Australia is abuzz over the story of a mother who forced her son to wear a sign declaring that he is a thief. But now the mother is defending herself, saying her tough love approach is to ensure that the boy does not follow in her own criminal footsteps.
Over the weekend the woman had her 10-year-old son sit in a park for an hour with a sign around his neck that read "Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief." The boy apparently stole candy bars from a store as well as $5 from his mother's wallet.
"I have lived a life that most people would not dream of and I am trying to stop my child from going down the same road because, even though I have sorted myself out, it took me 10 years," the woman, whose name was not revealed, told the Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
"I did the same thing as my son, shoplifting as a teenager, and then it escalated because I didn't have a mum to teach me right from wrong. I wished when I was a child I had my mother do to me what I did and teach me good values," she said.
The mother said her son started stealing at age seven, swiping video games and money from the wallets of his teachers. She has tried all sorts of things to get him to stop, to no avail.
"I've taken him to the police station to see the cells and how people get charged, we have gone to the court house and sat in front of the judge watching people get sentenced."
She tried counseling, and that didn't work either. So she came up with the sign.
While some people praised the idea, others predicted it would not work.
"This is probably not the way forward. This approach is a quick-fix. It's punitive, highly coercive and is based on trying to shame or embarrass the child into behaving," said University of Queensland Parenting and Family Support Center director Professor Matt Sanders. "If it doesn't work, what's your back-up? You've already pulled out the big guns."