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Are You an Extreme Parent?

Remember mean mom Jane Hambleton? Back in January of last year, she became the coolest mom by selling her son's car after discovering alcohol in the car. The ad that ran at the time was this:

"OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."

Hambleton's parenting technique was both effective and earned Hambleton and her 19-year-old spots on the television circuit.

Now Hambleton has some company in "cool" parent land. Their names are Don and Tanyeil General. Tired of their son's poor grades and plenty of ineffective punishment, the Generals gave son Trenton (who goes by Trey) a choice -- lose the cell phone for two weeks or stand on a public street corner for two hours, according to WTKR in Chesapeake.

Trey chose the corner, where he held up a sign showing his grades and the words, "my future equals shaky."

The Generals report that the public response has been amazing, with lots of people supporting the parents' desperate move and people encouraging Trey. What the Generals probably didn't expect, though, were the visits to their home and other children's school from child protective services. Despite that, the family says the punishment was well worth it. After all, Trey is a changed teen, just what his parents wanted.

How far would you go to teach your kids a lesson?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 19, 2009; 1:44 PM ET  | Category:  Discipline , Teens
Previous: Do Kids Screw Up Marriages? | Next: 'Young and Stupid'


I think the Generals' attempt at public humiliation as a way to correct their son is ineffective at best, and possibly even detrimental. The solution to bad grades is to determine what is causing them, and then to implement measures to improve them. The first step is to figure out why the kid is getting bad grades. Is it a learning disability, poor study habits, is he just so behind that he can't catch up, or is it pure laziness? Then implement some changes. Get a tutor or structure his time so that he is studying, even if it means you have to micromanage his life for a while. Taking away the cell phone might be a good idea if it means it frees up some time that he would otherwise be wasting. I might also throw away the tv and video games, or at least put them in storage for a while, not as punishment per say, but as a recognition that these things often tempt kids to waste time that they would otherwise spend studying.

Standing on a corner for two hours with an embarrassing sign on his chest will not improve his grades, or provide him with better study habits or any other tool that will ameliorate the situation. IMO, it is a really stupid way of handing a problem that likely has a solution if the parents were willing to spend some time to think about it.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

um, emily8 - according to the WTKR story linked in the post:

"His parents say they've tried everything from tutoring, printing off extra credit assignments, taking him to doctors who say say he has no learning A-D-D or A-D-H-D."

I can certainly appreciate that some folks don't agree with this attempt at discipline, but for you to suggest that these parents haven't tried to find a better solution and just need to spend some time thinking about the problem is simply unfair. They say they've tried exactly what you suggest, without success.

And the kid did have a choice, and he chose the sign.

Posted by: d1964b | February 19, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

No one can accurately measure the frustration or know the actual conversations within that family. With that being said, kids will respond to different methods. This kid was given a choice and standing on the corner was the thing that brought him enough of a wake-up call to finally get that his parents were serious about their son not failing out.

In the grand scheme which is more detrimental to the kid - flunking out because he was too lazy or two hours on the corner? I would be willing to risk my kids future on a couple of hours of humiliation that was not "physically" harmful. And.... we shall not judge another family until we've lived in their home.....

Posted by: tecatesdream | February 19, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the Generals were too lazy to figure out any other way to teach their son the value of education.

It's disheartening that parents are being rewarded for using public humiliation to "teach" their children anything. The sale of the car in the first case was admirable, as the son had both violated her rules and possibly the law. But what was the point of noting that she was selling the car because she was a "snoopy mom," other than to garner attention for how "extreme" she was? I'm sure there have been many other parents who have sold the cars, video games, bikes, etc. of their children as punishment, but none of them felt the need to let the world know how awesome they were for doing it.

My real fear is that lazy parents will jump to public humiliation before trying other forms of punishment or education. Who cares that it may hurt some kids a lot more than it helps; the parents will get a pat on the back for being "extreme," and that's what matters, right?

Posted by: dkp01 | February 19, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Great parents! I love a little creativity. Life is full of humiliation. The sooner you get used to it, the better off you'll be. Not to mention the fact that not graduating/performing poorly as an adult would be humiliating too.

And the boy did have a choice (he could have lost his phone privileges for a measly two weeks). I can't believe that CPS got involved.

