Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Parenting Tip

This was a pretty big story in Utah yesterday. I thought it was awesome.

Mother's Public Punishment of Child Sparks Debate
April 14th, 2008 @ 10:00pm
Lori Prichard reporting

If you had a 10-year-old son who had been caught stealing at seven different stores, what would you do? A Park City mother faced that situation. The way she decided to punish her child sparked heated debate.

Not everyone agreed with the mother's tactics. In fact, some passers-by were so upset they got the Park City Police, the Summit County Sheriff and the Division of Child and Family Services involved. But was the mom right? Decide for yourself.

For about three hours last Thursday on a Park City street, a woman made her fifth-grade son stand on the sidewalk with a sign that said: "I am a thief. I will steal from you. Caution!" And just in case the passer-by may not have spoken English, the same words were written in Spanish.

Nancy Sutton saw the 10-year-old holding the sign around his neck. "He looked upset," she said. "I thought, oh that poor boy. What's going on?"

In small letters printed on the bottom of the sign, you could read what was going on. It said, "I've been caught at Wal-Mart, Linens & Things, Rite Aid, Albertsons, 7-Eleven, Smith's, Nike, KB Toys and the cops won't do anything about it."

That's true. Police told us he's too young to take to jail. But Sutton, who is also a therapist, says he's also too young to be humiliated in public. "As therapists, we consider that emotionally abusive, which I'm sure the parents didn't realize," she said.

Child psychologist Dr. Doug Goldsmith, with The Children's Center, says humiliation isn't really that effective. "Even when we've seen in the news major political figures who've been humiliated, people see that. But the next week, people have seemed to have forgotten about it and I can go back to business as usual. The humiliation idea is not effective in most circles of life," he said.

Nancy says it wasn't effective in this case. By the end of the day, the boy and his sign had drawn a circle of sympathizers. "I think everybody realized this is not OK," she said. "It's not OK to sit a child out there and humiliate him in public. And apparently I heard somebody drove by and gave him money."

Everyone can agree the boy's mom is obviously at her wits end. Police tell us that the boy's been in counseling, but his mother is just fed up with him stealing. They also tell us she was nearby the whole time, and he wasn't really in danger. DCFS agreed with that assessment.

We couldn't contact the mother to get her side of the story because police aren't releasing her name

I'm with the mom. Best to employ every means possible to stop this kid from going to prison someday. What do you think?


JustRandi said...

I'm totally with the mom! I actually admire her creativity. I don't think it would have been my choice of punishment, but I completely respect her right to do it, and I LOVE that she is at least doing SOMETHING. It's the moms who do nothing that I think should be reported to DCFS.

Steve said...

Well, if the kid never steals again, then I say it works, which as the mom, is all she wants to accomplish. Her son might not talk to her again, but someday he'll realize she (hopefully) changed his life for the better. The main issue is that he clearly steals for a reason, probably attention b/c his parents don't give him the kind of attention he longs for at home, so ultimately it'll probably be the counseling that'll solve this problem.

crazy4danes said...

I would never publicly humiliate my son...I don't think that it is the right form of punishment. If anything the kid is now going to be angered by the whole ordeal and hardened by it, and it will probably have a negative effect in the long run.

If you have a 10 year old that is a clepto then I think we should look at the parents...why is the 10 year old wandering around and "shopping" by himself at 10? Where are the parents? I understand some children can be resistant to good parenting, however that's where good family counseling would be very helpful! Not to mention we don't even know what kind of parenting this child has had and by the way the mother has chosen to react, I would say not the best.

It's sad because if anything I bet this whole experience will push him even further away...I wouldn't be surprised if the kid ups the anty and starts to lash out when he gets older...if he's a clepto now, scary to think what he'll be at 15 now.

Public humiliation is such a throw back to the dark ages...I highly doubt that Christ would approve of this form of punishment for a CHILD!

Why not hang a sign on the mother that says "my child will steal from you!"? Our children are a reflection of ourselves to some degree. No parent wants to think they've done anything wrong, but if you have a problem child to this degree at 10...I say look at the parents!

Salt H2O said...


Not all parents are as lucky to have as wonderful children like yours. Each child has a distinct personality. Some very good people that are highly active in their kids lives still have disobedient kids.(Lehi had Laman and Lemuel)

This had to be humiliating for the mom as well- she was outside with her child, and her neighbors all know who her kid is.

After taking the child to counseling, and the child still continues to steal I don't blame the mom for taking this step, employing every means possible to stop her child at the age of 10 from becoming a criminal at the age of 18.

It would be abusive if she didn't do anything dramatic or drastic as the normal consequences-that of counseling and traditional punishment haven't worked.

crazy4danes said...

We don't know what kind of punishment she has used in the past. I like how she shifts her blame to her son like she's tried everything...very responsible. At 10 I still think this child should not be able to wander around town unsupervised, especially with his track record. I was always under my mom's watchful eye. My mom caught my brother's on several occasions as kids stealing in the grocery store...key word SHE caught them...not the police.

All I know is that as a parent I have the HUGE responsibility of rearing and nurturing one of God's spirits, I would NEVER do that to a child. I will be held accountable for the way I have raised Bryan and treated Bryan one day. I could NEVER stand before God and feel good about publicly humiliating my 10 year old, and I stress 10. And I highly doubt God, the Prophet or my Bishop would be proud of my parenting skills if I did this, and that's enough for me.

I hate to use religion, but I take being a parent EXTREMELY seriously and I know God does too.

