David Lightbody,16, was forced to hold this sign for an hour by the side of the road. (Photo: WKBN)
A 16-year-old in trouble with his father for smoking marijuana received a very public punishment on Thursday. He stood on a street corner for an hour, holding a sign that read: “My name is Dave. I’m 16. I lie, smoke weed and steal.”
David Lightbody was punished after his dad heard from another kid that his son owed him money for drugs, according to WKBN. David’s father got the idea for a public shaming punishment from Facebook and figured it was worth a shot. “I haven’t seen nothing yet that taught him a lesson. He’s really hard-headed. He’s just like a rock,” a family friend, George Yurjevich, told WKBN about the Campbell, Ohio, teenager.
David’s father spray-painted the message on a piece of plywood and told his son to stand on the street corner with it for one hour. One of the passing drivers that spotted the sign was a police officer, who David said told him to stop smoking pot. “I think it was really stupid what I did,” David told WKBN. “You shouldn’t really smoke weed and stuff like that.”
Yahoo Parenting wasn’t able to reach David for comment.
While David’s father may have had good intentions, Dr. Fran Walfish, child psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child, says public humiliation is not an effective form of discipline. “The only hope to change behavior like lying and stealing is accountability in the teenager or the child,” Walfish tells Yahoo Parenting. “Putting a scarlet letter on your teen and shaming them publicly on the side of the road is breaching trust between a parent and child, potentially permanently.”
Parents should think about the consequences of their actions before doling out punishment, Walfish says. “To be a parent is a very hard job — you are constantly walking that tightrope between loving and protecting, and setting boundaries and knowing when to blow the whistle. But with this course of action, their son is more likely to rebel and find underground, secretive ways to act out his anger and rage toward his parents.” In essence, she says, a child is unlikely to stop smoking pot after this punishment. “I can’t say for sure because I don’t know this family, but by doing this, they are raising the likelihood of wedging further distance between the parents and their son.”
A better course of action would be to start with a sit-down family discussion. “Say to your child, ‘We know what happened, but tell us your version of what occurred.’ You want to always open up the communication pathways,” Walfish says. Then, explain the consequences if you discover this destructive behavior a second time. “You need to say to your kid, ‘This is not going to continue. If you want to live under our roof, here are the rules: No drugs, no alcohol, no buying, no selling, no dealing, and passing grades. If we find you break our rules one time, you will not live here.”
Finally, Walfish says, families shouldn’t shy away from getting counseling. “This is the place where too many parents fall down. You must not be ashamed or afraid of getting psychological counseling now,” she says. “In this case, their son has demonstrated a red flag. Something is not working, and you don’t have a good hold on the situation. Acknowledge it, validate it, cut yourself a little slack now before things get worse, and get the help you need while your kid is still living at home.”
When it comes to discipline, Walfish says, plenty of families could use some help. “I understand that parents are trying their best to rein in their kids, but nobody writes the manual for perfect parenting, and there is no shame in reaching out to the experts,” she says. “There’s always a better solution than public humiliation.”