Would you have your five year old firebug fake arrested?

Your five-year-old starts trying to set things in his room on fire. You try various punishments, but they have no effect.  Eventually he successfully sets a book on fire and you know you need to do something drastic.  So, you ask your friend the Sheriff to pretend to arrest your son and try to scare him.  He gets handcuffed (and they slip right off because dude, he’s five and tiny), he gets put in the back of the car, he cries.  And of course, someone takes a picture of all this and it becomes a media storm.

While I’d love to ask this mother why there are still matches and lighters in the house when her son is exploring his exciting new hobby, I like what she did.  I have a feeling I’m in the minority though.

Sometimes you have to take drastic measures to get through to kids.  We’re not talking about hitting a sibling, the kid was playing with fire.  Five-year-olds don’t understand the seriousness of what they’re doing most of the time, not from talking anyway.  Bringing him to a burn unit probably would do it for an older kid, but not for a five-year-old.  You’ve got to show what would happen to him, which I think this mom did brilliantly.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and the NYC Moms Blog.


  1. says

    Definitely too far. The officer should get in trouble, too. The last thing you want is a child who is afraid of the police. I worked law enforcement for years and I can tell you, this does not work.
    Maybe if there’s a problem with the child, they should try being a parent. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you take the time.
    Gena´s last blog ..Popsicle Giveaway – Sweet Treats for 20 Winners

  2. says

    @Gena – Wow. That’s a pretty self-righteous comment there, Gena. Did you listen to her entire interview? Seems clear to me that she was “being a parent.” I’m still at a loss as to how the kid was getting matches and lighters, but according to her she tried several different disincentives before resorting to this.

  3. says

    Totally agree with Amy. Children are not like dogs…they don’t make direct associations. I don’t understand why you would say he will be afraid of the police? If the officer did in fact lecture him like the video states then this child knows the punishment was for setting the fire. When I was watching the video I was thinking it would have been a better idea to get a firemen involved and then found out they did! Sounds like this mom did everything she could…except for removing the matches…but that doesn’t stop this kid from doing it anywhere else…like at a friends house. Bravo for the mom…she may have saved someones life!

  4. says

    I see nothing wrong with what this mother did. When my daughter had a sticky fingers phase, I brought her to the police station and asked the chief if he would please arrest my little thief. His response was that they didn’t want children to have negative connotations of the police, but he did give her an extreme “talking to”! She was 5 also.
    Chocolate Mom´s last blog ..Important Response to "Bully Tactics"

  5. says

    Again! Where is this thing about “negative view of law enforcement” coming from! It’s ridiculous. I think this is bunch of bullshit that has been handed down to the police and firemen to avoid liability.

  6. says

    I think this is brilliant. I’d rather her do this now than end up with a real arrest (and an arson charge) in a few years. And I believe that if the officer handles it professionally and remembers that it’s a young child, there’s no reason for kids to irrationally fear the police. It’s supposed to be a wake-up call. Anyway, 5-yr-olds cry when you send them to their room, or take away a privilege. It’s not necessarily a sign of major life trauma.
    Christy´s last blog ..Boston Better-Than-a-Picnic Picnic Brings Fun and Good Deeds

  7. Michelle says

    The mother went too far. I also heard that the mom and the cop went a lot further then the admitted to. I heard that after he was handcuffed, he was beaten with the nightstick, tased with the taser, then the cop pulled out his gun, put it to the boy’s head and pretended to pull the trigger. He then tapped the boy’s mouth and eyes shut, tied his hands and feet together. HE then very violently threw this poor boy into the trunk of the cruiser, shut the trunk lid, and would not let him back out until he was blue in the face from almost suffocating to death. The cop and the boy’s mother were very amused by this and laughed hysterically for at least ten minutes. When the cop let the boy out he put his gun to his head again, and he and the mom told him he better keep his mouths shut about how far they actually went or they would blow his head off.

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