Punishing kids publicly

I saw this on the morning news this morning and can’t really understand why people do things like this.  Then they called it “bullying.”  He stole something is what he did.  I don’t call that bullying, I call it stealing but that’s beside the point.  Both are bad, I’m not denying that and I do feel this boy should be punished, BUT…like this???

I have seen other posts about things like this.  “Mom sells Pokemon cards on eBay,” “Mom sells teens car,”  “Dad sells PS2 to highest bidder.”  These things are/were done as a punishment for the child for breaking the rules.  While I’m all for punishing, why the public need for it?  Why do people do things like this for the world to see?  To me, I would be humiliated to be on the morning national news.  Would that bother you?

This is the thing.  When I misbehaved as a child, I had to stand in the corner.  This was in my own home and the only people who could see me was my brother or one of my parents.  Whoever put me there.  Did it humiliate me, YES, did I do the same thing again the next day, YES.  Why, because I was a kid and kids do things like that.  Kids break the rules on occasion and while I did punish my kids and I was punished, I did it in my own home.  I didn’t call the news to tell them so I could be on TV.

I also feel the severity of the action may deserve a different approach.  But I feel any kind of humiliation, is very harmful for a child.  To be made fun of?  The brunt of late night comedians?  To be on the national news?  I feel that does way more harm that good.  I know there is a lot of flack about spanking but I’ll tell you, I would rather have had a swat across my butt than to have been made to stand in that corner so I can’t imagine being made to stand on a street corner ringing a bell.

I may be wrong.  I may be from the old thought that you keep private things private.  What do you think?

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20 Responses to Punishing kids publicly

  1. davidprx says:

    In my opinion if you have to take your child to the bathroom out of the public eye then there is something wrong with what you are doing. I love to see parents discipline their children in public. Kids need to know that no matter where they are or who’s around there will be consequences for bad behavior. If parents give the impression that there is something to hide the kids will take advantage of that.

    I’m not saying a parent should beat their kid, just get control of the situation and discipline them! If parents are okay with spanking at home and not in public, maybe they are spanking the wrong way and for the wrong reason!

  2. SKL says:

    I am trying to imagine what type of personality would respond positively to public humiliation.

    Personally, I was very shy and that would have about killed me. For that matter, it would never have come to that because the remotest threat of public humiliation would have straightened me up.

    Some folks have no problem with making a spectacle of themselves and might not be horribly scarred by public punishment, but if that’s the case, is it doing any good? Or is it just giving kids the attention they seek?

    I feel the purpose of discipline is to help a child develop various aspects of self-respect – not to emphasize how anti-social your kid is. How you do that is different for each kid, but public humiliation seems like a big detour for every personality I can think of. You talk to your kids, you take away privileges, you keep them away from unsavory influences, you give them a productive activity to work off their excess energy, whatever, but it’s between you and your kids. I feel caring and loving discipline requires a direct connection between the parent and child – not a freak show where all kinds of strangers get involved. Once it goes public, it becomes less about “I’m helping you achieve self-respect” and more about “I’m taking you down a peg.”

    Once when I was about 9, my mom told me to load the dishwasher and I was dawdling. She threatened to spank me if I didn’t finish within a set time limit, but I didn’t think she would because her friend was sitting right there. Well, I was wrong and she hit me in front of her friend. I was mortified, and angry. This was a close friend of the family who had been my babysitter with the right to hit me herself, so if that incident upset me so much, I can’t even imagine how I would have responded to being punished “in public.”

    My mom’s tactics in public (she needed tactics with six kids) included digging her fingernails into our hands/wrists and giving us a look that said WAIT TILL I GET YOU HOME.” That was subtle as far as the “public” was concerned, yet effective. I will probably do the same thing with my kids (OK, maybe not the fingernails, but a tight hand around the wrist). I will say that one of my sisters didn’t respond to this and she got a spanking or two in the ladies’ room at church, in front of some old ladies. She remembers this nearly 40 years later and thinks it is outrageous.

