It seems that parents are getting more “creative” when it comes to disciplining their children. In recent months, there have been a number of local news reports on parents taking the tough-love concept to a new level: frustrated moms and dads resorting to public humiliation as a form of disciplinary action.
On Tuesday, for instance, theGrio reported that a mom forced her 13-year-old daughter, who was caught shoplifting, to wear an embarrassing T-shirt, which read, “Hide your money. Hide your clothes. Hide everything. ‘Cuz I’m A Thief.”
Earlier in the week, a Florida dad punished his son for his poor grades by making him stand on the corner of a busy intersection in Miami while wearing a poster that told passers-by about his bad grades.
In another case, a Florida mom forced her son to stand on a busy street corner with a sign that read off his poor academic progress and refusal to participate in his learning curriculum at school. This included his then-current GPA.
This begs the question — is public humiliation or shame punishment appropriate in some situations? Kimberly Seals Allers, founder of MochaManual.com, a parenting website and blog for African Americans, says when it comes to saving our kids from a life of crime, jail, and even death, then the answer is a resounding “yes.”
“Our youth are in crisis,” says Seals Allers, “Moms and dads have to step up their parenting game and explore new ideas to meet the challenge. If it takes a sign or brief humiliation to get my child back on the right track, then so be it. Get me the Sharpie and poster board. Isn’t jail or a felony record even more humiliating?”
Dr. Nancy Boyd-Franklin, co-author of Boys Into Men: Raising our African-American Teenage Sons, agrees that it is a gift, yet a challenge, to raise African-American boys in the face of many obstacles.
Referring to her work as a psychologist and family therapist, Boyd-Franklin says in a televised interview on the Research Channel, “We work with many African-American parents and what I hear repeatedly is that they are afraid for their sons.”
Indeed, it was precisely this fear that motivated a frustrated Indiana mom to force her 14-year-old to wear a humiliating sign which read, “I lie, I steal, I sell drugs, I don’t follow the law.”
In a TV interview she explained how frustrated she was with the lenient sentencing the courts handed out to her wayward son, who, at such a young age, is already a persistent offender.
Seals Allers says that if this child’s bad behavior eventually escalated to something more serious, and God forbid something tragic, people would criticize the mom for not doing enough earlier on.
“I’m a ‘by any means necessary’ kind of parent,” she adds, “And I support any parent who uses unorthodox measures, except physical abuse, to reach their child.”
“We can’t demand more parent responsibility for troubled youths and then condemn parents for trying “out of the box” ideas. Every child responds differently, or not at all, to different forms of discipline.”
Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, however, says he is “vehemently against” this type of public humiliation. “I am not saying they are bad parents but they are frustrated and misguided in their actions,” says Gardere, “It speaks to the fact there is a lack of resources or they may not be aware of the resources that may help them become more constructive parents.”
Gardere, who is also contributor to healthguru.com, acknowledges that socio-economic, and even cultural, factors play are a part in parenting. “Parents of a lower socio-economic class may be trying to save their child, whereas parents of higher social economic status, regardless of race, are more focused on making sure their children have the highest advantage.”
“If a child consistently lies, steals or repeats certain types of negative behavior there are probably deeper emotional or psychological issues,” he says, “If you shame this type of child, it will most likely have the opposite effect, if not make them feel more emotionally disturbed.”
Still, there will always be those who believe it’s their parental right to use public humiliation as a last resort to let a child understand the severity of the crime.
Opponents, though, say this type of shaming falls within the category of emotional abuse, and that there are more constructive ways to inspire, motivate and encourage a young person.
Whatever the opinions on shame punishment — old school parenting or rights and dignity of a child — the issue is highly divisive, and will continue for some time to be the topic of heated discussion.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti