Public Humiliation as Punishment
Is public shame the best way teach children a lesson?
I have a confession to make. When I was 6 years old, I stole a handful of diapers from the grocery store for my dolls. I swiftly slipped them into my zipped up jacket and walked right out of the store without paying for them.
The guilt was just too much. I confessed my mistake to my mother the moment our car pulled out of the parking lot toward home. She promptly turned the car around, marched me into the store, and forced me to return the diapers to the manager along with an apology. I was mortified but I learned my lesson.
I should thank my lucky stars that my mother did not humiliate me in public as punishment for my sticky fingers. Many parents have recently resorted to forcing their children to declare their mischievous ways in public as a last ditch effort to set them straight.
The Huffington Post recently featured an article written by Lisa Belkin that highlighted a rash of public shaming. Like the most recent example in Illinois, where Montrail White forced his 8-year-old daughter to stand in front of her school with a sign that said ""I like to steal from others and lie about it!!" in an effort to stop her from stealing.
White is not alone. A mother in Miami recently made her son 5th grader Trayvon Young, stand on the side of a busy street with a sign that read "I was sent to school to get an education. Not to be a bully... I was not raised this way!" Apparently his mother, a corrections officer, was at the end of her rope after her son was suspended from school for planning to bully another student.
Let's not forget about 7th grader Michael Bell, also of Miami, who was forced to hold a sign that announced, "Hey, I want to be a class clown is that wrong?" He spent his spring break listening to drivers honk their horns three times if they thought that failing was bad, in response to the prompt written on the flip side of the sign.
It seems many people agree that public humiliation is an effective punishment for children who can't seem to be reached any other way. Many readers left comments of support for White in his choice to punish his daughter by embarrassing her. One commenter said;
He is loving her enough to do whatever he has to do to keep her from becoming a criminal. Sure, holding this sign is no fun, but neither is juvenile hall, or worse yet - prison. There are people sitting in prison right now who wished they had a father like him.
In this era of technology, humiliation is not limited to parading a sign in public. With Internet sites such as YouTube and Facebook, parents are taking to the web to punish their children as well.
Who could forget the now famous rant by Tommy Jordan of North Carolina? After he discovered that his teenage daughter had left disrespectful remarks about her parents on her Facebook page, he posted a video on YouTube where he called her out for her behavior and then shot eight bullets into her laptop.
Today Parenting reported that many people seemed to support Jordan as well. They conducted a poll and out of 120,000 voters, 73 percent of them felt he had used appropriate punishment. Not everyone was in agreement though. The article also featured Dr. Phil's feeling on the subject;
You never, ever humiliate your child publicly,’’ psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “You’re supposed to be the adult, the calm in the middle of the storm, where you say, ‘OK, you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.’ But this consequence was pretty radical.
I'm going to have to go with good ol' Dr. Phil on this one. I'm all for consequences, but I think that shaming your child in public is disrespectful and not the best way to teach them to respect you or themselves.
If a parent feels overwhelmed by a child's behavior, it might be better to turn to a professional for help instead of to strangers on the street or millions of viewers on the Internet.
Do you think that public humiliation is an effective form of punishment for children? If not, what would be a better way to reach kids who don't respond to most foms of discipline? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.