A very long time ago, as long ago as last Friday, Yvette, 5, and Rupert, 6, committed their grandparents to 100 years of thinking time.
For the uninitiated, thinking time is a penalty some parents impose on their young kids for misbehaving. Older readers might think of it as a substitute for a one-second spank. The errant kid must sit still on the floor and think for, say, 5 minutes. Five minutes may not be purgatory for a hyperactive child, but it is up there.
The children are told to use the thinking time to dwell on their error. If they are unable to recite its nature accurately a few minutes later, they are reminded and given – here is the rub – more time to dwell on their mistake and explain it correctly.
The system works in the sense kids do change their behaviour when faced with thinking time.
So how had Yvette and Rupert’s grandparents transgressed? Well, the kids were rolling marbles along open runners that zigzagged downwards between two plastic towers. One marble was Nana, the other Grandad. The marbles kept jumping off the runners. So those marbles were given some thinking time.
Two replacement marbles were selected, similarly named. They also misbehaved – and were given further thinking time.
By dispassionate judicial deliberation, the kids decided that extending the thinking time to 100 years for the Nana and Grandad marbles for failing to explain satisfactorily their misbehaviour was appropriate. Not eternity, but fair and proportionate on an age-adjusted basis!
Perhaps the kids had a point. After all, even professional basketballers take time-outs.
So why not thinking time for adults transgressing civil norms?
People who record private conversations with colleagues without their consent break a civil norm and likely make themselves near unemployable. They surely qualify for serious thinking time.
Much worse was the recently revealed willingness to contemplate trading a donation from a foreign-aligned source for the real prospect of a seat in Parliament. Members of Parliament must represent only New Zealanders’ interests. MMP’s party list system fails to ensure that.
Thinking time for such transgressors may not help. They might even use it to think about how to extract bigger political donations or break more civil norms.
Before we, the public, find we are literally losing our marbles to foreign interests we should think hard about our rules for eligibility to Parliament. We don’t have 100 years of thinking time.