Thursday, November 17, 2005

Prep School Panhandler

I'm curious -- what do you readers think of this mom's attempt to help her daughter? I'm still undecided.

Mom Makes Teen Stand on Street With Sign

By Sean Murphy, Associated Press Writer

(EDMOND, Okla.) -- Tasha Henderson got tired of her 14-year-old daughter's poor grades, her chronic lateness to class and her talking back to her teachers, so she decided to teach the girl a lesson.

She made Coretha stand at a busy Oklahoma City intersection Nov. 4 with a cardboard sign that read: "I don't do my homework and I act up in school, so my parents are preparing me for my future. Will work for food."

"This may not work. I'm not a professional," said Henderson, a 34-year-old mother of three. "But I felt I owed it to my child to at least try."

In fact, Henderson has seen a turnaround in her daughter's behavior in the past week and a half. But the punishment prompted letters and calls to talk radio from people either praising the woman or blasting her for publicly humiliating her daughter.

"The parents of that girl need more education than she does if they can't see that the worst scenario in this case is to kill their daughter psychologically," Suzanne Ball said in a letter to The Oklahoman.

Marvin Lyle, 52, said in an interview: "I don't see anything wrong with it. I see the other extreme where parents don't care what the kids do, and at least she wants to help her kid."

Coretha has been getting C's and D's as a freshman at Edmond Memorial High in this well-to-do Oklahoma City suburb. Edmond Memorial is considered one of the top high schools in the state in academics.

While Henderson stood next to her daughter at the intersection, a passing motorist called police with a report of psychological abuse, and an Oklahoma City police officer took a report. Mother and daughter were asked to leave after about an hour, and no citation was issued. But the report was forwarded to the state Department of Human Services.

"There wasn't any criminal act involved that the officer could see that would require any criminal investigation," Master Sgt. Charles Phillips said. "DHS may follow up."

DHS spokesman Doug Doe would not comment on whether an investigation was opened, but suggested such a case would probably not be a high priority.

Tasha Henderson said her daughter's attendance has been perfect and her behavior has been better since the incident.

Coretha, a soft-spoken girl, acknowledged the punishment was humiliating but said it got her attention. "I won't talk back," she said quietly, hanging her head.

She already has been forced by her parents to give up basketball and track because of slipping grades, and said she hopes to improve in school so she can play next year.

Donald Wertlieb, a professor of child development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University, warned that such punishment could do extreme emotional damage. He said rewarding positive behavior is more effective.

"The trick is to catch them being good," he said. "It sounds like this mother has not had a chance to catch her child being good or is so upset over seeing her be bad, that's where the focus is."


Kate said...

The problem with the "catch your child being good" schtick is that it is only half of a solution. You've also got to catch them being bad and educate them as to what their behaviour ought to be. Don't get me wrong - rewarding good behaviour is very important and shouldn't be neglected - but creative discipline can also be vitally important!

It sounds to me like this mom has tried a lot of things already - removing priveliges and the suchlike - and while I would have probably required community service at a shelter or having the girl volunteer to help in an adult literacy program as ways of teaching the same message, I don't think that this qualifies as abusive. It all comes down to how well this Mom knows her daughter...for some, this could be the perfect way to teach this lesson, for others, the humiliation would cause lasting bad feeling and possibly damage the mother-daughter relationship permanently.

jenA said...

I was rather talkative and curious as a child, and that was removed through the art of gentle threats and guilt trips.
I also saw my parents at school, where they volunteered, at least 3 days a week. They also knew my principal, my extracurricular instructors and my assistant principal on a first-name "how's your uncle these days?" basis.
There was no opportunity to act up. I'd have had my butt in a sling and neither parent had qualms about doing it in front of the whole school.
I'd say if you can build your kids up when they're accomplishing something as passionately as you tear them down when they jeopardize themselves and others, you haven't done nearly as poorly as a parent as most parents of Gen Y would believe
Their kids are coddled and sheltered, spoiled and made to believe the whole world owes them for their very existence.
As a result, they do just enough to make the cut, and put no extra effort into school, work or social advancement. And they expect props for it.
I hate that kind of parenting, because now I have to work with those kids three days a week. All the whining has damaged my hearing.

Julie Anne Fidler said...

I work at a group home for teenage girls and I'm trying to convince my boss we need to give this a try...

Laura said...

I don't think it's abuse per se, not alone, but I also wouldn't do it. I have not found humilation to be a very effective tactic (and I admit to having tried it with students). I have found education about what happens when you don't get good grades quite effective with my students: having them draw up a budget, calculate pay, etc. Most effective would probably be personal example--so yeah, I prefer the idea of volunteering at a shelter.