Posted by: heather37 | February 19, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

The fact that the kid had a choice in the punishment does not make the punishment effective or appropriate. I don't think enough time has gone by to truly judge the effect of the humiliating 2 hours. It makes for a great publicity stunt, but IMO, the punishment is neither creative, productive, or far sighted. It is just another waste of 2 hours that could have been spent studying.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

fr emily8:

>...It makes for a great publicity stunt, but IMO, the punishment is neither creative, productive, or far sighted. It is just another waste of 2 hours that could have been spent studying.

You are exactly correct. These so-called "parents" obviously don't care that they publicly humiliated their son. How would THEY feel if THEY had to stand on a street corner with some dumb sign for 2 hours?

Posted by: Alex511 | February 19, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I think that they should have at least stood on the corner with him with signs that said - We are failures as parents and this is our solution.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

It is just another waste of 2 hours that could have been spent studying.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Apparently you don't read so well. He was not doing any studying. The problem is parents like you without the backbone to do anything or hold him accountable. Public humiliation is a VERY effective tool. But liberal pantywastes like you just can't stomach anything less than an oprah show.

Posted by: pwaa | February 19, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

pwaa - Get a grip. I may be a liberal, but you are psychotic. If I were a betting person, I would bet that Trey's grades will be no better by the end of the next grading period.

Extreme parenting does not equal good parenting. In fact, I would say that if you were a good parent to begin with, which means you model for your child, give them consistent rules and guidance, as well as consquences, and show them love and respect, that you would not have to resort to these ridiculous extreme measures. Trey is a reflection of his parents. His failure is their failure. They need to take ownership of it and handle it appropriately.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Emily in every respect, so I guess I am a pantywaist too (but not a "pantywaste," as pwaa so inelegantly put it - that sounds like something really icky).

Posted by: CharmCityMom | February 19, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Emily8 psychotic? LOL. The support of his parents probably runs 100-1. But liberals like Emily8 will keep wringing their hands, having jelly for backbones and letting kids go down the tubes.By the way the dad said the change in the boy is markedly for the better. It worked, fortunately for Trey he had parents unlike you who truly cared about him and held him accountable.

Posted by: pwaa | February 19, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

CharmCityMom -

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"The support of his parents probably runs 100-1"

I don't care if the support for the parents runs at a million to one. This stunt is geared toward the Jerry Springer crowd, and it bothers me not one bit what these people think because I am confident that they are wrong.

Thoreau said that any man more right than his neighbours constitutes a majority of one. In this case, we have a majority of a few (along with CharmCityMom and Alex), but although we are few in numbers, we are right. The fact that our views don't appeal to the lowest common denominator does not really matter.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Child Protective Services, eh? They often don't do squat about situations in which kids end up getting beaten, frozen, or cooked to death, but God forbid a parent should try to find creative ways of getting a kid back on track.

Frozen? Yes. A year or two ago where I live (Salt Lake City), a 9-year-old boy was killed by being forced to stand in garbage can filled with a shoulder-deep mixture of 20 gallons of ice and 7 gallons of water for 45 minutes until he died of hypothermia.

Cooked? Remember the baby in the microwave not all that long ago?

Compared to cases like that, what's standing on a street corner? Besides easier to detect, I mean.

If CPS is going to protect children from effective parenting, they should also be prepared to protect them from society for the rest of their lives.

Posted by: billmosby | February 19, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Typical liberal arrogance, if you are overwhelmingly rejected then the majority are the jerry springer crowd huh. I get it you are one of those who desperately wants their kid to like them, call you friend etc. Fortunately most parents have common sense reject your nonsense.

Posted by: pwaa | February 19, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

You get nothing pwaa. I will only reference my older son since my daughter is just a baby, but my son knows what his responsibilities are and what the consequences for not meeting them are. We limit tv and video games. He has chores and obligations. And at the risk of sounding like I am bragging about my child, he is a great student who loves learning. We always tell him that being smart is not enough. You have to work hard to be successful.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"The support of his parents probably runs 100-1. But liberals like Emily8 will keep wringing their hands, having jelly for backbones and letting kids go down the tubes.By the way the dad said the change in the boy is markedly for the better. It worked, . . ."