  3. nikki says:

    I think that public discipline went too far in this case. And the D hat really kills me. The boy isn’t dumb the action was and that will lower his self esteem. Which is never good for any child at any age. Mowing the lawn I think was good punishment. My son is almost 8 so I don’t have to spank him anymore. But I did, never very hard just enough to get his attention and you know what, he is the most well behaved 8 year old I know. He still goofs off, he’s 8!! Time outs only go so far and yelling gets nowhere. The hot sauce thing didn’t work because he liked it. You gotta do what works, but humiliation will breed anger and it may just back fire on this Mom. My son knows now just by the look on my face that he better shape up.

  4. Tosha says:

    I discipline my kids in public. If I wait till I get home then its pointless and they’ve forgotten what the whole thing was/is about. I don’t go out of my way to humiliate them. I’m not even trying to humiliate them. But I have disciplined them in public.. I do not beat my children nor do I feel that the ways in which i’ve disciplined them have hurt them emotionally or physically. My mom has always told me that consistency is the key and if I dont stick with something then I’ve lost control. Well I like my control. Discipline comes in many forms. From having to sit in time out (yes we’ve done that in public when they were toddlers. Not to humiliate them but to teach them that we can inforce punishment for behavior anywhere that we are), to not getting the item they wanted, to having to hold onto the buggy and walk at the store, and the list goes on. Unless the parent is set out to humiliate or hurt their child I dont see a problem with discipline in public.

  5. nikki says:

    Looking at my comment I noticed I never really answered the ? I see nothing wrong with punishing in public but I would not make scene about it. Kids need to learn how to act in public. I can’t stand it when I see misbehaved children out and about, and I don’t look at the kids like “what’s wrong with you?” I look at the parents and wonder what’s wrong with THEM!!

  6. Tosha says:

    Exactly Nikki!! I do the same thing! I’ve often thought,”If that were my kid” and I think that most of us are guilty of it. My kids have misbehaved in public and pitched a fit. Most kids have when they were testing their boundaries. But you’ve got to maintain control of the situation.

  7. nikki says:

    I was at Mc.D’s the other day and these 2 kids were running around like ravaged animals and the mom didn’t say ONE thing to them, no reaction at all. These kids were at least 10 or 11 which makes it worst because they soooo know better or at least they should. And yes I thought to myself… if they were MY kids…you know the rest!

  8. Joy says:

    You guys, I’m not thinking of making your kids mind when they’re out in public. I had “that look” too and my kids knew, they had to behave in restaurants and while shopping. But a “look” or a “flick” on their ear isn’t what I’m talking about.

    If your child misbehaved, would you make him stand in the store parking lot ringing a bell with a sign on them that said that were stupid and then calling the press? Would you make them stand on a street corner for 8 hours ringing a bell telling the world how DUMB he is? Some of these people have made the news, some CNN, Good Morning America, The View, David Letterman, Jay Leno……this is what I mean. It’s like these parents went to such an extreme and then it “somehow” got media attention. That’s really what I mean by “public” punishment, not making your child mind while out.

  9. Joy says:

    PS…it’s almost like the “parent” wanted the attention at the risk of humiliation to the child. I find that pitiful.

  10. nikki says:

    Oh in that case no, I don’t agree with at all. I thought you were talking about any kind of punishment in public, no I don’t think what she did was right at all!!

  11. candi says:

    Kids will be kids, they all are going to act up and do it over over, until they learn, i have spanked my children a few times, but that is not going to help, punishment in public, well the children need to know how to act, but, not to make a big scene of it.

  12. Tosha says:

    No not at all. Its like I said unless hte parent is out to humiliate or hurt their child I find nothing wrong with public discipline. Making your child stand in a store parking lot ringing a bell is NOT discipline. Its humiliation and goes beyond discipline. It also makes you wonder what else that parent has done to that child in the name of discipline

  13. Jane says:

    Absolutely no, I do not agree with this at all. Like the above commenter’s have stated, my little boy gets what he deserves out in public but this is far above and beyond what I think is right. Embarrassment of any kind in my opinion is not discipline. I feel people who do things like this are just seeking attention upon themselves. I could never do this to my child. How can that child ever trust his mother again? We are supposed to be there for our children so how can that child ever turn to that mother in his time of need? He’ll be afraid she’ll call the news. I find it disgusting.

