There are certain things that should go without saying: don’t use the baby as a football, don’t have kids help you with your illegal marijuana operation (see Second Graders Story Leads To Pot Bust), and don’t abandon your kids in a dense, bear-infested forest or leave them on the side of the road. But in moments of frustration, parents can loose their common sense. In fact, the act of parenting has sometimes been described as the process of slowly loosing one’s mind. This might be why a Japanese mother and father found themselves at the center of a national embarrassment after leaving their 7-year-old alone in the woods because he was misbehaving in the car.
Details about precisely what happened are murky and somewhat conflicted. His parents first said that their son Yamato had wandered off while the family scavenged for wild vegetables. They later recanted and confessed to putting him out of the car and then driving off as punishment to teach him a lesson. When they returned a few minutes later, they say the boy was nowhere to be found.
In describing his ordeal to authorities, Yamato said that he tried to follow his parents’ car as it pulled away, but soon broke down in tears. Somehow he got turned around and ended up going in the opposite direction. He describes walking along the side of a road for hours without ever seeing cars or people.
Eventually he found his way into an unmanned army camp around 3 miles from where he was left. There was no food, but he was able to get inside and sleep on some stacked mats while surviving off water from a water fountain. I can only imagine what went through this boy’s mind as he tried to eek out shelter, assuming his parents had abandoned him for good. Meanwhile, Japanese authorities, along with the boy’s parents were frantically searching the thick underbrush of the nearby forest. Yamoto apparently heard helicopters overhead but didn’t see any searchers, and stayed put because he had no where else to go. He was discovered this past Friday after soldiers arrived for a routine stop at the camp, 6 days after he had gone missing.
As you might imagine, the judgment directed at these parents was harsh at first, but has since softened up a bit. “I imagine this case reminded some people of their own child-rearing struggles,” wrote the Japanese paper Asahi Shinbun, in an editorial on the front page. “It is not unusual for parents to tell their unruly children, ‘I’m leaving you here if you don’t behave.'” This story is yet another dramatic example of why parents should never make threats they can’t follow through with. If you’ve reached the stage of making outrageous threats, it’s time to hit the pause button and reconsider your options for a logical consequence that you can actually enforce. And no, leaving your kids in the woods is not an appropriate, logical consequence no matter how crappy they might be behaving.