Public Shaming Isn't the Worst Way to Discipline a Kid

Shrek EarsIn Australia people are outraged because a mother made her pilfering 10-year-old son wear a pair of Shrek ears and a sign that read, "Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief." Passersby were shocked; one even called the child safety hot line because the boy looked so embarrassed.

Diane Mayers, the woman who made the call, told The Telegraph, "A lot of people walked past and were laughing at him, including boys who would have been his age." And that warrants cries of abuse? Not in my book. While the Shrek ears are a bit strange, and it's not something that should be a first resort for discipline, if nothing else is working, I don't think public shaming is the worst thing a parent can do. Some judges have implemented similar techniques, and it's definitely more responsible than just ignoring the behavior when it won't stop.


According to the report, this mother, who hasn't been named, had tried everything to curb her son's thieving ways that have persisted for three years, even taking him to the police station and having them show him the cells and where he could one day wind up. When he recently stole some chocolate from a store, she said she decided to use the signs as a last resort.

I can't imagine getting to such a desperate place with one of my children. I like to think I never would, but if I did, I can't say I wouldn't do the same, or do almost anything to keep him or her from a life of crime. Sometimes time-outs and sweet, rationale reasoning just don't work, and if a little public humiliation does the trick, then I'd much rather see my kid suffer through that than visit them in prison someday. Some kids really need a tough wake-up call to make significant changes.

One comment Mayers overheard the mother making to the boy about the ears was disturbing. "Put them back on or I'll smack your head in," she reportedly told him, and that certainly raises some red flags about this particular case and perhaps speaks to why he's a repeat offender. But in general, if Shrek ears and a sign might help keep my thief of a kid from a life of crime, then let the humiliation begin.

If your kid was repeatedly stealing and nothing else worked, would you ever attempt public shaming as a discipline technique?

Image via nickstone333/Flickr

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