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.