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Rant & Rave

By Scot Matayoshi

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

must fit situation

PERHAPS my last article was unclear to some, so I'm writing now to clarify any misunderstandings. This article is written in response to Justin Shizumura's Feb. 6 rant.

I believe he missed the basis for my rant -- that arbitrary punishment is ineffective. Throughout my previous article, I stressed the need for parents to explain to their children why they are being punished, to keep the lines of communication open to more than a door slam or yelling match.

In order to be effective, parents should tell their children why they are being punished and why the action the child took was a bad one.

Shizumura said: "Parents know what they're doing," and granted, parents are older and perhaps wiser in the ways of the world than children who have not gained full awareness of the consequences of actions.

But seriously, do they know everything? Many parents take the approach of the "all knowing, all seeing, master of your life," and as a result, children feel as though they are being treated as less than they deserve. We are, after all, humans.

Shizumura also posed a hypothetical situation of kids going to a party and getting drunk. First of all, not all parties are like that; in fact, the vast majority are not booze parties in which the main objective is to get as drunk as possible and see who can scream "Wazzapppp!" the loudest. Secondly, in the few situations where this does actually happen, of course I'm not saying that a mere slap on the wrist is an acceptable punishment. If a law or rule is broken, the appropriate punishment must be administered, but locking a kid away without explanation for the crime is like locking a man away without a fair trial. How can we be expected to avoid the action which incarcerated us in the first place if we do not know what the violation is?

What parents must do is take each act on a case-by-case basis, thereby ensuring that just punishment is given. Living with an ax hanging above your head is no way to live.

Shizumura contends that parents have the right to say, "I make the rules and I can change them anytime." This assertion exemplifies the idea which I am arguing against: arbitrary punishment.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, a benevolent dictatorship (for that's what families are, after all). The ruler, who may change the laws at a whim, could order you pulled over for going 5 miles under the speed limit because he decided that the traffic laws are different just for you. The ruler has the power, just as parents do, but does that mean that he has the right to change the regulations which bind us to society?

I think not, because that would be unjust. So do parents have the moral right to arbitrarily change the rules on us? Of course not. They may pay for our food, clothing, and shelter, but if they punish us for something which is not against any established rule or moral, they will be acting unjustly.

Changing the rules at the drop of a hat is hardly reasonable, logical or practical as it would create an aura of fear that we can be punished for anything at anytime regardless of the rules. And you wonder why some kids ignore rules? It's because they know the rules mean nothing; that sometimes they will get away with breaking them and sometimes they will be punished for following them. Rules mean nothing if they constantly change at the parent's smallest whim.

But don't get me wrong, I'm not against punishment. On the contrary, punishment may be an "effective teaching tool" if used wisely and justly, with understanding and reason.

Scot Matayoshi is a junior
at Punahou School.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
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