So, as dads, it is our job is to not only impart as much wisdom as we can to our children, but to let them know that there are consequences for their behavior. When there are consequences, most children (most, but not all) pause before they do something stupid. Eventually (we hope) this pause turns into impulse control later on.

Like maybe in their early 30s.

I often wonder what my kids would be like had I not been able to enforce the rules.

Lucky for me, I taught 5th grade in a country where there we almost no consequences for nearly any behavior. So, I know what it looks like when an entire country doesn’t give their sons any consequences.

Here is one of those stories.

The fire alarm is there for a reason. If there is an emergency or fire, you pull it. The school I was working in at the time was brand new. In the country I was working in, however, they were not really used to “new.” Most of the features of the school were new and looked at with suspicion. Turns out the fire alarm was quite fun though.

For some reason when they designed the fire-system they decided that in order to deactivate it you would need a key. That key was the only key that could turn it off. And the place you used the key was at the front of the school near the entrance.

My thought would be to keep the key fairly close to the box that turned off the alarm, especially because if it did somehow get activated, you literally had 60 seconds to turn it off before the sprinkler system fully activated. The fire department didn’t really exist, so sprinklers had to be automatic because a fire truck would probably take an hour to get to the school.

So, remember how I thought maybe it would be a good idea to keep the key near?

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Administration decided to give the key to the “security” guard. Which is great. What you might not know is that the “security” guys guard the school at night and sleep in the day in an apartment on the roof. The apartment was on the opposite side of the school. This was a big school.

One day, one of the boys pulled the fire alarm. Remember the whole “no consequences” thing?

This is how it went: Fire alarm goes off. Very loud. You can’t really explain the noise in writing. Go back to the movie Dumb and Dumber. You remember the most annoying noise in the world? Put that on a repeating pattern. After a few seconds of that, think about the computer’s voice in Star Trek: The Next Generation. “Sprinkler system will be activated in 60 seconds… 59, 58, 57…”

The first time, we all figured it was a drill. We took our students outside. This, of course, was great fun for the boys. They really got into the drill. All of them, every single one of them, started chanting with the alarm sound. In unison. So, the alarm was going off and hundreds of boys were copying the noise in unison. Then, the poor security guard (who was sleeping) had to jump out of bed, get dressed, run to the other side of the school, and turn off the alarm in 60 seconds before the sprinkler system activated.

The boys figured this out and thought it was hilarious. They realized that if they pulled the alarm, they’d get to go outside, see a half-dressed security guard sprinting down the hall, and if all goes right, the sprinklers are activated, and they all get to go home?


No consequences. So, you can guess what started happening. The fire alarm was pulled every day. Not just once, but multiple times a day. It got so bad that we started a daily office pool to bet on how many times the alarm would go off during the day. The day I won I guessed 17. I nailed it. Imagine trying to teach with this happening every 15 minutes.

The boys would count down from 60 every time, hoping the sprinklers would be activated. Somehow the security guard always got there in less than 60 seconds. He was in great shape. The closest we got was 2 seconds until activation. When he got to it that time there was a school wide groan from the students. They were close to going home and they knew it.

The problem lasted for a few weeks. You might be wondering how we solved it. Well, it wasn’t by giving consequences to the boys caught pulling the alarm. The solution was to glue plexiglass over the alarms so nobody could pull them. It worked. Thank God the school never caught on fire.

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