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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004, 12:13 GMT
Parents 'strike' over idle children
Cat Barnard
Cat and Harlan Barnard's story has struck a nerve across the US
A mother and father say they have gone on strike over their children's lack of help around the house.

Cat and Harlan Barnard have pitched a tent in the front drive of their Florida home and erected signs, one of which says: "Parents on Strike!".

They say they will stay there until Benjamin, 17, and Kit, 12, start to do their share of the household chores.

The stand-off, in Enterprise, Florida, is being monitored by the police, welfare officers and teachers.

Mrs Barnard said she and her 56-year-old husband, a government social services worker, had tried everything to get their children to act more responsibly.

They tried smiley-face charts, withholding allowances and even sought help from a psychologist.

"We've tried reverse psychology, upside down psychology, spiral psychology and nothing has motivated them for any length of time," said Mrs Barnard, 45.

She said the final straw came when her son failed to offer to help her mow the lawn one Sunday, even though she should have been resting following a medical operation.

"I had already made the decision to do it [strike] then, but I had absolutely no motherly guilt about it," she was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

Media interest

Since Monday, the parents have slept on airbeds in their tent and eaten barbecue meals, only going inside to use the shower.

The children have frozen meals to keep them going inside the house.

Cat Barnard in her driveway
The parents say they will stay outside until their children change
Officers from the sheriff's department have called at the home three times to check on the situation but have not tried to intervene.

One of Kit's teachers also stopped by, concerned after hearing that her parents had left home.

The Barnards' story has been picked up by the media across the US, and they have been inundated with interview requests.

One woman shouted "Good for you! You should put the kids outside!" as she drove past their home, the AP reported.

But others are less supportive. "One woman said I should be ashamed for creating emotional stress on my children," Mrs Barnard said.

"I told her, 'Well, they've been doing it to me for years.'"

The action appears to have angered Ben, who described the strike and ensuing press attention as "extremely inconvenient".

But his sister, Kit, said she understood. "I guess we don't help out as much as we could. I'm going to change."



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