Punishing Kids for Bad Grades Is a Parenting Fail

Rant 53

bad gradeHere we go again. Another set of parents has pulled the old humiliate the teen by making her hold a sign up at a busy intersection trick. Only Gentry and Renee Nickell decided to put a little twist on this shameful discipline. Their 13-year-old daughter was being disgraced for her grades.

The child had -- according to a huge sign she had to hold up for an hour and a half at a busy intersection -- brought home three Ds. Oh, the horror!

That wasn't sarcasm, folks. I'm truly horrified that parents saw some poor grades on their daughter's report card and thought the appropriate response was to shame their kid.

The 13-year-old's sign read:

I’m a Self-entitled teenager w/no Respect for authority. I’m also super smart, yet I have 3 ‘D’s’ because I DON’T CARE.

More from The Stir: 5 Parenting Fails Every Mom Commits

Are there smart kids out there who are lazy? Certainly. But shaming them isn't the way to get them back on track.

That's when you bring in a counselor to get to the root of the problem, hire a tutor to work with them, talk to their teachers, something, anything other than making a kid feel worse about their lot in life.

The sad thing is, smart kids can have learning disabilities too. Smart kids can have subjects that are stumbling blocks. I was your prototypical geek in school, but I remember coming thisclose to failing high school pre-calculus. Was I lazy? Nope. Numbers just tend to become a jumble in my head.

What's more, smart kids can have personal issues that make schoolwork hard to complete. Depression rates in teenagers are skyrocketing in this country -- in no small part because doctors are finally recognizing that kids can be depressed too.

In the Nickells' daughter's case, this may well be the root cause of her problems. Renee's brother was killed in Afghanistan in late 2011. The families were close, and since his death, their daughter has struggled.

It sounds like their kid needed help already, and now that they've gone the shame route, they've only made her problems worse. Now she's got the psychological damage of being embarrassed AND being misunderstood by her parents both.

That's a lot to lie on a teenage girl's shoulders!

Kids don't need to be punished for getting bad grades. They need help getting them back up.

That means actually, gasp, parenting your kids!

Do you shame your kids about their grades?


Image via milesopie/Flickr

discipline, school


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Lovin... LovinJerseyMama

I wouldn't publicly shame my kids but you can bet there would be some repercussions if my children brought home bad grades. That's their only responsibility at that age, do well in school. They don't pay rent, hold down a job to make ends meet, or have children of their own to care for (hopefully anyways). If you can't sit in school for eight hours and pay attention then what the hell? Barring any disabilities of course. The US is a joke compared to other countries and their educational levels. We are so for behind. I will make sure my kids appreciate and embrace learning as they grow. What I wouldn't do to be able to go back to school now. If I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg I'd go get a few masters degrees in some things I enjoy. 

nonmember avatar Erin

Punishing for bad grades is NOT a parenting fail. I guess you are the parent who will wipe your child's ass for the rest of his life?!

jhslove jhslove

I don't believe in public shaming, but bringing home poor grades due to a lack of effort is unacceptable. If I'd brought home three D's in high school, I would have been grounded until my grades were back up. Kids need to be held to high standards and required to do their best--it's a very competitive world out there, and mediocrity isn't going to cut it. I may disagree with their methods, but I applaud the parents for holding their daughter to high standards and demanding excellence.

LovinJerseyMama, my parents said the exact same thing to me--"Going to school is your job." I was REQUIRED to take it seriously, and I'm glad for it now.

jhslove jhslove

Oh, also--even IF a kid has something like ADHD, they still need to be able to focus when it's appropriate, get their work done on time, etc. I have ADHD, and my parents worked with me and my teachers because they understood that it made things harder, but it was NEVER allowed to be an excuse for doing poorly in school, not paying attention, missing assignments, etc.

At some point, all kids are going to grow up and get into the real world, and they'll have someone--be it a boss, a college professor, whatever--who frankly won't give a sh*t what issues they have. Even now, as an adult with ADHD, I have to be able to sit and pay attention in staff meetings. It's a requirement of my job. I have coping mechanisms that make it easier for me, but if I didn't get my work done on time, I'd be fired. ADHD isn't an excuse; it makes things harder, but not impossible, and kids who have it still need to learn to function in a classroom or work environment.

Disso... Dissolutions

public shaming no, but a grounding yes, especially if it is out of laziness of not doing assignments!

Marcella Shambles

We pay for A's and B's - extra for straight A's - C's are expected - D's and F's she is to pay us and we would work out what is going on to cause the low grades.  Like LovinJersey said - this is her only job right now (household chores don't count and she gets no allowance) and the pay rate is based on how well she does.  Granted - she's only 9  - we'll have to see what happens when the hormones and other stuff really start kicking in - but public humiliation is no way to teach anything to a child.

Prett... PrettyGirlMyers

I don't "shame" my kids for bad grades, but they are punished under certain circumstances.

There is a BIG difference between getting bad grades because you're struggling with subject matter, and getting bad grades because you don't make an effort to study or do homework. I don't punish my kids for the former, but you can be sure I punish them for the latter.

the4m... the4mutts

I DO, and will continue to, punnish for bad grades. My children have every advantage they could want as far as education wise. They have a mom, dad, and step dad that are all educated, and well versed in different subjects. They have all the help they could want, all the time they need, and if they refuse to utilize it, they will be punnished.

It is not a parenting "fail" in the least.

No matter what roadblocks kids come across, they need to learn to drive over them. Life isnt easy, and now is the time to take responsibility for their own actions.

nonmember avatar blh

I wish my parents would've been harder on me about my grades. NOT public humiliation but something. I was a huge slacker. Now math I was/am legitimately horrible at but the other bad grades we just due to not caring too much.

nonmember avatar M

This post seems misleading to me. I read the news story and it wasn't like public shaming was the first solution they tried. The parents said they had tried grounding, there were no electronics to take away and they were running out of options. She was asked what she thought of the punishment and she said she knew she had it coming. She wasn't mad at her parents at all. The bad grades don't appear to be from lack of ability or any kind of learning issues, but simply from a teenager making poor choices in response to stress. If this were an adult who was disrespectful and not willing to complete assignments at work, they'd be fired regardless of what is going on in their personal life. I believe it is better for her to learn that her actions have consequences now rather then when it means not having a job to pay for rent and food.

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