Whether or not the support for his parents probably runs 100-1, I don't parent by popular vote. Do you?

In the interest of full disclosure, I completely disagree with emily.

Guess what? There's no evidence she is wringing her hands, spineless, raising Satan's spawn, or politically liberal. OTOH, perhaps you are all of those things, pwaa, if your hysterial overreaction to disagreements about news of the day produces a scorced-earth approach to those with whom you disagree.

I prefer to deal in facts than assumptions. Besides facts are more enlightening than anonymous irrelevant insults. So let's look at the facts. We don't know whether "it worked". If the goal was to produce better grades - presumably on more than a couple of mid-quarter quizzes and homework assignments - the jury is out for a few weeks at least. Perhaps this will work. I don't personally doubt it. But before we start touting the rightness of our parenting philosophy, let's see some long-term data to support it before we declare it righteous.

Posted by: anonfornow | February 19, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, but there is evidence that I am politically liberal. I admit it. I don't consider that an insult. More of a badge of honor.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse


I only know that from other comments, not these. Whether it is an insult or a compliment, it is a silly label to toss around based on what you've said today -- right up there with, "and she likes spinach, too, so there!" Anyone who can't argue substance with you doesn't deserve the benefit of your thoughts.

Posted by: anonfornow | February 19, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

LOL. Should I offer pwaa some spinach pie as a peace offering?

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Apparently you missed the smug, i am right regardless of what anyone else thinks screed of Emily8 , but that is beside the point. People who are spineless and shrink from discipline are not doing their kids andy favors. I remember during a game not listening to my coach and being a poor sport. My dad made me pick up trash after the game and I had to answer to my friends why i was doing that. I never did that again becuase I learned a lesson. Was it humiliating? yes. Did i change my behavior, yes and for good. Fortunately my dad knew that and loved me. He didn't get me with a counselor, berate the coach on my behalf, or just make some feeble gesture. He ACTED, God Bless him.

Posted by: pwaa | February 19, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

"People who are spineless and shrink from discipline are not doing their kids andy favors."

Actually, we agree on that, pwaa. Perhaps what we don't agree on is what constitutes appropriate and effective discipline. A few weeks ago, my son was very rude to me and his father. We had just sent out birthday party invitations for him. His punishment was to call everyone that was invited and tell them that the party had been cancelled as punishment for his rudeness. We sat with him as we made the calls, and we then spoke to the parents ourselves. But he called every single person on the list and explained, and including his grandparents, uncles, and cousins. My parents thought it was over the top, but I think the my son got the message. And we think it was an appropriate punishment that taught a lesson. I just don't think that standing on a corner with a sign is necessarily effective. If I were parenting Trey, I would take away his cell phone for 2 months and not give him a choice in it. I would also make sure I am home every night, watching him do his homework in a quiet room. I would make him show me his assignments, and his work. There would be no other activities until that homework was done, and I would keep up the routine for as long as it took. In the meantime, no tv, video games etc.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Well, what if he said NO! and called you a derogatory name? Some kids are so stubborn that you could strip every possession from them and they wouldn't care. The point is that you must be willing to go to an "extreme" if the situation warrants. In the interest of being fair, you did the right thing. Only the parents can rule the house or the kids are lost.

Posted by: pwaa | February 19, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

It is comforting to know that omniscient pwaa - the author of "the smug, i am right regardless of what anyone else thinks screed" - declared "in the interest of being fair" that someone's parent did the "right thing".

Posted by: lucyo74 | February 19, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

emily8, spinach pie would be an appropriate peace offering for this one, LOL.

Let's wish Trey the best. If his cell phone is worth more to him than his dignity, he has a ways to go in reaching maturity.

Posted by: anonfornow | February 19, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, public humiliation aside, I still don't get how Trey's parents are exemplary. If it works in the long run - and we don't know that it will - it looks like perfect strangers did a better job than his parents of convincing Trey of the need for education. They had him for fifteen years, and in two hours, other people managed to succeed where they had epically failed. Now they're being hailed as good parents. Priceless.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 19, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I did my best parenting before I became one. AFTER delivery is when the FUN starts! I definitely was an extreme parent; I was too aware of my responsibility as a single parent of twins to worry about whether or not I was their best friend. My parenting job description included provision of roof, food, clothing, love, & discipline, NONE of which was required of their friends!

