12-Year-Old Gets Very Public Punishment

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So this boy steals $100 from his cousin. His punishment is to hold a sign that says “I am a thief. I took money from a family member.” He’ll do this for about 15 hours. A psychologist James Huysman said that this isn’t cool:

“This is about shame. In the old days, we used to just shame people, hang signs around their necks in public.”

And? Maybe I’m old school, but he did something wrong and that he should be ashamed of. If he feels the embarrassment from this very real punishment, hopefully he won’t even think about doing it again. I think kids get away with way too much today. But – I’m not a parent. Is this too harsh?

What do you think?

17 responses to “12-Year-Old Gets Very Public Punishment

  • Kini

    Tough Love! I graduated from the school of hard knocks. I think I turned out pretty strange! 😈

  • Laura

    Shame breeds resentment which does not necessarily improve behavior; actually the contrary. It’s similar to the way the Catholic church uses guilt as a motivation. It too, rarely has the desired effect.

  • lbwoodgate

    “Is this too harsh?”

    I don’t think so. There are consequences to our actions. Being shamed for violating social moral standards isn’t the same for someone who ridicules or humiliates others for being over weight, not pretty, having a physical or mental handicap, etc. I don’t know that shame for some is a corrective action but if it is, it’s probably most effective at this young age.

    I would hope that the judge didn’t use this method alone to correct the young juvenile but accompanied it with some form of therapy to redirect this kid’s criminal behavior to that which is encouraging to one’s self esteem and is rewarded by society instead of punished.

  • lobotero

    We had a judge in my area that would have first offenders as part of their crime stand on a corner with a sign….when he got caught with his finger in the till I suggested that he be made to stand on the corner also……he didnot and to day is an attorney…..I do think that this will change anyone’s future doings….

  • Pjevs

    Do you want all people, who have stolen money, to stand on street corners with a sign that tell they are thieves,then I’m afraid that there won’t be enough street corners in the world. Besides,why is it not greedy governments and greedy bankers who are sentenced to stand on street corners,,instead you chose a little boy.That is disgusting.Yes,there must be some consistency for this boy,but the days of pillory is over.So yes,I think you are being harsh.This could never happened in Denmark where I live.

    • Spinny Liberal

      Good point about the greedy bankers and government. I guess I see it differently. I see the dad making sure that the kid understands the seriousness of it. Maybe it will have the desired effect. That’s the hope.

    • Sedate Me

      Those banking motherfuckers should be put in the stockades so that everyone they stole from can come by and throw rotting fruit (nay rocks!) at them!

  • beaglezmom

    I think there should be a natural consequence: I.E. if you stole money, you should have to work to replace it. I don’t see public shame as teaching, as much as just humiliating.

    I would have much less trouble with an adult doing this than a child – simply because a young person’s ego is still forming, and public opinion is more more important to teens than adults. Wearing a sign that says “I am a thief” – isn’t just about his ACTION (stealing) its about his IDENTITY (as a person). So it’s harder to stop stealing (an action) that stop thinking of yourself as a label (a thief). A child who is told “You’re dumb” will always think they are dumb. A child affirming in public they are a thief may always be a thief.

    Shame isn’t healthy to our psyche – short or long term. Remorse is healthy, regret can be healthy (with a pathway to healing it) – but long-term shame is more harmful than good. This is all a little to “Scarlet Letter” for me.

    I also agree with the above comment: When the execs of Goldman Sachs stand on street corners — then this might be a better law.

    • Spinny Liberal

      Wow those are some good points action vs. identity. I actually thought it would be more effective for a younger person. If an older person did it, they probably have done it before, and it wouldn’t do much good. Or maybe as lobo said it has worked for first time offenders. I don’t know. Glad I asked and got some great feedback. And The Scarlet Letter flashed in my head as I thought about this story.

      Oh and it’s going to take a whole lot more than signs to be acceptable punishment for the execs at Goldman Sachs.

  • The Hook

    Too many people are soft on crime – even crime such as this – and they refuse to deal with it head-on!
    This little guy has learned a valuable lesson – hopefully!

  • jmyste

    Causing someone shame makes them angry, resentful, and sometimes scarred. None of these things tends to produce better people.

    To correlate this to abuse, as reforming abuse is its intention, those who are abused are statistically more like to abuse others. Those who are hurt by other people are more likely to want to hurt others or to be insensitive to the concept.

    There are tons of anecodotal exceptoins, but I am not aware of scientific studies that support exceptions to this rule.

    Any punishment should have no lasting psychological effect on the child punished, else it meets the international definition of torture (too lazy to look that definition up and cite it).

    Some people would be humiliated by this and others would not. Therefore, it is an immoral choice.

  • Sedate Me

    I have a few reservations and qualifications but, on the whole, I like this approach, especially for youth, first timers and for petty shit that’s just embarrassing to caught doing. (ie nothing wouldn’t enhance your rep on the shtreet)

    This isn’t about damaging a kid by putting a label on him the way parents do when they call their kids “lazy morons” or “a waste of egg & sperm”. He chose his label. It is an accurate label based upon a crime he committed on his own volition. The kid IS a thief. He SHOULD be shamed and ashamed of what he did.

    He is a minor. His parents have consented to this punishment and see it as a form of discipline. Effective or not, it’s sure better than just letting it slide or handing out a beating they way most parents would. Theoretically, he could be in jail and be the bitch of the biggest, baddest, motherfucker in the joint. Instead, he stands on a street corner holding an embarrassing sign between meal & bathroom breaks. This isn’t exactly OZ here.

    This also a public admission of what he did. On some level, he is taking responsibility for his actions. I wish more people took responsibility for their actions. I wish more people has a sense of shame. Those are two things in short supply these days.

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