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Mother Puts Daughter on the Streets

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Thirty-four year old Tasha Henderson of Oklahoma took a page out of the Medieval Crime Museum code of ethics when donning her misbehaving fourteen year old, Coretha, with a stray piece of poster board advertising her child’s misbehaviors and sending her to the street.

Admittedly not a professional, Tasha makes it glaringly obvious how uncreative, uneducated, and unprepared she continues to be even after fourteen years of opportunities to get educated, trained, and make herself a better parent. Further, posing with her unhappy child for the world to see, Tasha appears more opportunistic than willing to have seized any bettering opportunities.

Young Coretha can now look forward to weeks of blatant torment from fellow classmates, well meaning but unknowing support from friends, pathetic looks from teachers, and the filing of this story in many a newspaper’s archive for future reference. Great dowry Tasha. Given Tasha’s look of photographed glee, it’s a good bet that Coretha will hear “I told you so” even after putting on her headphones for a good long time.

The litmus test that best illustrates the abusiveness and failure of Tasha’s disciplinary tactic is Coretha’s compliance with the punishment. Anyone who has worked with the more spirited manifestations of teenage angst knows that a true delinquent would never have complied with such a demand and may even have engaged in some form of violence. While we don’t know what else Tasha tried before busting out her sharpie, it’s a good bet she did not first exploit her child’s compliance with more effective and less humiliating consequences.

I’m all about deprivation as a tool of discipline. Color my wall, lose your crayons for a day. Load a plate in the dishwasher with half a sandwich still on it, wash dishes by hand for a week. Natural and logical consequences define our adult world. Teaching a child anything else is setting them up for disaster and does nothing to prepare them for the real world. Humiliation, guilt, and shame are not tools of discipline. While a parent may get short term immediate gain, the long term lesson for the child is that he/she deserves to be humiliated and that humiliation is an acceptable form of communication. It should surprise no parent who uses these tactics to one day find their adult children in equally abusive romantic relationships and taken advantage of in the workplace. Humiliation is nothing more than a weapon of personal destruction and the best way to guarantee a parent will be signed up for the worst nursing home in the state come their golden years.

Teens don’t live in the same world as everyone else. Rational treatment and reasonable discussion don’t always work. This comes as no surprise to those who have cracked open even a single book on the subject. It is reasonable to expect a defiant and unreasonable teenager in the wake of punishment, like grounding or threats, that would’ve worked on them just a few years ago. It is unreasonable to expect anything different, even more so to expect the child to react according to one’s uneducated expectations. Because teenagers oft speak a different language, it behooves a parent to acquire at least a passing familiarity with that language. A teenager as compliant as Coretha (yes Tasha, your daughter is compliant) would likely respond positively to a revocation of privileges. Any parent of such a child need only start with the phone and work their way up to everything in the child’s bedroom except what they are obligated to provide by law. In Oklahoma that’s a mattress with a sheet set, a blanket, a pillow with a case, and two weather-appropriate outfits. If the provisions include a Peter Frampton concert T-shirt and a Brothers Johnson Strawberry Letter 23 pillowcase, all the better. The law does not dictate who picks the provisions, only that they are provided by the parent/guardian. It’s recommended that a parent escalate from the phone to the bedroom contents in no more than a month’s time depending on the number of undesired behaviors and incidences to maximize impact.

Most disturbing is Tasha’s assertion that she was doing this for her child’s good. Like the abusive parent who dares to look shocked when their grown child decides he/she has had enough and returns the punch, Tasha’s ogling before the cameras makes it all the more obvious how unprepared she is to deal with the long term consequences of her disciplinary style. This is to be expected from someone so clearly unprepared to deal with the most typical teenage behaviors, the remedies for which are not in short supply.

Here’s hoping Social Services really does look into this.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • Alec

    I just hate it when people throw the term “abuse” around as liberally as they might sprinkle grated cheese on a pizza. The mother’s behavior is harsh and desperate, but hardly amounts to abuse. It’s a variation of “scared straight” programs, where delinquent kids are taken to prison to be confronted by convicts, or taken to the local morgue to see the possible consequences of drinking, drug use or negligent driving. Also, no one knows how defiant the daughter has been in the past, or what privileges had been denied before. It is clear from other news coverage that the daughter has ignored the advice of teachers and school administrators, so trying to lay the blame solely on the supposedly uneduated mother is not only wrong-headed, but smacks of condescension.
    I agree that some of Coretha’s friends and schoolmates may mock her, but the sad thing is that those who are also under-achievers will probably encourage further misbehavior.
    As for the notion that a teenager will respond to text-book solutions or simple homilies about acts and consequences, well, that’s a nice fairy tale. Teens can often be remarkably stubborn, defiant, and even self-destructive when they are not allowed to have their own way even if their parents are living saints.
    You note that her mother’s supposedly humiliating tactics might lead Coretha to be taken advantage of in the workplace. But if her indifferent attitude toward school doesn’t change, whe won’t be able to get a job in the first place.