    In my book, discipline and punishment do not equal shame and humiliation. This boy will be teased about this his whole school life and maybe longer and that’s really to bad.

  14. Jason says:

    That to me wasn’t punishment it was embarrassment. I would never intentionally embarrass my son in public. He has such a big heart and is so easily embarrassed as it is. A incident like this would traumatize him forever. I have no problem smackin’ him in public but it never really is more than a smack. Just enough to say knock it off, which is very very rare He is one of the most well behaved 8 year olds I’m around. With all the softball and football games he goes to with us or anywhere for that matter his behavior always stands out for the good.

  15. Jennifer says:

    Ok. I guess I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here…

    I really don’t think it was that bad a punishment. I read your post and the comments first and I thought this was a story that had national attention, then when I read it I realized it was really on a smaller scale. I didn’t get the impression that this mother did it to get on national tv, I got the impression she did it out of fear. I was getting the impression when they interviewed her that she did something as drastic as this to scare, and yes to humiliate her child, with the hope that he would NEVER attempt to rob anyone else again.

    I also had noticed that she used the word ‘rob’ and not steal. In my head I had always considered stealing to be simply taking something that belonged to someone else and robbery being taking something and using a weapon or force to do so. Yet she kept referring to it as robbery. I don’t know anything about the kind of neighborhood this family lives in and if that plays a role in her reaction. If this action could in fact lead to what she fears is a life of crime then she may have felt drastic measures were called for. Perhaps there is a lot of crime in the area. Perhaps she’s already fearful for his safety, and this action on his part made her feel she was losing him to the outside environment. He does seem to be at a vulnerable age. We’re not talking about a 6 year old here. This kid is old enough to not only know better but to also get himself into some serious trouble.

    I’m betting he doesn’t do it again.

    I really won’t judge her because I would not want to be judged. She did not inflict physical injury…how many kids a generation or two ago would have been taken out ‘behind the woodshed’ for getting into that kind of trouble? (For the record I’m not against spanking….I was spanked and I do spank myself…ok…not myself…but I do spank my own kids 😉

    Did she inflict psychological injury? Perhaps. Is it a bad thing? I don’t know. If he feels a little ill every time he thinks about taking something from someone without asking, and if he never robs anyone again, then perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

  16. SKL says:

    I think, at that age, discipline must not just prevent a repeat of the behavior, but develop a character that desires to do the right thing, to contribute to society. To accomplish this, self-respect has to be the goal. That is why I feel public humiliation doesn’t suit the situation. Maybe the kid won’t do that same thing again, maybe he will; but has this incident increased the likelihood that this child sees himself as being a person of worth who will benefit society? I don’t know, but personally, I don’t think I’ll be trying this tactic with my kids.

  17. Joy says:

    Jen, I usually agree with you head on but I just don’t this time. I’m not sure how you can say what she did “wasn’t that bad.” I live in a tiny town and it would embarrass me to no end if my personal business was even in our little weekly paper. I guess I also believe it’s my age to “not air our dirty laundry.”

    I also wasn’t just speaking of this woman in particular all by herself. I have seen many instances of this kind of thing and it’s just getting worse and worse and I feel the kids have to pay for it. I also feel if this was all she could think of or come up with, it wasn’t a very good choice. I remember once Jason stole and eraser from the drug store and I saw it and asked him where he got it and he told me he got it from his teacher and I said “I’ll call Mrs, Kafkas and thank her” and he got very nervous. He ended up telling me he took it from the store so I went right back there and made him give it back. He apologized and felt terrible and truly horrible. But I didn’t call the paper and have it put in there. I just feel some things need to be handled in a way that it doesn’t hurt the child deep inside. I didn’t make him walk around with a sign around his neck and ring a bell.

