40 answers

Advice: Punishment That Fits the Crime?

My oldest son will be 16 in May. Just this year he has realized that no one can MAKE HIM do anything. My husband and I keep to punishments that fit, if he doesn’t do what he should than there are natural consequences. He doesn't do his laundry, he doesn't have clean cloths, he doesn't do his chores he doesn't get money, his grades are not good he doesn’t get “screen time” etc. But recently he is skipping class. So a natural consequence, if you don't get an education than you labor in work. So I sent him off to a laboring job with his dad for ever one class missed. He is not getting money for this, he will have to make up for the school work missed and make up the “unexcused” absence. Is this to much? I know the laws of children required to attend school but if the #)$(*#$ is not going than why not be proactive in showing him what direction he is taking his life?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

So I want to give an update because I myself am shocked by how well this worked :) It has been nearly one month and he has not missed one class. He has also nearly done all the make up from missing the classes (just 3 more to go). He has had to pay for the make up classes (11 that is a lot of money). I think the reason it worked is I really wasn't bluffing though after I though about it more (not to his knoledge) I realized what the possible negitive out come could be. He chose the possitive and that I am very proud of. I aprecate the comments that everyone gave. Many of them I took and plan to use later on. We have two more to get through the teen years and every good word helps....man does it help to know your not the only one and what a wealth of help you all are to me.

Featured Answers

too many responses to read, but I think that you are on the right track. I wonder if volunteering in a shelter or other down and out place may make an impact also. Good luck.

Wow Bravo! I hope that when my children get to be teenagers I can stick to my guns like that. I say keep up the good work there aren't enough parents out there that actually parent their teenagers. They are to afraid they will offend them and not be their friend anymore.
Way to go!

I think this is a great idea!!! My parents would ground me form things that had nothing to do with what i did so I just got mad. I am totally aginst home schooling but if he keeps skipping class you could home school him so there would be no ditching. Then you could make him have a job on top of that. At 16 there is no need for allowance he needs to get his own job.
Good luck

More Answers

Good for you, Isn't it fun to deal with kids who realize you really cant MAKE them do anything? They can even go to school, but you cant make them pay attention. The nice thing is you can tell him what YOU are and are not willing to do. He cant Make you do anything either.

You sound a lot like me. I make my son do his own laundry, buy his own school clothes, pay his own way for fun events (movies, bowling) I also make him pay for poor decisions (not brushing his teeth, putting a hole in the wall) So yes, finding appropriated consequences is important to me too.
I think the consequence you picked is very appropriate, I'm a love and logic mom, so I believe in giving lots of empathy first, followed by a consequence (or delayed consequence) "Aww sweetie, thats a bummer you skipped school, we're going to miss you this summer while your working and we go on vacation" I love that I don’t have to tell my son what he should or should have learned, or what he did wrong, he's smart, I let him figure it out. I get to be the good guy and just love him. I think as long as parents dont add insult to injury and don’t try to make the kid bleed. My son does not like to let me know that a consequence hurts him, he gets an attitude "I don’t care" I think many parents want to see there kids feel remorseful, but I dont worry about that, I dont want my friends making me feel bad for my poor decisions, so I just say "Good, then we're both happy" give him a pat on the back, then say "Good Job" along the way and when he's done.

The truth is, he wont be a failure for the rest of his life if he doesnt graduate, I know thats a hard thing to watch a child do. But it is his natural consequence if he has to go to night school and get a GED or Diploma after graduation. There are many people who make it quite well with delayed education. Heck, I'm 36 and finally going to college. And my decision to not go to college out of high school really doesnt affect my parents unless they decide to own my actions and decisions.

You can always tell him "I'll love you no matter how many years it takes you to graduate" just to ensure that his motivation to skip school isn't because he knows it hurts you. Some kids do that, they like to hurt them selves because they believe it hurts there parents more. When the focus is taken off of the parent’s reaction, it goes onto them selves.

