Christina Maze, a single mother from Inkster, Michigan, has a special way of punishing her children: public humiliation.
Maze’s two unnamed sons, ages 8 and 7, were made to hold signs that described their bad behavior by the roadside. One child held a sign that read “I’m a wild boy. I’m hardheaded. I don’t listen. Look at us!” and his brother’s sign read, “I’m a class clown.”
The 8-year-old said the sign made him feel “kind of embarrassed.” The other child said it made him feel “sad” because “it's not nice, because I don't like this.”
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The boys were also sporting new, short haircuts with patches of hair shaved off. The 7-year-old said the new haircut made him feel “ridiculous.”
Maze said she was punishing her sons for months of bad behavior, but said it was supposed to protect them. "I would rather them be embarrassed and straighten up, then getting into fights and going to jail, killing somebody," Maze said. "We live in a hard city.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Shiener said Maze’s technique may be misguided. "Public humiliation never works," Shiener said. "It makes the child angry and the kid holds you responsible instead of reflecting on his own behavior."
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He added that public humiliation may have the opposite result. "A lot of times bad behavior is attention seeking and whatever is going on, it sounds like these kids are getting a whole lot of attention," he said. "And maybe that is what they want, they don't know how to get it any other way.”
Sheiner’s opinions were echoed by psychoanalyst Alice Miller in her book “Every Smack is a Humiliation.” She wrote, "Battered children will batter others, punished children act punitively, children lied to become liars themselves." Children who are humiliated may, in turn, seek to humiliate others.
"I don't care what other people think of my parenting," Maze said. "Until it sinks in, until they get the hint that, if you keep acting this way, you are going to stay out here as long as it takes.”
Sheiner recommends parents reinforce good behavior and ignore the bad behavior. Maze said that if her humilating methods don’t work, she might seek the help of Inkster police to scare her sons straight.
Image: Screen captures via My Fox Detroit