SmackDown: Would You Publicly Punish Your Child?

Filed under: In The News, Opinions, Teen Culture

public punishment for bad grades

If you wear your failure, will you be motivated to improve? Illustration by Dori Hartley


Public Punishment Is a Much-Needed Dose of Discipline


by Jessica Samakow

I always wondered about the slackers in high school. You know, those kids who never turned in their homework on time and wrote two sentences as answers on tests when the question clearly asked for three paragraphs. As I watched them snooze on their desks, I would think to myself, "Hmm, do their parents just not care?"

If a kid is failing, I wondered, how could their parents not get involved?

One Florida mom did get involved when her child was failing in school, but some are questioning her tactics. Ronda Holder is being criticized for forcing her 15-year-old son James to stand on a street corner with a sign reading, "GPA 1.22 ... honk if I need education," Salon.com reports.

Some claim that this act was both humiliating and ineffective, and she was even reported to the Department of Children and Families.

I could understand how this punishment would be cruel if given to a child who was truly trying their hardest in school and was just having difficulty understanding the curriculum.

But, as Holder says, this was not the case with her son. She says she has tried anything and everything to get him to raise his grades. Her many attempts to help him were unsuccessful, but it was ultimately his indifference to the matter that prompted her to punish him publicly.

Completion weighs heavily on high school grades, so, even if a student fails a few tests, in many cases, as long as they have completed all of their assignments, they can still pass the class. It is probable that a kid who tries hard and completes his work, even if he is having a lot of trouble understanding will perform better than a kid who slacks off out of laziness.

Ronda Holder had her son's best interest at heart. She values education and wants him to do the same. If that means embarrassing him into caring, then, so be it. Even if he starts making an effort in school just to avoid humiliation on the streets, his grades will most likely improve.

And, isn't academic success the ultimate goal? Isn't that a win for everyone involved?

Instead of criticizing a mom who is exhausting all options to salvage her son's education, shouldn't we be criticizing the parents who do nothing at all?

Holder's son is probably not the only kid who is failing in his school, and he is certainly not the only kid in the nation who's struggling. But, unlike Holder, many parents sit back and watch their kids fail without doing a thing. If anyone should be reported to the Department of Children and Families, it should be them.

One day, when this slacker of a teen is mature enough to realize that his mom acted on his behalf, he will thank her. So, in the meantime, we should be applauding her -- not criticizing her.

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Shaming and Humiliating Teen is Not Tough Love; It's Tacky and Abusive


by Mary Beth Sammons

Any parent of teens knows that just about anything –- like your mere existence -- that draws attention to your kid is embarrassing. A pimple popping up on her face is mortifying; to her it's the size of a billboard and the whole world is noticing. Parents know this. That's why we don't blast tunes and sing loudly in the car and why we shrink to make ourselves invisible in public with them to ease the embarrassment.

So how appalling is it for a mom to purposefully hurtle her son into the spotlight and an adolescent nightmare of shame?

Fed up by their son's lack of effort to shape up academically, Tampa mom Ronda Holder conjured up the idea to stick the 15-year-old on a street corner with a chest-to-trunk poster board of his bad grades dangling from his neck, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The Tampa hair stylist tells the Times she wants her son James to realize the importance of an education. "I don't want any of my kids to stand by the side of the road asking for change," she tells the newspaper.

What is she thinking?

Certainly, there are some child-rearing experts that profess that shame is the only effective way of breaking down misbehaving youth (i.e. the nuns in my Catholic grade school who would pluck gum-chewing kids from their desks and as punishment make us stand face forward to the blackboard as they administered a "tap" with the "board of education.") Humiliating, mortifying and a searing memory for life.

But, this takes the tough-love concept to a new level. To me, it is the worst low-class disciplinary solution, and screams of the mom's laziness and lack of creativity in helping her son get back on track. Instead, why not try sitting down and helping him with his homework? Or reaching out to school teachers, staff and a tutor for support and help? Or seek counseling? (For herself, of course.)

As a mom of three teens, there have certainly been moments when I've been at my wit's end. I've yanked cell phones, grounded, reached out to school advisers, talked to them and screamed at them, though I cringe at that. But I can't imagine tossing my kid out of the car and propping him on a street corner with a billboard broadcasting what should be dealt with as a private family matter.

Shame and humiliation is never the path to take. And here's another thought, after watching news clips with the mugs of missing teens who have vanished from bus stops and outside concert halls, is planting your kid in harms way, really that great an idea?

I agree with the child protective services and the psychologists who weighed in on this story saying: "It definitely would fall within the category of emotional abuse," Arlinda Amos, a licensed clinical psychologist and ombudsman for the Hillsborough Children's Board. "It's shame, embarrassment and humiliation. This will be a lifelong memory for him."

Here's my suggestion for this mom. Why doesn't she wear a sign and stand on a street corner: "Honk if you think I should be ashamed of myself!"

Bad grades land teen on street corner: MyFoxTAMPABAY.com

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.