Appropriate Punishment or Psych Scarring?November 18, 2005
A tip of the hat to Aaron Mc. for his finding this article for this blog.
Essentially the article is about a woman whose daughter was not living up to expectations in school. As a punishment, she made her stand out on a street corner with a sign telling passing motorists about her laxidasical attitude about school. The bottom of the sign told the motorists she was practicing for her future profession. I assume she means panhandling.
Read the article and then tell me what you think. As a counselor, I take issue with what the psychologists said in the article. Most of them talk about scarring this child for life. First off, a 14-year old is not psychologically a child. Anyone who can reproduce is not a child. Perhaps an inexperienced adult, but not emotionally a child. You don’t scar a teenager like you scar a child. By 14, the child is gone, the adult is emerging. There are very few formative ideas that a 14-year old has. Believe me, as far as they are concerned, they know everything. Now, up to this point, I have been speaking as a psychologist. In psych terms, she is an adult. There is no scarring that can happen. I get annoyed at those in the profession who take the opportunity to be interviewed by a newspaper as license to forget everything studied in school.
On the other hand, I think this is a ridiculous punishment. How long do you think this will motivate the child? My guess is about one semester. I agree with one person in the article who said that positive reinforcement works better than this. If she struggles with shame already, this will only serve to reinforce the lie that she is shameful. If she struggles with fear, it will reinforce the fear that she will fail in life. If she struggles with the lie of independence (ie. that she doesn’t need anyone else) it will reinforce the idea that she can achieve things without being responsible to anyone.
Triggering lies does not do anything besides reinforce them. It would be better for her to deal with time management, life management and perhaps get rid of the television. But, those are how I raised my kids. I don’t live in this woman’s neighborhood and my kids didn’t struggle with what she did. I admire this mother for trying hard to make something for her daughter. I am concerned that it sends her daughter a mixed message. “I love you, but I will shame you if you don’t perform.”
What do you think?