Mom Punishes Kids for Stealing By Shaming Them in Public. Does it Work?

An Indianapolis woman, angry that her son and stepson had stolen a $50 gift card, has punished them by forcing the boys to let the public know that they're "a thief" and an "accomplice to a thief."

Also on Shine: 5 Reasons Why Shame-Based Punishments Are Not Effective

Unique Caruthers, 11, and Xacherey Scott, 14, had to hold cardboard signs at a busy Indianapolis intersection for more than an hour earlier this month while their stepmom, Natashia Scott, stood nearby with two younger children and two adult family members, explaining the punishment to passersby.

Also on Shine: Is Public Shaming Tough Love or Too Much?

"This is their punishment," Natashia Scott told Fox affiliate WISH-TV, adding that she wants to deter them from stealing.

"I refuse to let them fall victim to the streets," she explained. "I didn't want to beat them, so now they get to ...stand out here on 38th Street and let everybody know what they did."

She had intended to use the gift card, which she earned at work, to pay the family's gas bill. Instead, she says, the boys stole it from on top of her dresser and used it to buy themselves treats at Dairy Queen.

Some drivers stopped to read the boys' signs. "I am a thief. I stole from my mother and family. I can’t be trusted. If you see me on the streets, watch out because I am a thief," Unique's hand-written sign said. He admitted that he had taken the card.

Xacherey's sign read: "I am a [n] accomplice to a thief! I help spend stolen money from my step mom. Don’t trust me! If you see me on the streets go the other way because I will help get you."

A $50 gift card goes a long way in Scott's blended family, the Indianapolis Star reported. She and her husband have 11 children altogether, including two adult children and some who live with them every other weekend.

While the kids may squirm for a little while, it's the parents who usually end up under the microscope after their punishment draws attention. In 2012, Tommy Jordan videoed himself shooting holes in his 15-year-old daughter's laptop computer with his handgun after she wrote a disrespectful post on Facebook. He posted his video on Facebook in response and it went viral, opening Jordan up to both kudos and criticism.

"Do I regret doing it? No," he wrote in a follow-up post. "Do I regret keeping it on Facebook long enough to cause this stir? Yes."

“I wasn’t even thinking about what the public was going to think,” Renee Nickell told the Northwest Florida Daily News in March after photos of her 13-year-old daughter's public punishment were circulated on social media. The Crestview, Florida, girl had been forced to stand on a street corner holding a sign labeling her as disrespectful and lazy after she earned Ds in school. “I was thinking about our daughter," Nickell explained. "It was for her to be in the public and recognize what she had done wrong."

The kids, for the most part, say that they get the point. After having to stand outside his South Florida school with a sign saying he'd been disrespectful to his teacher, 12-year-old Errol Faustin told local news crews that he'd learned his lesson.

"I learned that I won't call a teacher or any adults or staff out by that name again," he said, sounding contrite. "Because it's disrespectful."

Signs don't always have to be part of the punishment. A fed-up stepmom in Utah recently taught her fiance's 10-year-old stepdaughter a lesson by making her wear ugly outfits to school, setting her up to endure the type of teasing she had been dishing out herself. And in January, a Reddit user posted a photo of their sullen-looking teen wearing a T-shirt with his scowling face and the words "Try Me!" written on it.

But one has to wonder whether the public shaming has any long-term effect on the child. Will he or she really think twice before mouthing off again? Or does standing in public with a sign — or having your parents post goofy pictures of themselves on your Facebook page -- simply become less embarrassing over time?

"Punishing a kid with public humiliation not only makes the parent appear immature, it reflects a genuine mean streak," Fran Walfish, a child psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California, told Yahoo! Shine earlier this year. "When a parent goes this far, they completely break the trust that's so crucial in adolescence. Of course no one wants their child to misbehave but when parents use public shame it's a sign that they've really lost control over their kids."

In this instance, however, Unique and Xacherey said that the public humiliation hit home.

"It's fair," Unique told The Indianapolis Star. "Because we did something bad, so we deserve the punishment."

“I don’t want to be out here again, for the same reason, or another reason," he told WISH-TV. "I want to do better."

“Yeah I learned my lesson," Xacherey told WISH-TV. "Standing out here for a long time, then I gotta hold this… everybody just looking at me weird. I don’t want to do that again."

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