Anyway, I'm babbling, but I just wanted to say I think what your doing is awesome. He'll be fine (I believe)
I'm the type of mom where I'd also charge for gas to drive him to work, have him make up for the time I take out of my daily routine to drive him somewhere. I told our niece that when she came and lived with us, she was doing community service at the high school and decided to tell the janitor to F* off, and quit, she told me the story, I wowed her story, then in the middle of her laughing about it, she says "So can you take me around town so I can get another job?" I said "Sure! I'd be happy to, I do homework after work, dinner at 5, clean up dinner, do my chores, figure my bills, take the kid to practice at 7, (mapped out my day) then I said "So anything you can think of doing to free up my time, then I can take you. OH and I'll only charge you 2 dollars for a day for gas to run you around" All the sudden her decision to flip the janitor off and tell him off wasnt such a good decision anymore, she realized that it wasnt my problem to fix, but I wasnt the B*tch in the situation either, I was the good guy willing to help, and I really was willing to help, just not willing to do it for her, I dont believe in treating kids like an honered guest.
GL and I cant wait to see how things go for you, I hope you tell us how it goes.

I went through this too. My solution~ I went to classes with my daughter. Simple explanation I gave her was this: If you aren't able to make it to class I will be there to help guide you to make better choices. Or you can chose on your own to make the better choice. This way she was empowered to make the right choice and she only had to options to choose from. :) Good luck!

J., I am with you on it,
but please do remember not to confront him as you parents are on one side of the battlefield
and he is on another one,
It is better to keep peace and love CONSTANT, even when he is at wrong. How to do it? Easy: try not to get emotional, nd condemn ar read him 'lectures' about how he should be, but only say something like: sorry dear son, I see you try your best, but this time you missed the class, so you know the rule is that you make it up; and sorry dear son, I see all your hard effort, but you accidentally forgot to do laundry, so now you don't have any clean shirts: how does it make to put on the old one, so that all the girls in class run away into another corner because of this smell... just next time think what you gain and what you miss, whenever it comes to the chores. teach him to think one step ahead, and always remain tht friendly reminder to him, not his 'enemy' who punishes him (remember he's a teenager, he wants to be very independent :) ! ). I think you are so absolutely right in all what you do. Just watch that the environment stays friendly in the family, and he always feels that you are there to SUPPORT, not to punish. This is the only note I'd like to send out to you. Good luck, J., and take care!

My son who is fifteen was skipping his third hr class. After emailing his teacher to make sure it was okay, I showed up at his school one day to escort him to class. His teacher allowed me sit in the class with him and explain to the class why I was there. I told his friends that he was having trouble getting to class on his own so his mommy had to come help him. He then had to do chores at home to help defray the cost of me having to take a day off of work. He did not ever think that I would do that and I told him I would do it again in a heartbeat because his education is very important to me. He hasn't skipped again.

Finally a SMART mom!!! I am surrounded by mothers who allow their kids to throw their education away. I think that you are doing the right thing. As mothers we sometimes have to fight to keep our kids on the right path. Good luck!

I think it's great that the punishment fits the crime. Is he having to do this during school? The only hesitation I have is that I know a man who's parents did this to him, and he decided it was the way to go, dropped out of school and now works a great job (he's higher up) in construction. I know this is not the norm, and likely won't happen for you, but it's just a thought. Another mom I know started attending school with her son until he shaped up. The humiliation was enough, and it didn't take long for him to decide he would rather attend on his own. Is this a possibility for you for a short time? I would still make him work hard labor after school and on weekends until his "debt" is paid. I don't think you're being hard on him at all. Hope some of this helps! I hope you can steer his obstinance in the right direction!

OK first off I don't have teenagers. But I do have a 4 yr old a 3 yr old and a 1 almost 2 yr old. Honestly I think you are doing the right thing. There is a saying that goes " You can't negotiate with terrorists, teenagers or two year olds" I have so far found this to be true. At least with the two year olds. As for the required attendance of school, your'e right if he isn't even going anyways why not put him to work. Eventually he will get the idea. And since you are making him do his schoolwork anyways he is not missing his education. You might want to try and figure out why he is acting out this way though. Teens don't like to talk about what's going on but maybe you can figure it out by talking with teachers or reading his texts and emails. Remember until they turn 18 their privacy is something you give them. Find out how much time he might be spending on the net. How much time is he spending with friends. maybe these are being bad influences. Whatever you do make sure you tell him that you love him and always will. (Even if he drives you up a batty wall) Remember when you where a teen, did you or your husband go through the same things? If so why? OK well I hope this helps.

i feel for you in your situation.
have you tried going to class with him? does he get good grades?
sometimes the i have used taking his most prized item away...
do both of you agree before the punishment is put out?
or is he looking for attention from his father?
as parents we all want the best for each of our kids and when things dont work out we begin to doubt if what we are doing is right. hang in there and keep asking others.

