle ground."

Dr. Grusec said that parents should recognize that they can take a hard line about breaking rules, so long as it's within the context of a positive, caring relationship.

"You can set limits and do all sorts of things as long as the kid is sure that you really do have his or her best interest at heart and that you will always be there for them even if you do put your foot down," she said. "The hard line does not include rejection."

But not everyone believes that a hard line should be drawn.

Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting, said taking an extreme action such as that of Ms. Hambleton could have negative consequences.

"This power-based kind of discipline doesn't help kids grow into ethical, responsible, caring, happy people; it just gives us a smug feeling of having showed the little bugger a thing or two," Mr. Kohn said in an e-mail.

"I'm wondering whether her use of punishment is likely to help him become more responsible - or just more resentful and careful to avoid being caught next time. Also, how will it affect his relationship with his mother?"

By all appearances, Steven Hambleton's relationship with his mother is doing fine. He has made media appearances with her, and while he says the alcohol in the car wasn't his, he acknowledges that its very presence broke her rules.

For her part, Ms. Hambleton has said she did not intend to embarrass her son with the classified ad, and said she would have talked about his behaviour on her radio show if that was the goal.

"You don't want to publicly humiliate your child," she said. "But that wasn't the intention. The intention was to sell the car."

Delaney's hit parade

The only spanking Corey Delaney has received so far is on the Internet.

On the website SlapCorey.com, more than half a million people have digitally smacked an image of the sunglass-wearing Australian party boy, and countless people have gone online to register their disdain for the teen's behaviour and attitude.

But his parents, Jo and Steve Delaney, have not publicly chastised him, although what they said in private to the 16-year-old after he hosted a 500-person bender in their home is unknown.

"The Corey we know is a loving, kind and fun boy who plays computer games with his eight-year-old sister, takes her to the park and always has time for his family," read a statement issued by Mr. and Mrs. Delaney. "We certainly don't excuse Corey's behaviour ... But how many parents have been let down by their teenager when they have been given a bit of extra trust?"

The couple said they had arranged for him to stay at a friend's house during the three days they were away, and did not comment on what, if any, punishment he would be receiving.

There has, however, been lots of talk about what Corey will gain from throwing, in his words, the "best party ever."

He has apparently been offered a job by more than one Sydney event promoter, and has been named as a potential cast member for the reality show Big Brother.

He has also been charged by police with creating a public nuisance and producing child pornography, the latter offence reportedly linked to images of teenaged girls playing Twister found on his cell phone.

Siri Agrell

Why don't you make a grown-up decision now and accept responsibility; take off those glasses and apologize to everybody that you frightened, to the police who had to retreat and whose cars were damaged, and everyone

in the community who has to pay for this? Take off your glasses and apologize to us.

Leila McKinnon, host,

A Current Affair

This power-based kind

of discipline doesn't help kids grow into ethical, responsible, caring, happy people; it just gives us

a smug feeling of having showed the little bugger

a thing or two. Alfie Kohn, author, Unconditional Parenting

The Corey we know is a loving, kind and fun boy who plays computer games with his eight-year-old sister, takes her to the park and always has time

for his family. Mr. and Mrs. Delaney,

Corey's parents

 

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