Video: Upset and on strike

updated 12/9/2004 2:04:15 PM ET 2004-12-09T19:04:15

The dishes, garbage and dirty laundry would pile up for days when Cat and Harlan Barnard’s teenage children refused to do their chores.

So the Barnards went on strike, moving out of their house and into a domed tent set up in their front driveway. The parents refuse to cook, clean or drive for 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,” said Cat Barnard, 45, as she sat in a lawn chair at an umbrella-covered table.

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, a stay-at-home mom, and her 56-year-old husband, a government social services worker, decided their children needed to learn about empathy and responsibility.

Mowing was last straw
The Barnards unsuccessfully tried smiley-face charts and withholding allowances to get their children to do chores. They even sought help from a psychologist.

The tipping point may have been when Benjamin didn’t offer to help his sweating, struggling mother work on the lawn Sunday, even though she should have been recovering from oral surgery.

“I had absolutely no motherly guilt after that,” Cat Bernard said.

The Barnards have slept on air mattresses in the tent and have barbecued while their children fended for themselves with frozen TV dinners. The parents only go inside to shower and use the bathroom.

The strike seems to have struck a nerve. The phone has been ringing incessantly with requests for media interviews from around the country.

'Put the kids outside!'
Passers-by from this bedroom community between Orlando and Daytona Beach have shouted out words of encouragement. One woman driving past the Barnards’ house rolled down her car window Wednesday and shouted “Good for you! You should put the kids outside!”

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Benjamin returned from school on Wednesday to find a dozen reporters in his parents’ front lawn. He refused to say anything to them and went into the house followed by his mother, who tried to console him.

A well-intentioned neighbor reported the Barnards to sheriff’s deputies, who checked up on the family three times Tuesday. They were satisfied that the children were safe.

One of Kit’s teachers also stopped by the house, thinking she had been abandoned, after the teenager said that her parents had moved out of the house.

Cat Barnard said she and her husband will keep up the strike until they see some changes.

“If we have to stick it out here until Christmas, then ho, ho, ho, we’re out here,” she said.

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