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Would You Publicly Humiliate Your Child as a Punishment?

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No. I wouldn’t. But other parents are doing this with increasing frequency, as described in Lisa Belkin’s recent column in the Huffington Post. I urge you to read her column for the details, but the bottom line is that it’s becoming chic for parents to punish their kids by having them stand in a prominent public space wearing signs such as:

  • “I like to steal from others and lie about it!”
  • “I am a thief. I took money from a family member.”
  • “I was sent to school to get an education. Not to be a bully … I was not raised this way!”


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Look, I get that out there in the world you can find parents who do all kinds of things. What got my attention was her assertion (which I agree with) that this is becoming a trend—another form of extreme parenting that goes hand in hand with the tendency for promoting what I’ve described as "shock" parenting in books and articles. And this troubles me. Why? Because I’m seeing behavior that makes me feel that parents don’t really treat kids like they are dependents. Yes, dependents. They depend on us to treat them fairly, to respect them, and to shape their behavior in appropriate ways.

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Sure, this includes providing consequences to inappropriate behavior. But—and this is just my opinion—I doubt that having a kid wear a sign in public is any more effective than rubbing a dog’s nose in his poop to teach him to not mess in the house. Any reputable dog trainer will tell you that the dog only learns to fear you when they poop in the house—it teaches the dog nothing about going to the door as a signal that they have to go outside. And that’s because there is no training involved. Punishment only tells you what not to do—kids need to learn about the consequences of their behavior in a way that they learn what they should be doing, and why they should be doing it, so that they not only stop doing what’s wrong, but start doing what’s right.

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I could go on and on about this, but I’d rather hear from you all. Would you use this form of punishment with your kids? Do you feel okay knowing other parents are doing this? Oh, and one other question: If you think it’s okay to do this … do kids get the option to ask parents to wear a sign in public when they mess up?

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Richard Rende is an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School and Butler Hospital. He deciphers the latest child health and development studies on his blog Red-Hot Parenting.

This article first appeared on Parents.com.

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