Batavia, NY - A Batavia mother made her son stand outside wearing a sign that says "I steal from my parents," and a neighbor called the cops.
"I had brought him out here because I've been having non-stop issues for the past year as far as him taking whatever he feels, you know, is his in the house," says mother Kelly Howell.
After trying several forms of punishment including grounding him, taking toys away and making him clean, Howell made her 8-year-old son stand outside their Batavia home with a sign.
"Love him to death, but at some point, before he gets old enough to be arrested for taking things, you gotta start somewhere," she says.
We are blurring her son's face because he is a minor.
"I'd seen something on Facebook about a kid that had bullied, and this mother with a sign out by the road with the kid, and it popped up, and I'm like maybe I should have him stand outside, and then he'll realize the seriousness," she adds.
So around noon on Friday, Howell went outside with her son, and they got a lot of attention.
"People might not like it, but I mean, I don't know how he's gonna take the attention that he's gotten because he's gotten positive and negative but hopefully he will be embarrassed enough and learn that, you know, you can't take things that aren't yours," says Howell.
"She chose to make a spectacle of things and bully her son," said neighbor Arnold Wagner.
Wagner drove by and called police and Child Protective Services on Howell.
"The mother was not charged. She was out there actively supervising the child and the child had specific instructions as to what to do if anyone did stop," said Batavia Police Officer Eric Hill.
But Wagner isn't satisfied. He wants to see a law against these types of punishments.
"In my opinion, it is just parental bullying. Another form of bullying. If I was in school, and I was the bigger child, and I were to do something to a smaller child, I would be in trouble," explains Wagner.
"I don't know about that. In this case, it was discipline of a child for doing something wrong. She's tried everything and nothing seems to be working, so she thought outside the box, I guess," says Hill.
We brought the video of Howell's son to a child psychologist who says this type of punishment is a growing trend in parenting.
"It's not necessarily the most effective type of discipline. It's part of a style of parenting where you're using power and the research is pretty clear that parenting that's based on power works in the short term, but may have some long term consequences," says Dr. Pamela Schuetze.
Schuetze says a consequence where the child learns how his actions hurt others is the most effective and that shaming doesn't necessarily do that.
"That kind of shame is not something that he is going to forget. In terms of his relationship with his parents, it's possible that there may be some damage there. I mean, one of the things to be an effective parent, you want your children to be able to trust you and to be able to rely on you when they're feeling vulnerable, and this may have an impact on that," she says.
Wagner still thinks the punishment is too harsh, but Howell stands by her decision.
"The child is 7ish. I mean, there have to be better ways to get a 7-year-old to behave. He's 7. I mean, you're not 7. You're old. You're his parent. It's your job to find better ways or don't be a parent, I'm sorry," says Wagner.
"He knows I love him. And, that's why I'm out here with him and the sign and he's not going a year without his toys, you know, I have three kids. I get to my breaking point and I would rather him be out here for a little and kind of be embarrassed and hopefully get it through his head then have him miserable and not be able to play for a year," says Howell.
Howell says she made her son stand outside off and on until about five Friday night so people coming home from work would see him.
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