Bryan is not an angel by birth, I have to teach him values and instill them in him EVERYDAY. Being a parent is hard...but being a good parent is even harder and quite frankly I think too many parents rely on society to raise their children as an easy way out and then freak out when their child goes bad.

She wasn't standing by his side while this was going one even knew where she was until the police showed up and she came out from "hiding". Pathetic.

All I see is a desperate Park City parent who couldn't deal with her bratty 10 year old, and was embarrassed by his actions so she chose to embarrass him right back...nice. Eye for an eye I guess...

Tom Quinn. said...

Why stop at a sign. Why not have the kid walk around naked with the words written on his chest. Then I'm sure he would become a healthy contributor to society.
Perhaps We should instatute Middle Eastern thieving punishments, and take the kids hands.
Parents really need to nip this in the bud.

Salt H2O said...

A good friend of mine's brother is on the 10 ten list of the FBI's Most Wanted. Right next to Osama Bin Ladden.

He started small with shoplifting and the crimes got bigger as he got older.

He had a good mother, and a crook for a father. His mom did everything she could. His sister is a saint, and is one of the coolest people I know. She has a cute family- 5 boys, married a doctor.

My point is you can't blame the parents. I don't think this woman was relying on society to raise her son. If she was, she'd continue to let the stealing continue until the boy was old enough to get thrown in jail.

Then again, a lot of the debate here has to do with shoddy reporting by KSL- which is no story. They put this story out for society to judge with out giving us all of the facts.

Salt H2O said...


Canning works in Singapore.

Not suprisingly, there is no graffitti there and is one of the cleanest countries in the world.

If no one fears the punishment, they'll continue to committ the crime.

Ben & Kimberly McEvoy said...

The kid could be with her at wal-mart, linen' and things etc.
a few times My 3 year old has brought stolen goods home in his pocket. I am a good mom, My son is 3 and doesn't realize the stealing thing. but after having to return the items and apologizing to a employee he hasn't done it since.

that was humiliating for my 3 year old. he cried all the way home.
I asked him if that was a fun thing, he said, no.
I told him, if you do not want o be embarrassed or have to apologize . .dont do it.

my point is he could be stealing right under his mom's nose.

I do think it was probably more publically humiliating then needed. I tihnk I woudl make my son a t-shirt that says it on it. and make him wear it.

I do wonder was his play station, wii, game cube or anything taken away b/c of his bad behavior.

Dr Phil was on when I nursed Jeddy and one thing he advised parent on that I thought was spot on. was communicate with your kids on their level. If their world revolves around my little pony, then communicate that way.

If you dont clean your room, you dont get your my little pony.

But for bad parents it it harder for them to take things away from their kids b/c then heaven forbid they would have to entertain their kids or find something possible constructive for them to do.

bottom line I think this kid needed a kick in the pants, the police couldn't, and Mom thought this was the way to do it. hope it works.
I do know I would never go this route.

Della Hill said...

I think I am a little mixed on this issue.
I applaud the mom for doing something. Something is better than nothing. She is at least trying, and doesn't know what else to do.
But I don't believe this will stop the behavior.
I have to agree with Crazy a little and wonder where the mom was when this kid was stealing?
What 10 year old goes into linens and things alone?
It's also not like it was once or twice. He got caught 7 times.
And if he got caught 7 times, how many times did he get away with it?
Obviously the Mom knew this was a problem after the second time he got caught.
Pretty soon he will be banned from so many stores that he won't be able to go shopping anywhere.
Having said that, I also know that kleptomania is incredibly addictive and a klepto won't just give it up because he gets caught a few, or 7, times.
There is a thrill related to the stealing and it is worth the risk of getting caught. Over and over again.
I know this because I have worked with kids who were kleptos.
For some people it is easier to quit smoking than quit stealing.
The mom needs to take her son to counseling and figure out what is driving the behavior.
A 10 year old that steals that much has a whole lot more going on under the surface. You can count on it.
In the mean time, xbox, wii, and playstation aside, this kid needs to lose the privilege of going to the store.
He obviously can't control his impulses in public. So remove the child from the environment.
No, you can't keep him out of shopping centers forever, but you can help him figure out what is going on inside that he is using stealing as a band-aid for.
And you can teach him coping skills and alternate behaviors when he has the urge to steal.
And maybe, while he's in with his therapist, Mom can take some parenting classes.

Robin said...

I use to think the way Crazy does. We were perfect parents, followed all of the prophet's council, did "The List" (FHE, prayer & scriptures, fasting, tithing, temple, kept worldly influences out of the home, everything "good" parents do - we did it joyfully with faithful devotion). We had it figured out. I would look at other people's children and assume that the reason they were struggling was some hidden fault of the parents.

Then some (not all) of my kids grew up and got minds of their own and did things that shocked me. They weren't raised that way. It was a very humbling, and difficult, experience. It deepened my faith, my love of the Savior, and my love for other parents. It also brought out a different depth of my love for my children - a type of love that I wouldn't have experienced if they followed the righteous plans I had prepared for them. I will never again point at a parent as the problem.

That young man has free agency. His poor mom. I feel for her. And I feel for him. In all likelihood he is a darling, sweet, completely lovable kleptomaniac.

Sherpa said...

That poor mom. Some kids, no matter the parenting just seem to be pointed towards prison no matter what their parents or others do. A childhood best friend of mine was like that-

Davers said...

The abusive part comes from all the "sympathizers" who abuse their right as citizen's to undermine the principles that the mother is trying to instill in her wayward son.

Good blog post!