One thing that I know that my Grandma used quite often was if they skipped school or didn't improve their grades she would go to school with them sit with them in their classes and walk down the hall. Needless to say she only had to do it with one out of her five kids and from there on out the grades and attendence approved. I have two kids of my own and I'm afraid I'll be using that tactic in a few years. Good luck!

I am a young new mommy, so I am saying this really as someone who was rebellious in high school not so many years ago. Yes a punishment that fits the crime is great. In high school you only care about yourself, so often you need to learn why your actions really do matter. However, one thing you need to be careful of is that he understands that you are angry with his actions because you care about him. I seldom felt sorry for anything I ever did. My parents were always mad, and always yelling and I didn't care. The one time I really did care was when my parents reaction was not that they were mad, they were disapointed. That hit me hard. The difference was I felt like they cared about ME, not that I was making them look bad.

When our daughter skipped my husband went to every class with her the next day. Not just the skipped class. She never skipped again. He even thought about going dressed as a hillbilly!

You are doing a good job of making the punishment fit the crime. I would talk to the couselor at yur son's school and find out what his options are as far as the school system is concerned. Have you had a conversation with your son about why he is skipping? (verus a yelling match. I know this is hard, I've been there) find out what the school issues are. Then see what can be done to reach a compromise. I have had children on work release part of the day,attend the alternative high school, make up credits at night school etc.
If you talk to the school, they can help you come up with a solution that will work for everyone.

A thought, is the time doing "man things" with Dad really a reward rather than a punishment? One of my sons would have skipped everyday to spend that time with his Dad.

good luck!

Well, I raised three boys and took to soft road with them and had nothing but trouble. So I say to you, your a champ.
These kids have got to have a strong hand guiding them now days.
And the stronger the better.
You are not being too hard on him, the punishment does fit the crime.
Be strong hoeny and don't cave in.
Good luck to you dear.

I'm the mother of a 20 and a 16 year old and I think you're brilliant! You're showing him exactly the life he'll have without an education.
He needs to understand that you're not trying to control him but trying to give him the best advice you have for his life. The rest is up to him. Keep up the good work and Good Luck.

J., You are great! It's so good to hear other parents are teaching their children responsibility through hard work. In my opinion, he will be missing nothing necessary at school but what he learns from "working off his absence" will benefit him for a lifetime. We teach our children that they are absolutely free to choose whatever they want to do, but they have no control over what the consequences of their actions may be. Whether natural or parent-made. As far as the required attendance, schools are really good at allowing them to be made up! He may think he's skipping, but what he's really doing is putting off his summer. Good luck!

You go girl! I also have a16 year old boy and I applaud your efforts to keep him on the right track.

Good for you! I think that "tough love" is something we Moms cannot be afraid of. Better that he learn a few lessons now and correct himself while he still can. My kids are still little (oldest is turning 7), but when I have teens I hope that I can have the guts to stick to my guns.

I think keeping him out of school to go to a job may send mixed signals even to a 16 year old. At his age a lot of kids drop out and think they would rather work. However the reality is that at 16 he will never get a good job and will never have a stable life without the diploma and education behind him. He will regret it one day. I think you are doing the right thing in setting up consequences, so many parents these days just don't do this and I think kids/teens today are way worse then we ever were. Being accountable for your own actions is a huge task to teach but a very important one!! Bravo to you! Have you tried reverse consequences? Like rewarding him for the good behavior?

As far as not making him do anything, well get out some brocheures on teen boot camp and ask him which one he would like at attend over the summer instead of enjoying time with his friends???? He may hate you for a while however will appreciate all you are trying to do now later on!
You can and will make him do the right thing, not only because it is right but because you are held accountable for his actions until he is 18 years old!!! He screws up it can ruin your whole family. He needs to see the bigger picture too, that it isn't all about him and what he wants to do.

I think you are right on track. Natural consequences are the best teacher and your son has no one to blame but himself. You are an amazing parent to let the consequences do the talking. So many parents just rescue their child because they don't want them to face the consequences but they are really just ruining their child's life. If more mom's were like you then more kids would be responsible adults. I hope I can follow your example. Great job!

