The V Spot

Rants, observations and home decorating from a woman with no time for a blog.

Public humiliation as a parenting tool? I’m OK with that.

Before anyone gets all up in arms and wants to call CPS on me, let me explain.

In recent headlines there have been two instances of parents who publicly “humiliated” their kids on Facebook for being disrespectful and bratty.  One man took his revolver, unloaded several bullets into it and posted the video on his daughter’s Facebook wall.  A mom who had enough of her daughter’s disrespectful behavior took away the girl’s Facebook privileges, but only after changing her daughter’s profile picture to announce why she was grounded.
facebook punishment, mom, ohio, Denise, Ava, AbbottPin
Guess what?  In both cases, the parents made their points and the kids responded.  Isn’t that ultimately what punishment is supposed to do…?  Correct the behavior…?

People are firmly planted on one side of this or the other: Ya! You Go mom and dad! or That’s terrible and abusive.  I am very much behind the parents who fought fire with fire and clearly made an impact on their kids.  By the way, both of the daughters in those two stories have a apologized to their parents; and b) say they understand what they did wrong and why their parents corrected them.

Since much of our behavior is tailored to how we think people will react to it, it is important that kids learn that integrity and good choices are not part-time commitments.  We have our kids take what I call The Ethics Test, meaning, “If Gramma or Poppa knew you did this, would you be embarrassed…?”  If the answer is yes, then don’t do it.  Simple.  Yes, it’s sort of like WWJD, but with a visual that they can immediately relate to.  (Poppa is lovable, but oooo we do not want to disappoint a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant!)
pouting DevinPin
Sometimes the punishment/deterrent really needs to fit the crime.  I don’t know about you, but each of my kids responds differently to punishments.  There is no cookie cutter solution to parenting.  For example, when Conner was younger (probably about 9 or 10) and he needed to be disciplined, we would start small and would have to expand the punishment with each infraction.

Each kid has an Atomic Bomb of Punishment. You just need to figure out what it is… For Conner, it was going to bed without dinner. That was the thing that would reset that kid’s clock: Going to bed when he pulled “the last straw” bad choice.  Things would build up with him and build up with him, finally he would push it too far.
“That’s it! Go to bed! Right now!”
“But it’s 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon??!!” 
“You should have thought about that.”

He haaated it.  He would lay in bed for hours and caterwaul and cry.  But the next morning he would wake up and be a different kid. (For at least 6 months.)

For Mitch? His A Bomb is that he hates to have the spotlight on him in any negative way.  Hates it.  For a while he kept refusing to get ready to go or to do homework, etc in a timely manner.  When he would make us late or cause a problem for someone else in the family, in our best Game Show Announcer voices we’d say “OK everyone let’s thank Mitch for making us late!”  and we’d all applaud.  Mitch immediately got on track.  If we had tried that with Conner he would have done his best Elvis impression and said “thank you, thank you very much.”  It’s all about figuring out what motivates each kid, since they are all different.

The end result that you want is to curtail the bad behavior and get them to learn a lesson, right?
I’ve publicly busted Conner on Facebook, but the best Public Humiliation example I have is dealing with Devin.

The back story: About 4 years ago, I drove Devin and some of his music gear over to a friend’s house in our neighborhood so that their garage band could practice.  Handsome Hubby was supposed to pick him up on his way home from work.  When HH called Devin to get directions to the house, Devin copped an attitude and also couldn’t give clear directions (or an address?!) for this kid’s house.  By the time HH found the house, Devin and his friends were in the front yard waiting.  Devin was irritated that he had to wait (which was his own fault since he couldn’t tell HH where he was) and was disrespectful, kind of showing off for his friends.  HH had had enough and told him to find his own way to get himself and his music gear back home.

As he was driving away, Devin stepped into the middle of the street and flipped him off while shouting obscenities at him.  Clearly while putting on a show for his friends, Devin forgot about review mirrors and that sound travels.  HH grounded him for 3 weeks, but that punishment did not fit the crime.
Since this was at about 5:30 in the evening, in the middle of a neighborhood, there could have easily been little kids that overheard it, along with all of the neighbors out walking their dogs, etc.  We made Devin hand write a letter of apology and make about 35 copies of it.
foster road apologyPin
With letters in hand, I drove Devin back to the scene of the crime and he went up one side of the block and back down the other, knocking on doors, handing residents the letter and apologizing.  (I stood back, but within plain sight so that people wouldn’t be uncomfortable opening up their doors to a tall teenage boy they didn’t know.)

