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 her laptop 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.
Guess what? In both cases, the parents made their points and the kids responded with better behavior. 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!)
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.
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?)