Parents Who Punish Their Children Publicly Have It All Wrong

twerksWe’ve all seen the stories go viral: kids sporting sandwich boards proclaiming embarrassing admissions like “I shoplift” while angry parents stand by.

Signs and sandwich boards are seemingly the most popular shaming tool for parents riding the public punishment bandwagon all the way to crappy parenthood.

You’ve got children forced to admit they smoke pot, sneak boys in, or this poor girl who was forced to admit that she disrespected her parents by twerking at a school dance.

Parents who decide to punish in the public arena aren’t messing around. Ever hear of the mom who shaved her daughter’s head and made her wear a diaper outside for bad grades? Yeah, that happened. Who doesn’t remember the cowboy-hatted dad who shot up his daughter’s laptop and then posted the video on YouTube? The video has now been viewed nearly 40 million times, by the way, so it looks like we all enjoy the drama. And I admit, I kind of had a crush on cowboy dad at the time, but cute cowboy or no — the creative parenting punishment movement is getting out of hand. At this point, I can’t decide if we’re witnessing misguided parents who legitimately want to teach their kids a lesson or are seeking attention for themselves.

The latest incident reeks of attention whoring. As Craig Yoshihara notes, “One Georgia dad recently made news for emptying his daughter’s room onto the front driveway of the house. He claims he was tired of her not picking up after herself, and after repeatedly telling her to do it, decided to take matters into his own hands and physically moved the contents of her room out onto the driveway while she was out of the house.”

These methods of parenting usually make their way onto the news, and sometimes we chuckle in response because, man, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Disrespectful kids who never listen, serves ’em right, right?


Look, I get it. I too have had to ask kids as many as 10 times a day to clean their rooms and have felt the resulting frustration boiling into rage. But, you know, I’ve never once been tempted to move their rooms into the driveway, not only because damn, that’s a lot of work, yo, but because I have no desire to publicly humiliate my kid, nor do I consider it an effective form of punishment. There are a million private punishments at my fingertips within the home that work a whole lot better than a bedroom on a driveway or a sandwich board.

Experts back me up on this one. In an article on Life Science, experts say “any punishment that shames or embarrasses a child is not an effective way to discipline youngsters, and may cause long-term psychological damage.”

I didn’t need an expert to tell me that because COME ON. Most of the kids who are victims of public punishment are in their teens. We all know that’s about the worst time ever in life. My mom could embarrass me with a facial expression or a hair style, so you can imagine the psychological trauma of a parent forcing you to admit embarrassing mistakes to neighbors and strangers via a sign or some other equally stupid form of “punishment.”

Neighbors and strangers are one thing, but what about the child’s peers? What a nightmare! Why would you do that to your kid who is likely trying so hard to fit in at school and not stand out? Not only that, but Katharine Kersey, a professor of early childhood education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia notes, you’re damaging your own relationship with your child in the process.

“Each time we [embarrass children with a punishment] we pay a price, and we drive them away from us, and we lose our ability to be a role model for them,” Kersey tells Life Science. “When you disconnect from a child, he no longer wants to please you, he no longer wants to be like you. You’ve lost your power of influence over him … Children who are punished in these ways usually still commit the behavior, but do it behind their parents’ backs.”

Yes, my job is to punish my children and I plan to do that and do it well within the confines of our home. Frankly, I’d rather wear a sandwich board announcing I’m a crappy parent than publicly embarrass my child as a form of punishment.

What about you? Can you get behind the whole creative parenting movement?


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