Best, Julie

Wow Bravo! I hope that when my children get to be teenagers I can stick to my guns like that. I say keep up the good work there aren't enough parents out there that actually parent their teenagers. They are to afraid they will offend them and not be their friend anymore.
Way to go!

I totally understand your situation being a mother of 5 myself with 2 around that age I'm there! I did get some headway with positive reinforcement. Try and start focusing on things he's doing well/right. Anything like looking after his younger siblings or picking up something of the ground, putting a dish in the sink or even putting the toilet seat down! You've already established the rules make sure you stick to them but I would encourage flexability also. (like maybe he comes home and you've done him a "favor" and his clothes are all washed and put away)

Is he getting ready to get his drives license? That was a huge motivator for my child.

As parents we can ask for to much from a teenager and with the "crap" they go through at school getting it at home also just leads to "why am I even trying" and even bigger problems. Kids get "thrown" out into the "world" soon enough and I BELIEVE we (myself included)are trying to get our kids to learn that "it's tough out there" by some of the "consequences" we give.
Of course every child is different, what worked for my oldest did not work for my next one.

That's my 2 cents worth.

It sounds to me like you are not only letting the punishment fit the crime but giving him a practical view of what he can expect out of life if he doesn't finish his education. Not that manual labor is a terrible career, but it isn't the typical teens idea of a dream job. I say kudos to you, I hope you are following up with some casual coversation about the pros and CONS your DH has experienced in a laboring job.

My nephew was doing the same thing and this is what my brother did and it worked.

He told him that he was going to take him out of school and make him get a full time job and the jobs he suggested were hard, dirty and physically exhausting. He then told him that once he was off work then he would have to come home and do specific chores each day and would only be allowed so much time on his video games and tv each night. He also told him that he would have to be in bed early each night to make sure he was up and ready to be dropped off to work. He took his license from him did not allow him to drive. The thing that worried his son the most, was not having time with his friends and he said that he did not want to quit school, he agreed to go and finish out his school years and he did with no more problems. By taking away things that he likes such as time with friends, tv, games, etc and giving them more chores may just change his way of thinking. Good Luck and God Bless!

Wow! that is a great punishment. You are absolutely on track with that one. It is definitely not too harsh because the real life penalty for not taking your education seriously is those kinds of jobs. I think it's also important that he doesn't get paid. If he got paid, he might notice the money instead of the work. I'm impressed.

Sounds like you are right on in my opinion. Just make sure that in addition to the discipline he knows there is unconditional love --and that the love is the driving force in the discipline.

nothing like a long summer of hard labor to get a kid to realize that this is not what they want for hte rest of their life. My brother dug basements for a construction company for a couple of years putting himself through college. Ather that he had a true motive to do his best to not do manuel labor the rest of his life. Until then, he had no motivation to do well in school.
Try to play on his stengths and interests. Find what really enjoys and chanel his interests into a fulfilling career. If he likes sports and likes to write, help him learn to be a sports caster or have him ref games for little kids. He needs to find himself and you can help him by being a supportive good parent who loves him and wants what is best.
Stress he needs to finish high school.
Good Luck,
C. B
P.S. Let the school know what you are doing. They might have some insight to share with you about the friends he is hanging out with.

Wow J.! You are my hero! I LOVE your idea of showing him the concequences of not going to school and showing him what real labor is! That is a fantastic idea. I don't think you are being to harsh in the slightest. I'll bet too that you can work it out with the school that these days that he's missing can be "made up" since they are a consequence of skipping school in the first place. I would go talk to the principal or the guidance councelor. I think you are doing EXACTLY what needs to be done to "teach" him that important life lesson. The punishment should ALWAYS fit the crime and I think you are right on top of that. Hats off to you.

I have an almost 17 year old! Your son is looking for your attention and will keep doing it in a negative way as long as you play! They are at an age now that they think they know it all and we have to remember that we did too! Sometimes you just have to let go and let them fall. They will learn the hard way if they have too! I try my best to at least get my son to talk to me. It takes a bit because he has to see that I am on his side and that I have been there and done that as well. Find some special time with him! He may be having problems with a baby around and need some extra TLC in a manly way! Love Lori

You go girl!
I honestly don't know about the laws part, but hey, if he isn't going to contribute around the house, nor go to school, then he can work to earn his keep!
The world needs more parents like you who are actually HOLDING their children responsible... Discipline and direction is what our youth is without these days!

You are one of my heroes!!!

At first, I thought I shouldn't respond to this because I've got three older kids (2-21 year olds and a 15 year old) and I've never had this problem with any of them. But then I thought, there's probably something to offer based on how we've raised our kids, which has prevented us from having to experience this situation. Please understand, I'm not saying that from a place of superiority or the belief like you've done something wrong - I'm coming from a place of wanting to help by sharing something with you that might help you and your family through this time. Since I know nothing about you or your parenting style, I have no idea whether this information will be helpful or not, but since you're asking the question, I'm sharing with you what's worked for our family.

We've always raised our children to have a voice, a choice in decisions that concern them. We honor that they know what's best for them and trust them to make decisions that serve them in the highest way. This gives them a feeling of personal power and a knowing that they are responsible for creating their own lives. What this has done is remove the need for my children to rebel or do things to get our attention because they know we will support them in anything they choose, whether it turns out well or not. We've taught them that the important thing is to make a choice and do your best with that choice. If it turns out not to be something that works out the way you planned, then choose again. We ask them to honor their commitments to others - in other words, if they make a choice that involves others, and others count on them because of that choice, they need to finish the job, commitment, whatever they've promised to do, and then they can make another choice. The point is, however, that no matter what they choose, whether I agree with it or not, we support them in their decision. There is no power struggle - they have the freedom to live their lives the way they see fit.

That's not to say that there haven't been struggles over the past 22 years of parenting - there have been, believe me! But we talk them through, we look for solutions together, we keep the line of communication open so that they have a safe place to come when things aren't working out. We do not punish our children or look for ways to teach them a lesson. Life provides lessons along the way - the natural consequences you referred to are life's way of showing children the way. That's not to say we don't guide them - we do, but they make the ultimate decision about the direction they choose.

Your son needs to know that you are there for him, that you support him fully no matter what he does or how things work out. The problem, in my opinion, of making him work for every class missed to show him what will happen if he doesn't get an education is that you are punishing him - it's not a natural consequence - and it makes him feel like you are against him rather than behind him every step of the way. The natural consequence would be if he didn't get an education and he had to get a job he hated because he couldn't qualify for anything else. Then he would probably be motivated to go back to school, or do whatever he needed to do to find work that made him happy. (I got my college degree when I was 43 years old - I didn't know until then what I wanted to do...) Anyway, in my opinion, the key is to work with him to help him find his way, be on his team, show him that you understand that he's going through a difficult time and that you've got his back. He needs a friend and a support team right now - I hope you can be that for him.

I pray that you find a peaceful solution that works for your family. I'm rooting for you!


I think it sounds fantastic...especially since you're probably explaining all of this as it's happening to him.

I thought you were my BF posting this, this is the same issue she is going through with her son, so you are not alone!

I am a very strict mom when it comes to school, there is no ands if or buts about it! I think you are on the right road, the only thing I am unsure of is whether he is missing school to do the labor? If that is true, I would change that to him doing all the "labor" around the house, next consequence would be to remove everything form his room, he gets a pillow, a blanket, a few outfits and that is it, no T.V no posters on the wall, no MP3 player, video games ect..., I wished my friend would do this before it is to late, her son is smoking and know won't graduate on time no matter what he does, with the exception of repeating his current grade. she isn't tough enough, and tries to reason with him, he's grounded and yet gets to go to a movie with a cousin because he is family, when I say you are grounded that is what I mean, family or no family. I have had to take everything away from one of my kids cause she thought she could do like your son and then she thought she could call me whatever she wants. I have always allowed my kids to voice thier opinions and even use a few not nice words, but she thought she could use them towards me...... So I took everything from her and it really sucked for her cause school was getting ready to start and we had just gone clothes shopping, but she didn't get one thing back until she improved. I haven't had any issues with her for about a year know, don't get me wrong she is still a teen but her and my others learned I wasn't playing.

As a side note, last year she struggled with her grades, i thought she wasn't trying hard enough and she kept saying that no matter how much she was reading she just wasn't getting it. I did "fall" for it, turns out when we went to her yearly eye DR appt that her eyes weren't aligned (sp) so her brain spent all it's time just trying to stay in place and didn't have enough room left to understand what she was reading, man did I feel bad.

