Frustrated with her son's failing grades, and with the intent of getting him to take his studies more seriously, she made her son, James Mond III, stand on a busy intersection with a large sign around his neck that read:
I did 4 questions on my F-CAT and said I wasn't going to do it ... GPA 1.222 ... Honk if I need an education.
This wasn't the first form of punishment wielded by the 33-year-old hairstylist and her husband who, in the past, had resorted to grounding him, taking away his cell phone and lecturing him over and over to get him to raise his grades. With all of this punishment, what they did not do was help him do his homework. Although Holder claims the punishment is working, the lack of improvement in his grades would prove otherwise.
Punishment has long been used to motivate, but it stems from fear-based thinking and, in recent years, studies have found that punishment is actually an ineffective form of motivation that ends up making people apathetic and miserable. One's intentions for punishment can easily get muddied when they allow anger and frustration to cloud the reasons for it, and they may lose sight of the real issue and end up just abusing children.
James obviously needs help, and punishment isn't working. Lapping more punishment on top of it, without offering positive help and reinforcement to change the behavior, is a lose-lose situation. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If punishment hasn't worked in the past, why assume more of it will get a different result?
Although this is a cry for help from a fed-up mother, it begs the question: is it efficient, fair and ethical to shame your child into being better, smarter, and more successful?
Amy Chua, a Yale law professor whose book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is a politically incorrect account of raising her children "the Chinese way," uses shame as a powerful training tool to mold her children into accomplished overachievers. After receiving a birthday card from her youngest daughter Lulu, Chua announced "I don't want this," adding that she expected to receive a drawing that Lulu had "put some thought and effort into." Throwing the card back at her daughter, she told her, "I deserve better than this. So I reject this."
"Nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences...tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence. Once a child starts to excel at something- whether it's math, piano, pitching, or ballet- he or she gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun."
Chua recognizes that you can't always coddle your children or allow them to make decisions for themselves, and the accomplishments of her children prove that she may be right.
My boyfriend and I visit with his daughter on weekends, who lives full time with her mother. We wanted to take her with us on a trip to Vermont, so we asked her mother, who in turn asked her, "Do you want to sleep a couple nights in the woods with your father and be far, far away from me for many, many days?" Phrased in that way, I"m sure the poor girl had nightmares.
The fact that her mother left this decision in the hands of a 5-year-old seemed irresponsible. If you ask a kid if they want candy or a piece of fruit, most will invariably choose the candy, but as parents that doesn't mean we should give it to them. Being responsible means considering what is in the best interest of your child, even if it may not be what makes them happy in the moment.
Shame can be a debilitating emotion that creates limiting beliefs in adults. Children who are told they are 'garbage' or 'failures' in childhood often grow into adults who believe they aren't good enough. The key is to find a parenting style that will work for your individual child, and be aware of when your own desire to be a 'cool' parent is overriding the necessity to be a 'good' parent.
Use positive reinforcement, but don't spoil or coddle your child. Punishment should be a last resort, used sparingly and doled out as a means to teach children about consequences in life. Pushing your children to achieve is a good thing, and the sense of accomplishment that will be instilled in them is a reward in itself. Rewards of a material nature should be reasonable. Don't buy them a Wii for getting B's, or you lower the bar and teach them to do the least amount of work for reward.
Chua claims "the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be 'the best' students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job". This befittingly heaps responsibility on the parent for the outcome of a child, as children have to learn and be taught in order to grow into successful adults.
If a child fails, it is the failure of the parent to properly teach, therefore it would be unfair to a child to shame them for their lack of success. That being said, if you find your child is an underachiever who does poorly in school, maybe you should be asking yourself what you are doing wrong.
Follow Coach Brody on Twitter @LuvCoachRebecca Brody is a Relationship Coach in NYC. She works with private clients and hosts www.ImrovDates.com. Send questions to Brody@TheLuvCoach.com or www.TheLuvCoach.com.