    (no URL)

  • Putting a child on public display for the purpose of humiliating them into compliance is emotional abouse. Show me any child psychologist who says differently and I’ll show you their degree from Rochville University.

    The scared straight programs did not employ parents to scare the children nor was Coretha a child with a criminal record. None of the children in the scared straight program were put on public display nor were they put into a position to be mocked by their peers and the public at large. The children in the program were met head on with the future of their criminal behavior. The only logical field trips for Coretha’s behavior would’ve been visits to the unemployment office and public assistance office — that’s where you end up when you don’t have a job. Not even in the adult world does public humiliation play a role in the inability to get a job. You might feel humiliated, but the public (and your mother) didn’t do it to you. The consequence issued by Tasha was neither natural or logical. It was cruel. Period.

    At the same time the world is up in arms about the mistreatment of prisoners of war to include the much debated tactic of humiliation, anyone is going to suggest that what Tasha did was even remotely right? Good God where’s the Geneva Convention when you need it most.

    An educated mother with even a passing acquaintance with child development would know, and not have to guess at, whether her tactic would have worked or not. A mother with the time to invest in this sort of shenanigan has the time to take a class or read a book that would have advised her in a different direction and given her further resources to pursue. That she chose this particular tactic speaks volumes about her own self image, her profound lack of creativity, and her insistence that a job of this magnitude doesn’t require further education.

    At no point did I suggest that teenagers will respond to text book solutions or simple homilies. Instead I suggested that deprivation by way of revoking privileges, to include every personal possession of the teen, is more in line with the language teenagers speak. That advice or suggestions come from a book doesn’t automatically make them unworthy of consideration. While there are those “experts” who clearly have no experience with other-than-angelic teenagers, there are a good many child rearing methods that take a parent from the cradle and build on skills over time that complement and help maintain the management the parent has instilled — and none of them use nor advocate humiliation of any kind.

    Desperate acts are never justified, much less when based on a parent admitting they didn’t know what else to do. Admitting one is without further idea and still not pursuing resources outside the family is irresponsible and a reprehensible approach to parenting. There is no excuse for not taking the job of parenting more seriously by educating oneself in development, expectations, and the means by which to manage behavior. The library is chocked full of books and dvds, community centers offer parenting classes, and there are a myriad of support groups available to parents — all free of charge. Parents with the truly out of control child can find refuge in the education, training, and experience of counselors in youth shelters, behavioral camps, law enforcement departments specializing in juvenile crime, social services, and their local mental health clinic. The school counselor is the least starting point for any parent pursuing support and assistance with an unruly child.

    The fairy tale is not in the idea that a parent can find help in a book but rather in the idea that all children must and will behave else they are societal fodder. Sometimes they won’t behave. Sometimes they insist on careening down the slippery slopes of ill behavior no matter what a parent does. This is not, however, the kind of child that would comply with public humiliation.

