Now that we’ve got rid of the stocks, this will have to do to punish young pilferers

Namby-pamby molloycoddlers around the world are expressing their outrage today at the mother who tried shaming her son into abstaining from stealing.

The mother made her young son sit in public in Townville wearing a sign declaring “I am a thief”.

But his humiliation did not end there – he was made to wear Shrek ears and was also seen writing lines, believed to say repeatedly that he would not steal, according to dozens of witnesses who contacted the Townsville Bulletin.

The boy spent almost an hour on Sunday near a popular park in Townsville while his family ate lunch nearby.

The mother has explained to the Daily Telegraph – and a damned good explanation, too – that she didn’t want him to make the same mistakes she did.

She said the “tough love” – which both appalled and inspired the nation – was aimed at stopping her son following her footsteps into a life of crime.

The mum said she had tried everything to stop her 10-year-old son stealing, including showing him inside a cell and taking him to court.

But after stealing chocolate bars from a local shop and $5 from his mother’s wallet, she forced him to sit in a Townsville park for one hour with the sign reading: “Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief.”

This seems to be an apt punishment, a bit like putting offenders in the stocks in the good old days.

But in the era of political correctness it is regarded as unusual and unacceptable, which is why – presumably – it has made headlines around the world.

A debate has been triggered between those who understand the mother’s frustration and praise her (Alf stands proudly in this camp) and others who condemn her actions.

The Telegraph reports –

The woman, who holds a steady job to provide for three children on her own, said she wished her mum had taken a tough stance: “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.

“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.”

It seems her son began stealing at age seven, taking video games and money from teachers’ wallets.

She said he received monthly counselling but it had no impact:

“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.”

The mum said her son, described as active and popular with friends, had “a loving home, lots of attention, lots of games, so there is no reason to be doing what he is doing unless he thinks it is a game”.

But sure enough, some academic would be found to cluck his disapproval.

University of Queensland Parenting and Family Support Centre director Professor Matt Sanders said the “shame and humiliation” approach was unlikely to have the desired effect.

“It can backfire by kids getting resentful and going underground, especially if they are picked on by their peer group,” he said.

“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.

“If it doesn’t work, what’s your back-up? You’ve already pulled out the big guns.”

And then, of course, there were the interfering busy-bodies.

The Herald-Sun says –

Diane Mayers was so “horrified” when she saw the boy she contacted Child Safety Services to intervene.

“The boy just kept his head down and was staring at the ground,” Ms Mayers said.

“A lot of people walked past and were laughing at him.”

And a Townsville child psychologist, Nicole Pierotti, said she was “shocked” at this form of punishment.

Ms Pierotti agreed humiliation was not the best way to punish the child.

“This gives the child the message that they should be sneakier,” she said.

“He’s learning ‘don’t get caught’.

“It also makes you wonder what else goes on in the family.

“Parents are supposed to be the people a child can trust.

“It would be far more appropriate, if he had stolen something from a shop, to make him go back to the shop and say what he had done.

“They could even prep the shopkeeper on what was happening too… that would be much better than humiliating him in public.”

There is a damned good reason why this form of punishment will not catch on in Australia, of course.

The Aussies basically stem from criminal stock – bad buggers who were shipped out from Britain back in the 1800s.

Stealing is in their genes.

If this public branding thing caught on, perhaps a majority of Aussies would have to wear one for pilfering.

They would run out of signs.

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