I’m never going to claim to be a better parent than any other parent, or to say I have all of the answers; when, undoubtedly, I have very few. That being said, I read a story that made me cringe on many levels.
A couple in Florida were having some challenges with their 13-year old daughter. She was being disrespectful, rebelling against their authority and had allowed her grades to slip. (A typical behavior pattern for many teenagers.) Apparently, the parents tried grounding her, but that form of punishment proved ineffective; so they opted for public humiliation.
"I’m a self-entitled teenager w/no respect for authority. I’m also super smart, yet I have 3 'D’s' because I DON’T CARE."
As a parent, I understand the feeling of frustration that comes from trying to reach your child and having them not listen. I can relate to the feeling of being at wits end and wondering if more drastic measures would produce more positive results. I get the frustration, but I don't get the action they took.
However…there’s a behind-the-scenes story here: According to the Florida Daily News, the 13-year olds Uncle, to whom she was very close, was killed in Afghanistan in December 2011; and since losing him she has become more defiant at home and at school, and her grades have dropped.
This is a lot for a young teen to process. It seems to me that since the rebellious behavior began after the death of her uncle, perhaps the child is “acting out” because she is unable to describe, understand or release the intensity of emotion related to the sudden loss of her loved one. She most assuredly feels anger at what may be deemed as the injustice of his death. I am sure there was a sense of shock in learning that he would never be coming home. I’m certain the dynamic in the home changed, as each member grieved and mourned his loss. Maybe in their grieving, she slipped through the cracks and no one noticed that she was struggling with her own sense of grief?
The parents admit to not seeking professional counseling for their daughter and instead felt that public humiliation would be a better tool of learning. For a normal teen, not on the heels of a huge loss, perhaps their methods would not have met with public anger; but under the circumstances, I can understand why the community has found their disciplinary tactic unacceptable.
Every parent braces for their child’s teenage years. We know they will make mistakes and we’ll watch in horror as what was once our precious little angel now becomes a back-talking, defiant, rebellious, know-it-all. Weren’t we all that way during those tumultuous years? I look back at my youth and cringe. There were moments when I treated my parents with disrespect, when I belittled their authority and thought they knew nothing and I knew everything. However, even at the height of my rebellion, my parents never demeaned me, humiliated me or publically embarrassed me. Oh, they punished me plenty. I was grounded, had to do more chores, couldn’t talk on the phone and lost rights to the car more times than I can count. Privileges were revoked, leaving me stranded at home with nothing more to do than ponder my attitude and actions. Ultimately, the lesson was learned and I was remorseful.
Every child is different and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. It can be frustrating for parents, but I think it is important to remember that as children become teenagers, they will need our help and guidance, not our pointed, degrading fingers. They will need rules with consequences, but not public or private humiliation. They will need our shoulders to cry on, our strength to hold them up and our reassurance that nothing they say or do can ever make us stop loving them. They will think they don’t need us and that’s when it is ever more important that we are there.
As an adult, my sins are great in number. I wish I could remove them, undo them, go back in time and make wiser choices, but I can’t. Would it behoove me to stand on a corner with a sign, proclaiming my sins for the world to see? Would that change my mistakes? What adult would do this? No one. I cannot help but notice the fact that the parents weren’t standing on the corner for 90 minutes, holding a sign with their indiscretions on it. Hmmmm….
How then could they subject their own child to such public disgrace?
To the parents of that 13-year old child, I challenge you to write down all of your mistakes on a giant piece of poster board and stand for 90 minutes at the busiest intersection in town, proclaiming your sins to the world.
Let me help you get started: Mistake #1: Purposefully humiliating my own child in public.
In the words of Jeff Foxworthy, "Here's Your Sign." ~