Sorry got off track but I do think you are on the right track, every action has a consequence and it is up to him decide whether they will be good or bad. Good luck.

I think you need to talk to someone at the school about attendence policies...I'm a tenth grade teacher and in our district a certain amount of unexcused absences leads to automatic failure of a course. Most students who are failing that way seem to get an attitude that they shouldn't go to class since they are failing anyway...leads to more skipping...and a lot eventually get into this pattern until they drop out...if you are going to have him go into the work force then talk to him...really talk and listen to his responses...about working on a GED in his time off...another great alternative to traditional schooling are vocational high schools where the entire curriculum is built around a students desired career path...automotive, information technology, culinary, medical...etc...maybe your son would be more interested in this kind of school...they usually do paid internships and graduate with a job in place...i think you need to make it clear to your son that these are very adult choices for him to make and that he also needs to show he is mature and responsible enough to make such adult choices...you could also institute making him pay rent if he is working...good luck with this one! You know your son best of course...certainly let him know ya love him above all else and want to see him make good life choices.

too many responses to read, but I think that you are on the right track. I wonder if volunteering in a shelter or other down and out place may make an impact also. Good luck.

I think you are doing the right thing. It is definately something my husband and I would do. We come from several years in the military so we have all kinds of ideas for punishments if our kids act up. I take care of my nieces after school and they know you don't act up or there will be consequences. My parents think we are bad role models and I get a lot of flack for it so I applaud you for sticking with it.
You could also take him to a shelter on the weekends to do volunteer work because a child who won't get a good education will not go far in life without a job and if you don't have a job you will be homeless and that is not a life , I'm sure, that your son would want to live.

I think what you are doing is great!!

Though not everyone will agree to what you chose for discipline--BRAVO in doing something. TO many parents now are oblivious to what their teenagers are doing! All I would say is if you are going to do this make him do it on a Saturday--that way not only does he have to "labor to work" since he skipped school, he has to give up his free days. That way he has to go to school, not missing anymore education---you stress the importance of going to school and the consequence of missing at the same time.

I do not think the consequence is to harsh. He is 16 not 12. My sister was the oldest and the only one to ever skip school---partly because we learned not to--she was grounded for a MONTH. And you didn't want to be grounded in our house. IT meant home straight from school, in our room except at dinner or to do chores. No sports, no phone, no tv, no friends, and taking on all extra chores on the weekend. It was boring. And it lasted the whole alloted time--no Parole. she was the only one to ever get a month!

I do not think it is too much if it is given in the right spirit. I'm a "Love and Logic" parent too. I love consequences and I feel that it is important for parents to be aware of what kids are doing and to discipline them appropriately. But one of the things that I love about "Love and Logic" is that you must administer consequences with lots of empathy. I have learned for myself that the consequences do not have the effect that I want them to without the empathy. AND I have recently learned the power of listening. Listening to my kids as they express their feelings, acknowledging through a simple phrase that I have heard their feelings and that their feelings are valid (even if I don't agree) BEFORE I give any sort of discipline, opinion or advice. Listening doesn't mean always agreeing and it doesn't mean being a parent who has no backbone, it just means listening to a child express feelings without being judged for them. My concern with hearing of a child who continues to make sad decisions is that his connection with those who love him/her is temporarily lost. I have found that the best way I can reconnect with my own kids is to listen, acknowledge my child's feelings, and then administer consequences with empathy no matter their age. Good luck.

Wow, you are lucky it took him until he was 16 to figure out you couldn't MAKE him do anything--my 3 1/2 year old is starting to figure it out already...
Anyway, I think you are doing the right thing! Maybe working hard labor will show him what he is in for if he doesn't get a good education. I think that your choice of punishment is just right, not excessive at all. I hope he learns from his mistakes and takes his education more seriously. Good for you for taking a stand. Many parents let things like this go until it is too late.

I think this is a great idea!!! My parents would ground me form things that had nothing to do with what i did so I just got mad. I am totally aginst home schooling but if he keeps skipping class you could home school him so there would be no ditching. Then you could make him have a job on top of that. At 16 there is no need for allowance he needs to get his own job.
Good luck

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