You know that saying, “let the punishment fit the crime”? I wish a mom in Fridley, Minnesota had thought of that when she punished her 12-year-old daughter for bringing home bad grades. Instead, Stephanie Ann Broten and her boyfriend, Darnell Alan Landrum shaved the girl’s head and put her in a tank top and diaper. Then they sent her on “diaper duty,” running up and down the street picking up garbage. By the time police arrived on the scene there was a crowd of 100 neighbors standing outside, watching the now hysterical girl running up and down her street.
Broten reportedly laughed at the time and couldn’t see what the big deal was. But that was in May. Yesterday in court she pleaded guilty to “malicious punishment of a child.” And get this: Now her lawyer is saying she’s “very remorseful about this. She’s looking forward to putting this behind her and getting her family back together.” Is Broten really remorseful? I sure hope so. And I sure hope her punishment really does fit her crime.
The maximum sentence for this crime is a year in jail. That’s a pretty long time-out for a parent, a lot of time to re-think your parenting. Broten has already had several months to think about why humiliating her daughter this way was a cruel and completely ineffective way to punish her. No parent is going to be thrilled when their kids bring home failing grades. But unleashing some horrible, irrelevant punishment isn’t going to solve that problem. Taking away privileges, setting mandatory homework time, actually supervising that homework time — these will all work a lot better than throwing your kid out on the streets in a diaper. Or just yelling at your kid.
What’s more, Broten should have been on the phone talking with her daughter’s teachers, trying to figure out how they can all work together to help her daughter focus and improve her grades. But that sounds like a lot of work. That’s, like, REAL parenting.
I can’t help seeing Broten kind of in the same position as her daughter. She seems to be earning herself a big “FAIL” in parenting.
So off to jail she goes — and she’s definitely earned that. But I hope social services will also be checking in and giving her some parenting support, teaching her better ways to manage the challenges of raising kids. Because to throw her in jail for a while and assume she’ll figure it all out on her own is way too optimistic. Some people just lack common sense and critical thinking skills. Should they be parents? It’s kind of too late to ask that question. But I think people like Broten actually need special tutoring — just like a failing student.
Do you think jail time will improve anyone’s parenting, or do they need something more?
Image via Anoka County Sheriff’s Office