    There is also the oft overlooked dynamic of choice. If the parent presents the options and the child makes a bad choice, it is up to the parent to deliver the consequences of that choice. Desperation only sets in when the parent refuses to accept that their child has made a bad choice. If the parent would not entertain the idea that the child would make a bad choice then the parent is less likely to deliver the consequence they themselves said they would. Frustration, sadness, and anger are all natural reactions to a child’s bad choices, but desperation is borne soley out of the need to make the child make good choices. Let go of the need to make the child’s choices for them and the child will learn. Make the child’s choices for him/her and the child learns nothing.
    This does not apply to those situations where one is not giving the child a choice as is the case with a child running in traffic or playing with a beehive. This applies to those situations where the natural and logical consequences of the child’s choice are the teacher, not the parent. The parent teaches by allowing nature, logic, school rules, and/or law enforcement to take its course. Play in the mud puddle without shoes and you’re likely to cut your foot on glass. Sure this means a trip to the emergency room. If the parent isn’t willing to accept this consequence, the parent’s job is to tell the child “no, you’re not playing outside right now”. If the parent isn’t willing to accept the possible tantrum (yes, teens throw fits too), the parent must then decide to either leave the house (depriving the child of attention), shut the door on their room and put up with the noise, or make the child leave — as in placing them in a local shelter.
    The question is not whether there is a natural and logical consequence for every behavior. The question is whether or not the parent is willing to abide by nature, logic, outside rules and laws, and their own word.
    By the time a child is old enough to ditch classes, that child is old enough for the opportunity to learn the consequences of that behavior. When those consequences are issued by the school, this means a loss of all school-related opportunities such as sports and socializing when they are suspended or expelled. If the school doesn’t issue the consequences per their handbook, it’s the parent’s job to take this to the school board to make sure their child realizes the consequences of their behavior or to call the truant officer to report their child. If the child has been forewarned about any of this, the child has been fair warned. It is up to them then to make the choice. They know what to expect, and no one should disappoint them. When issued by the parent, the consequences of ditching classes equals ditching of all opportunity to participate in any other-than-family activity such as dating and meeting up with friends. If the behavior is brazen enough (and so are the parents), the child can be withheld from family activities as well. Nothing shakes up a teen brain like having to stay with the uncle who never bathes while the rest of their family is vacationing at grandma’s floridian summer home. Sure they may threaten to runaway. By all means offer to take them to the very shelter/hall where they will be taken once they’re caught. Introduce them to the fine folk who will be their new parents for the duration of the stay. Let them get a taste of the cooking, a look at the bedroom they will be sharing with others, a glance at the chore list, and a tour of the grounds. Many are surrounded by barbed-wire.

    Coretha complied with her mother’s dictate to stand on the street with a sign bemoaning her activities. A child that is “remarkably stubborn, defiant, and even self-destructive” would not have complied. That Coretha complied with a punishment of this degree without defiance and self-destruction clearly indicates that a non-humiliationg approach stood an excellent chance of getting through to her — such as the loss of all personal possessions until her behavior met her parent’s standards (punctuality, bringing up grades, not talking back).

  • I read the article and what I find most disturbing is the perky smile on Mommy’s face “Look at me, I’m in the newspaper”. Her fifteen minutes of fame, I hope she enjoys it.

    As Diana says, Coretha doesn’t come across as the defiant type, the kid who is on a very dangerous slope to self destruction so I’m wondering if there isn’t perhaps something else happening in her life (and possibly at school) that is causing her misbehaviour. She’s not allowed to take part in sports (something she seems to enjoy) and that has not altered her behaviour so could there be something else? And has her mom even tried to find out? From the article it would appear not.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I have to wonder what Tasha Henderson would do or say if someone had taken her daughter up on the “will work for food” deal – and then sexually abused her.

    There are lots of sickos out there – and this woman deliberately decided to expose her daughter to them. Smart move, huh?

  • Hi, I’m a single dad who has raised my children from the time they were 1,2 and 4. They are now 14,15 and 17. First, unless you are a parent, not a bookread parent, I don’t want to hear or read anything anyone has to say on childrearing. With that in mind, I have found the most effective tool (as it were) is to remember what it was like TO BE a child. Not just being that age, but what it was like, what I felt, what I thought and why I remember thinking it.

    I would never have done this to my kids, I am more private about such things. I have also taught my children to be as well. However, I wasn’t there, I did not raise this girl, I have no idea what has led up to this, nor do I know what upbringing and background would make the mother think of this idea.

    But I do know this: I have always been involved, aware and informed about what is and was going on in their lives at home and at school. Two lives?, you ask?, how ridiculous you say. No. remember, no matter what age they are, I was that age longer.

    There is always a root or core or whatever the buzz word is today, issue behind what it is our children do. GO FIND OUT WHAT THAT IS! And then fewer families will find their picture in the news

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    SPEAKING AS A FATHER WITH TWO SONS, I have to agree with most of what Gary Gulick writes above. I consciously put employment and career second and raising my sons first. So has my wife. This was a privilege that Gary did not have in the decade and a half he has been a single father. Kol haKavod – (all honor to him). It is also a privilege that most single mothers do not have either.

    WITHOUT JUDGING OTHERS HERE, I will say that it has mattered to me a great deal thay our marriage work and that our sons see two parents who honestly love each other. My wife feels likewise. In both of our eyes, this is extremely important to children and it is extremely important to raising healthy children

    We’ve had less material things than others because of this, but we have two boys who are truly blessings.

    I was a lousy son to my parents and often wonder if I deserve the two good sons we have.

  • What we sometimes forget with our children is that they are doing the best they can. Sometimes when a child struggles with meeting expectations, i.e. schoolwork, chores, etc., it’s not because he/she is being lazy or defiant, but instead it’s because of something he/she is struggling with. Get at that first, and help the child describe his/her situation, and then help the child find a solution that works.