A mom in Rock Hill, South Carolina, needed to discipline her son for making homophobic remarks and fighting, so she dressed him in a tutu, women’s boots, a women’s undergarment and a women’s T-shirt. But she didn’t stop there.
She also shaved the boy’s head, leaving a bald patch on top, and scrawled “bad” on the back of his head before parading him around a local Walmart, presumably so people in the community could gawk in wonder at the public humiliation.
Eventually someone called the cops, and while no charges have been filed, the incident has been reported to the Department of Social Services, who will investigate the case. The mother’s reasoning behind this bizarre punishment? Corporal punishment — spanking — wasn’t working.
First, it’s no surprise that a beatdown has been heretofore ineffective. Multiple studies point to the fact that spanking and other physical punishments have the opposite effect of what parents hope it will have; kids become more aggressive and are more likely to view hitting as an appropriate way to resolve conflict among peers (that is, fighting).
Which is exactly one of the things this child was being punished for.
Could we all agree to stop doing this kind of thing?
It seems we hear more and more stories like this one. A parent, frustrated with their child’s behavior, responds by resorting to humiliation and mockery to teach their kid a lesson. The only thing that makes this particular incident a standout case is that it wasn’t documented for social media, which means this child’s humiliation was limited to his local community as opposed to anyone with a Twitter account.
What, exactly, is the lesson that’s supposed to be learned when these tactics are employed?
Dressing a child in women’s clothing as punishment serves only to drive home that people who wear women’s clothing are deserving of ridicule. And if you’re tempted to somehow respond to a child’s homophobia by making them appear “gay” to onlookers, you end up telling your child that a) all gay men are stereotypically effeminate, and b) that, or being gay at all, is something to be ashamed of.
These types of punishment aren’t just cruel, and they don’t just make a parent look bad.
They range from being completely ineffective to incredibly dangerous. Take the case of Izabel Laxamana, who committed suicide just days after her father cut off her hair and posted the humiliating video online.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and it’s time to understand that punishments like this one don’t make you a clever avant-garde old-school parent; they make you a gross bully. A kid should not be allowed to fight or to denigrate classmates by using homophobia or hate speech. That requires discipline, yes.
But remember that kids are kids. Even if he (or she) is an adolescent, he is still a minor, an emotionally underdeveloped child. That’s where parenting — teaching your kids right from wrong and correcting their behavior when it’s warranted — comes into play.
Using public humiliation and inviting others to mock someone with less power than you doesn’t sound like parenting. It sounds like a tactic used by an insecure schoolyard bully, because it is.