Parents' public shaming of children called into question

By Stephanie Grimes | Posted - Mar 21st, 2013 @ 1:33pm



CRESTVIEW, Fla. — Multiple cases of parents publicly shaming their children as punishment for misdeeds have gotten attention recently as debate has grown around whether the punishments are appropriate or even effective.

On Saturday, a Florida couple disciplined their 13-year-old daughter by having her stand at a busy intersection with a sign detailing her misdeeds.

The girl stood at the intersection for 90 minutes holding a sign, which said, "I'm a Self-entitled teenager w/no Respect for authority. I'm also super smart, yet I have 3 ‘D's' because I DON'T CARE," according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Drivers stopped to take photos of the girl, and some of them ended up on Facebook, where they quickly went viral. The teen's parents were surprised to learn of the viral photos and quick to defend themselves.

"We got to the point where we just didn't know what else to do," Renee Nickell said.

Nickell said her daughter had been acting out since the girl's uncle was killed in Aghanistan in Dec. 2011. She said the teen had become disrespectful at home and school, and it was affecting her home life and her grades.

She said grounding the 13-year-old did not help, and there were no electronics to take away. She and her husband, Gentry Nickell, finally decided to try the sign. They said they didn't think about how the punishment would look to a police officer who arrived after being called by a concerned driver.

The officer determined the girl was in no danger and allowed her to remain at the corner. The Nickells said the punishment seems to have worked.

"At the end, she gave me a hug in front of the police officer and told me she was sorry," Gentry Nickell said.

A few days prior, a Colorado mother got attention for sending her children to school in a "punishment T-shirt." Jessica Rocha said her 8- and 9-year-old continually misbehaved at home, and other punishments did not work.

Rocha sent her children to school in T-shirts that said "I am disrespectful" or "I steal," but the school had the children cover up the shirts. She said school officials had crossed a line in interfering with her parenting.

"So, it's OK for the school to do it because they're professionals, they have a degree," she told CBS 4. "But it's not okay for a parent to draw attention to her child to make her child answer for what he or she has done."

School officials have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Parents and others have debated about whether public shaming leads to long-term behavioral changes and how appropriate it is.

"Public shaming may be effective in teaching our children what specific behavior they should stay away from in the future to avoid future humiliation," Jennifer A. Leigh, Psy.D., told She Knows Parenting. "However, shaming can damage the parent-child relationship. Children quickly learn they cannot trust their parents. Children need to feel safe and secure and to be able to trust their parents."

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