    I’m not really sure why I have such a problem with this kind of discipline. I just do. I guess because I hate attention drawn to me that I just can’t imagine having to do something like this. There are groups to get involved in. Martial arts or Big Brothers and Sisters. There is your church or sports. Get them involved in positive things. Don’t knock them down and make them tell the world that they are dumb. They will grow up thinking they are dumb.

  18. Ali says:

    I am so not for this kind of discipline, if that’s what you all want to call it. I call the mother being the bully here. She’s an adult and she can “make” her son do this but his love for her will diminish because of this. Trust will be lost. How can you really love and trust someone who would “out” you to the world. I also saw this on the morning news the day it broke and I felt so sad at the beginning of the interview when the little boy was wiping away a tear. He did act bored during it but who could stand there all day long like that and not get bored?

    Humiliation and embarrassment are not forms of discipline to me. I almost feel this kind of thing, not this instance but some like this, are child abuse.

  19. Jennifer says:

    Well, I guess to start with I’m only just looking at this one case. I haven’t looked at the other big national ones. I think I know some of the ones you’re talking about though and yes, I would agree that some of those are silly.

    I just went back and read the comments on the article on the Fox affiliate site. I hadn’t read them before. They’re pretty evenly split. A lot of people though are pointing out that it used to be that a community really did raise a child. It wouldn’t have been uncommon to have the whole neighborhood know what your kid was up to or to discipline your child if they were out on the town and causing trouble. And vice versa, we’d discipline a neighbor’s child that needed it. However, those days are gone, and I almost think it’s sad. In a previous post you had mentioned that people don’t really know their neighbors anymore. I’d agree with that. I can’t speak to every culture, but I would be willing to say that in the US we’ve become a very private culture. We want to take care of our own business, which is what you said when you mentioned how embarrassed you’d be by public discipline of your children. But I also think as a culture we also still carry a tiny part of that desire to be a part of a community. We create suburbs in the forms of mini communities, yet we retreat into the safety of our private homes. Yet we frantically watch 24 hours worth of news coverage to know what everyone else is doing in the world at all times and we do all find things like blogs utterly fascinating because it’s interesting to read about people just like us. I think it’s because we don’t really talk in our communities any more like we used to.

    I’m not saying this mother’s methods aren’t unorthodox, I’m not saying I’d practice them on my children, but I don’t think this is as harmful as the selling of the items on Ebay and earning national attention and letting your children watch as their prized possession is bid on. This boy bullied another boy to the point that the boy handed over out of FEAR his ipod….what does that say to you about the boy being punished? If his mother is bullying him so that he’ll understand just exactly what it feels like to be humiliated as the little boy that he himself bullied and humiliated felt like, then I can see her point.

    Now if she continues to pursue it and I see her next week on Oprah then I’ll take back this comment in disgust.

    This isn’t a boy that was acting up in a restaurant, or that took an eraser off the teacher’s desk at school. He bullied and harrassed another child into giving up a relatively expensive piece of electronics. Imagine it was YOUR child that had been the victim in this case? Would you feel differently?

    If he had been 16 he most likely would have been arrested for his actions or had formal charges filed against him. That’s also publicly humiliating, it’s in the paper, on the news etc, etc…

    I don’t mean to come across as the weirdo here, but I still think this case is different than the other big cases.

    But like I said…if she’s on Oprah in a week…I’ll take it back 😉

  20. Joy says:

    Jen, you are so right about communities and how they’ve changed. I’ve never really thought about it but that’s so true. We really have retreated to our own homes and do keep to ourselves. In my case, I could go to any of my neighbors and not only be invited in for coffee but maybe a meal as well. But I live very rural and I think the reason I don’t get into all of that is because I never did it and feel funny just dropping in.

    Your also very right about blogging and I’ve never thought of it that way before. I think I blog because I get lonely and do like the interaction with people because I don’t have friends like I used to. Also as my family has grown, they have separated and this way, we can keep in touch with just the simple questions.

    I would never have done this 15 years ago but I sure do love it now.

    Very good point Jen and you made me think of something I hadn’t of before.

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