It's only two people in one small town today, but I think this has the makings of a serious national movement: Parents on strike against slacker kids:
The dishes, garbage and dirty laundry would pile up for days when Cat and Harlan Barnard's two teenage children refused to do their chores. So the parents decided to take a picket line to the picket fences of suburbia.
Earlier this week, the Barnards went on strike. They moved out of their house and into a tent set up in their front driveway. The parents won't cook, clean or drive their children — Benjamin, 17, and Kit, 12 — until they shape up.
''We've tried reverse psychology, upside-down psychology, spiral psychology and nothing has motivated them for any length of time,'' Cat Barnard, 45, said Wednesday as she in her driveway sat in a lawn chair at an umbrella-covered table decorated with Christmas lights.
The strike took Benjamin and Kit by surprise. They came home from school Monday to find their mother outside with handwritten signs that read ''Parents on Strike'' and “Seeking Cooperation and Respect!''
Cat Barnard and her 56-year-old husband, a government social services worker, decided their children needed to learn to be responsible.
The Barnards unsuccessfully tried smiley-face charts and withholding allowances. They even sought help from a psychologist. The breaking point may have been when Benjamin didn't offer to help his mother work on the lawn Sunday, even though she should have been resting after recovering from oral surgery.
I do think, however, that the Bernards have made one tacitcal error: they have ceded the house to the kids and are occupying the lawn. This may work in Flordia in winter, when it's very very nice outside, but I don't think this will translate well to Minnesota.
The Barnards have slept on air mattresses in the tent during their strike and have barbecued while their children fended for themselves with TV dinners inside the house. The parents only go inside to shower and use the bathroom.
On the other hand, if you put the kids in the doghouse in Minnesota, it's probably going to be considered child abuse.
Meanwhile, it does seem as if the Bernard kids may be getting the message.
A visibily angry Benjamin returned from school on Wednesday to find a dozen reporters in his parents' front lawn. He refused to say anything and went into the house followed by his mother, who tried to console him.
Hey kids — want to help move stuff in the house this evening?
What makes you think we Minnesotans won’t be able to take the heat — uhh, the cold? This isn’t Canada, you know, eh…
On the other hand, there are plenty of heated doghouses out there in suburban Twin Cities.
What a trainwreck.
Good parenting is HARD WORK!