Posted by: lunasatic | February 19, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

In the interest of fairness, sometimes a little life experience is a great of way teaching a kid that an education is necessary. Years ago, my brother decided that the purpose of college was to have fun. So he had a great time for a semester and managed to fail all his classes. But boy did he have fun. So my parents pulled him out and took him home. They made him get a job at the local grocery store. Of course he hated it. So he then got another job somewhere else that he hated as much. Those low end jobs aren't much fun. He paid rent and was not allowed to use the family car, so he either had to ride his bike, take the bus, or walk to get around. After a few months of this, he realized what his life would be like without a college education, so he enrolled at the local community college and began studying in earnest (on his own dime this time). He graduated and then went to grad school and is now gainfully employed. He says the most instructive years of his life were those few months working retail and riding his bike around town.

Posted by: emily8 | February 19, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

My teen (age 17) thinks I'm an extreme parent because I won't let her go to senior week at the beach to spend the week partying.

Here's the rub...there are plenty of kids in her group who are going and not only that, there are parents accompanying the kids in order to buy the beer and make sure the kids don't drive. Never mind that the drinking age is 21 and what they are doing is illegal. Apparently, breaking the law is no big deal when you don't agree with it. That is what these parents are teaching their kids.

Those of us who have chosen to be responsible parents and say 'no' to this tradition of 'looking the other way' while 16, 17, 18 yr old kids spend a week tying one on, get chastened by the permissive parents.

This despite the fact that a few years ago a family in our school, who after repeatedly provided alcohol to their child and other teens because 'they needed to learn to drink before going off to college', lost their only child when he got behind the wheel while he was drunk and hit a tree the night before he was leaving for college.

My point is doing the right thing is often difficult. My daughter is angry with me. Her friends don't like me because I have have pointed out to other parents the legal liability involved in giving minors alcohol. I'm sure some of the parents don't like me pointing out that what they're doing is illegal. BUT at least I know if my child makes a wrong choice, it wasn't because I did every thing in my power to keep her safe and teach her right from wrong.

I don't necessary agree with the standing on the corner with a sign method but sometimes parents have no choice but to take drastic measures, providing there is no physical harm involved. There is nothing wrong with saying no and/or enforcing strict consequences. I applaud these parents.

Posted by: Think4yourself2 | February 19, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

"Trenton felt good about the emails too. "I say thanks for the support because I'm doing much better.""

So it seems that young Trey DID learn something as a result of his 2 hours of "humiliation." If you bothered to read the article, you would understand that (1) the parents had tried most all of conventional rewards/punishments (2) had the child examined for and physical or mental problem (3) the parents and the child read the emails that have been sent in response to this means of discipline.

This is not the form of discipline that I would choose for my children but as another writer pointed out, some children are immune to textbook and pop psychology.

Better young Trey spend 2 hours in public rather than a perp walk as so many of our lost children.

And Emily, I see a future for you in CPS, you might learn what real child abuse is.

And as to the writer who says "and she likes spinach, too, so there!" Maybe that person was writing in a humorous, ironic or satirical way and not as an actual rebuttal to Emily's comments.

Posted by: anonthistime | February 19, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

"Better young Trey spend 2 hours in public rather than a perp walk as so many of our lost children."

Nice job setting these two choices up as the lone, opposing alternatives. A few others come to mind:

grounded for several months until performance improves

homeschooling,military school or some other dramatic change of environment that separates him from questionable friends and/or offers a fresh start

moving. Yup, consider moving the whole family to a new school district.

Any number of other actions. Make your own list.

Parenting is at its best when it is tailored to the kid. In order to do that, it is necessary to avoid falling into the pattern of thinking, my only choices are A and B. B is unacceptable so I must choose A. What is truly least acceptable is to apply less creativity to parenting a kid headed down the wrong path than one would apply to solving a problem with moles in the yard or a kitchen plumbing disaster.

Posted by: anonfornow | February 19, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Nice job setting these two choices up as the lone, opposing alternatives

I never said those were the only 2 choices. Maybe the family considered others ways to deal with this problem and were found to be unsatisfactory. I don't know. I do know that I will never harshly judge a parent's actions short of continuing mental duress or physical abuse.

