WATHENA, Kan. — A child's punishment took a new twist toward proactive parenting Friday morning.
Richard Fulton said his son entered a neighbor’s unlocked home earlier this week and stole two video games and a gaming system. When Mr. Fulton discovered the games, he made his son apologize and return them.
“We caught him with two games on Tuesday and I asked him if there was any more. He said ‘no.’” Mr. Fulton said. “On Wednesday, we caught him with the whole game system. I asked him when he got it, and he said at the same time he got the games.”
Mr. Fulton said he sat down with his son after he returned the games and system to the neighbor. The family accepted the boy’s apology and said they did not want to press charges.
“I took a hard line with him, and I wanted him to understand that this will not be tolerated,” Mr. Fulton said. “This kind of behavior is not acceptable. I want him to learn a lesson.”
That lesson became quite literal, as Mr. Fulton woke his son Friday morning and drove him to the 2200 block of U.S. Highway 36. Mr. Fulton handed his son a sign that stated, “I like to steal and lie about it!”
“My feet hurt,” the boy said after standing along the highway for roughly an hour.
Several motorists honked, waved and pulled over to shake Mr. Fulton’s hand to show their support for his parenting decision. Others were not pleased with the punishment.
“That is child abuse,” said a woman outside of Shirley’s Dinner Bell. “That just seems wrong.”
One man approached Mr. Fulton’s son and ripped the sign from the boy’s hand in a sign of protest. Mr. Fulton retrieved the sign and handed it back to his son.
“The Wathena Police Department came down here and said they’ve been getting a lot of calls about child abuse out here, this and that,” he said. “My reaction is, ‘Do you want him to break into your house?’ Because he is 9 years old now. While he is impressionable, I want to make a difference in his life.”
Six years ago, Mr. Fulton struggled with assault charges and one count of theft, and found himself in and out of jail when he was younger. He said that was not the life he wanted for his son.
“I can’t watch my son go through that,” Mr. Fulton said. “He’s a wonderful kid, an absolute blessing to have, but I just want him to learn the lesson so he doesn’t grow up the way I did.”
Mr. Fulton and his son stopped after two hours of “sign punishment.” While the boy said he would never steal anything again, Mr. Fulton felt his decision would leave a lasting lesson.