I could see the faces of the residents as they opened their doors: first very guarded and suspicious, then slightly confused, then nodding and talking to him.  Many expressed that they appreciated his apology and that they were impressed that he had “manned up” and was doing the right thing.   As he trudged from house to house, an amazing thing happened… Devin’s attitude began to change.  He went from being embarrassed and begrudgingly giving the apology, to owning what he did and sincerely caring that a little kid or someone’s grandma might have overheard his outburst.
He. Owned. It.

This sounds weird, but it was one of my proudest moments as a parent.  I used an unorthodox method, but it worked.  Not only did the “punishment fit the crime”, but he learned from it, realized just how bad it was, and never did anything like that again.  I watched my son take a step towards being the good man I wanted him to grow up to be.

There is a huge gulf between squashing a child’s self-esteem and teaching a public lesson. Parents who cannot see the difference between the two might find themselves on the short end of the parenting stick.  By the way, I think the proof is in the pudding: the way Devin and Conner handled their father’s illness and death is a good indicator that we’re on the right track with our parenting style and our methods.

I have shared this story with some of my friends.  Some of them think it was great, but some of them couldn’t disagree more, saying that by making him account for his mistake on the same platform and the same area where he made it was wrong… even damaging to his development.  Where better to have him make his apologies than on the street where he created the need for the apology?  Where better to address a child’s disrespectful rant on Facebook than on, well,  Facebook?

What do you think?  (And have you done something like this?)



Christine said...

April 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm
Love it Viv...I totally understand why you were proud of him. Great story, thanks for sharing it.

MiMi said...

April 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm
Seriously. That's awesome!!
I saw a couple girls in Albany once...they were wearing sandwich boards saying what they had done...their dad was standing there making sure they did it.
People were so happy about that...honking, clapping...but then the article in the paper. The loons came out in full force.
I can't believe he flipped HH off and cussed at him. I would never do that. HH is too cute. :)

Lynn said...

April 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm
Good Job! You are doing a far better job than I eer did, and they turned out great in spite of me! I only followed the "Avoid punishments that amuse you" rule.

Myya said...

April 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm
I love teachable moments like this! I believe that kids, well mine anyways, dont "get" what they have done until they are thrown into the same situation experiencing how they acted. I'm all for the whole facebook thing, it us a privilege not a right! I'd take pointers from you any day of the week!!!

Bethany @ A Fish Who Likes Flowers said...

April 27, 2012 at 10:05 pm
Sounds to me like you're raising a house full of respectable young men! I'm sure one day they will all thank you for caring enough about them to raise them properly. Good job, mama!

Bliss said...

April 27, 2012 at 11:12 pm
That video didn't bother me one bit.


At The Picket Fence said...

April 28, 2012 at 12:13 am
Preach it sister! There are just too many kids not having to take responsibility for their behavior and then floundering when they become adults, all the while the parents are scratching their heads wondering were they went wrong. Sheesh! We had something on a much less dramatic scale happen with my son this year at school. He and his buddy were eating lunch together and his friend said something about one of the little girls across the room. She heard her name and said, "what?" at which point my son stood up and yelled across the cafeteria, "he said he thinks you are his girlfriend!" She was mortified and started to cry. When we found out about it we not only had his computer privileges revoked for 1 week but we made him write a letter of apology to her asking for her forgiveness for embarrassing her. It definitely made an impact!! The mom of the little girl was also appreciative and impressed. We HAVE to use these opportunities to teach and guide while they are still in our home, you know? Anyway, that is my little story and I just so appreciate your point of view on this Viv. You rock my friend! :-)

Nancy Hart said...

April 28, 2012 at 12:21 am

Adrienne said...

April 28, 2012 at 12:34 am
I agree with you and what a timely post for me to read. Parenting is hard! I am constantly wondering if I gave the right punishment, what punishment to give, am I too hard or too soft?

Becky Dunham said...

April 28, 2012 at 1:15 am
I am so on your side with this! Kids these days are becoming more and more disrespectful and they get away with it because their parents are "on the other side of the fence". I can't think of a good instance at the moment where I have used something similar to this, but I am sure there has been one. Thanks for sharing this story and I hope lots of parents read it and learn from it! You obviously have done well with your children :)

Heather Painchaud said...