Anonfornow seems to have a bright future in family counseling.

As for Emily, I think she should be reported to a food safety specialist from the USDA for what she does with innocent spinach.

Posted by: anonthistime | February 19, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

When my son, now 16, was in the 5th grade, his grades were not very good. He had been warned he needed to work harder. I told him I would be perfectly happy to go to school with him if that would help.
So I did. I packed my lunch and went to school with him all day, sitting next to him in every class and at lunch, taking notes on his homework and the lessons. The principal and teacher thought it was the most wonderful thing they had ever seen.

His grades, by the way, went up.

Posted by: astamand | February 19, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Give him a choice? To keep his phone? Why? Take the phone, and every night, sit down with him and watch him do his work. Sit right down beside him with their taxes or whatever else they might have had to do, and watch him do his work. Addressing a problem directly. Johnny is failing math, so sit down with Johnny and ask, "What's the problem Johnny? Let's go over your work together." That's called parenting.

They didn't try everything. He still had his cell phone. Wow. He's probably the one who called child services.

Posted by: catweasel3 | February 19, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

It is very hard to predict how one's parenting style will affect one's child. I was raised with absolutely no limits, rules or discipline whatsoever (1970s, Berkeley, CA). My response? I got straight As, went to college, then to med school, then did a PhD. I now do biological research at a major university. Had my parents pushed me, who knows what would have happened? But given my rebellious personality, it's a safe bet I would have flunked out "just to show them."

Posted by: undisciplinedchild | February 19, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

People who don't have teenagers probably shouldn't pass judgement on those who do. Worrying about whether or not my child is rude to me or dad (so, by golly, I'll cancel his birthday party!) is exponentially different than dealing with teenage concerns. With some issues (high school grades are one of them) you don't get any "do overs."

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | February 20, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Think4yourself2, you made the right decision regarding beach week. I still do not quite "get it" why graduation from high school is a justifiable raison d'etre for a week of adult-free debauchery at the beach. It's not as if graduation from high school is a stellar achievement--it's an expected part of one's development and a minimum one at that. Our sons were not allowed to go unless an adult (as in parent of one of the guys) went with them. Consequently, they did not go to the beach, and believe it or not they couldn't have cared less after that summer had passed. Life went on and they had no lasting scars from this meanness on our part. Your daughter will get over it.

Posted by: lsturt | February 20, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how far I would go. A lot of it would depend on the stakes involved. A little public humiliation would be better than death? broken back? missing foot? jail time?

We haven't gotten to extreme parenting but despite our struggles, our child's behaviour is not yet extreme. If it would extreme, I would certainly want to clear the problem up with he is 6 and not be tackling it when he is 16.

Posted by: Billie_R | February 20, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I've had people call me mean or crazy because I (GASP!) make my first-grader do chores! And I mean chores that are appropriate for her age, like picking up her toys, choosing appropriate clothes for school, making her bed, etc. No TV time until homework or homeschooling is done, and even then it's something parent-approved with a 2-hour limit. Punishments are tailored to the "crime," and they have been effective thus far. (You make a mess, you clean it up, or you talk back to someone, you have to apologize are two examples.) Once in kindergarten she acted up in school and got sent to the principal's office. After they called us, her punishment was to miss Field Day that week, on top of no TV at home for a weekend! She hasn't done that since!

Think4yourself2, I also stand with you and applaud Jane Hambleton and the Generals for their creative punishments. While some see them as extreme, I see them as hammering the point home. The teenagers broke the family rules (and in the case of the booze in the car, the LAW), and they needed to be punished. If the results are positive, it's worth it!

If more parents actually PARENTED their kids like these families did instead of mollycoddling them, the world would be a far better place! I'm sick of seeing kids whose parents blame the teacher for their bad grades (my mom used to teach high school, and yes, she actually had parents do that!) or not bothering to actually discipline their children and instead let them run wild.

The truly scary part is, those kids grow up to be adults who still act like spoiled selfish kids...yikes.

And Emily, stay away from my spinach patch! (Just kidding!) Seriously, if you want a recipe for spinach quiche or something, let me know!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | February 20, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

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