April 28, 2012 at 1:50 am
Seriously awesome! I love that he had to 'man up'. In this new world of technology we have to fight fire with fire in my opinion! I'm not looking forward to when the boys are old enough for computer privileges ~ can I hope to keep them off of it until they are 19??? Ya right! :P

Shawn said...

April 28, 2012 at 2:20 am
Years ago the girls acted a fool in a restaraunt, before we left I made them go table to table and apologize for their rude and disruptive behavior. All I have to do now is threaten that and they shape up. I wish I had something that effective for not doing chores, rolling eyes, and fighting.

Good Time Charlie said...

April 28, 2012 at 5:12 am
This is a fantastic story of parenting and discipline. I applauded both of the very public instances of parents disciplining their children through non traditional methods. I completely agree that not enough kids "own" up to their misdeeds, and my personal feeling is that this is a very BIG problem with our society today. Very little personal responsibility for one's actions. I cannot understand how parents are "afraid" to discipline their children, take things away, allow them to speak disrespectfully, etc. Afraid of what? That they will be scarred for life? That their self esteem might suffer? I see this all the time and it is one of my biggest pet peeves. I agree too that you have to know what the Atomic Bomb of discipline is for each kid. For Travis, it is bedtime immediately. That gets his behavior to change faster than anything. For my oldest, I simply change the password on her FB when there has been an infraction. She has to "earn" it back again, and I let her do the explaining to her friends of why they can't get in touch with her through FB. Luckily, this does not happen too often, but you need to know where your leverage is with each child.

I am sure every one of those neighbors were applauding the mom behind the teenage boy with the letter. I just wish we would see more of this and less of the parents who make excuses for their children's bad behavior, and never ultimately hold them accountable. Accountability makes for a successful adult and that is what builds self-esteem. Good job mom!

LeAnne said...

April 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm
I wholeheartedly agree with proactive parents like you who take the time to make their kids realize that actions have consequences. I LOVE the Atomic Bomb I just need to figure out what it is that makes my DGD tick! We are making strides in cause/effect behavior stuff too--after all, she is only 20 months old, but consistency is key in my book. Say it, mean it, follow through with it! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

chris said...

April 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm
I'm applauding through the web. I think you're doing a wonderful job. Now to come up with our A bomb scenarios!

Kim said...

April 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm
LOVE IT! When my son (who is now in college) was in high school, he went through a phase of irresponsibility. To remedy the problem, we promptly took his keys and made him ride the bus to school -- which, of course, we recorded and posted to YouTube. It was an effective punishment because the bus takes both middle AND high school students. Very few high school students take advantage of the service so it is filled nearly entirely with middle schoolers. Trust me, a little public humiliation (within reason) can do wonders. Here's the video -

Lisa @ Life is Crazy Beautiful said...

April 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm
"Some of them think it was great, but some of them couldn’t disagree more, saying that by making him account for his mistake on the same platform and the same area where he made it was wrong… even damaging to his development." Excuse me, WHAT?? I'm sure those friends are great people, but perhaps a tad misguided about what DISCIPLine really means.

I think this was an excellent lesson for your son...kudos!

Lori Lucas said...

April 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm
As a mother of five (ages 23-30) and also a high school teacher I say KUDDO's to you. I often wish that parents would come and sit in the school for one full day and see what we teachers see. I think some would be quite shocked at their little "angels"!! Good job. My hat is off to you! Lori Lucas

Adriane said...

April 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm
I loved this. Many years ago, I was the smart-mouthed kid who said something assy to my Spanish teacher. Long story - short, the teacher called my mom to tell her what I had said in class, and my dad made me write her an apology letter and drive it up to her house and deliver it to her. Talk about embarrassing! But...I learned a good lesson that day, and have (obviously) never forgotten it!

Cara said...

April 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm
I totally agree with you. Once I was having trouble getting on the bus on time because of my dragging feet in the morning. One day Momma had enough and said if she had to take me to school one more time I wouldn't like the way she did it. Of course, it happened again. She donned her costume from the previous Halloween (a scraggly old toothless witch), drove me to school and hand delivered me to my first class. I was never late for the bus again!

Emmy said...

May 1, 2012 at 12:07 am
Bowing down to you right now girl! Seriously so awesome. I don't think I ever would have thought of that for a punishment- but yes it is perfect- as it was the "scene of the crime" and it makes him really aware and think about how is actions affect others-- kids and teens and well some adults are so inherently selfish that the more we can get them to think about how their actions affect others the better!

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