Unorthodox Teen Discipline Prompts Criticism

In a story surprising equally for the unapologetic ingenuity of its protagonist and the gross oversensitivity it uncovers in the general public, ABC reports that one woman has taken her fight against inappropriate social media behavior deep into enemy territory:

At first, it might seem like your typical case of modern parental discipline: A Texas mom has prohibited her 12-year-old daughter from using the photo-sharing site Instagram after she caught the girl posting a photo of herself holding an unopened bottle of vodka with a caption that read “I sure wish I could drink this.”

But it’s what ReShonda Tate Billingsley did next that has people buzzing: Billinglsey, a prominent Houston-area author, had her daughter post a new picture of herself to Instagram earlier this month holding a sign reading, “Since I want to post photos of me holding liquor, I am obviously not ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus until I learn what I should (and) should not post. Bye-bye.”

Billingsley then posted the same photo – in which only the lower half of her daughter’s face was visible – to her own personal Facebook page and it has since gone viral. It has seen 11,000 shares from Facebook alone, not to mention attention from various media outlets.

It was a clever move on the part of Billingsley and effective, apparently so much so that the daughter begged for a spanking as an alternative. What I love about this, particularly when compared to corporal punishment, is there is a logical relationship between the “crime” and the “punishment.” Most obviously, if children abuse social media, they should have their access to social media restricted. Moreover, with the theoretically limitless reach of online behavior, the act of forcing her daughter to own up to her mistakes is equally essential. When I committed some indiscretion against someone, some public act of bad behavior, as a child, I was required to apologize to all those who were effected by said behavior. As Instagram was the arena of her malfeasance, then it is appropriate that she should own up to her mistakes through in the same place.

For some reason, however, the “public shaming” has apparently made Billingsley the target of serious criticism. Aside from the presumptuousness of child-rearing professionals and the public at large meddling in other people’s parenting in ways they would never permit in their own families, the real problem with this is the labeling of the second picture as the embarrassment rather than the first. It is precisely this misconception that Billingsley’s choice of discipline can serve to correct. The shameful act is not and should not be taking public responsibility for one’s actions and accepting the consequences of them, as Billingsley made her daughter do. It is the careless and deeply inappropriate act of a twelve year old announcing to the world how much she would love to be able to drink hard liquor. When the child’s aberrant behavior ceases to shock and the act of publicly taking responsibility offends, it becomes clear that the world is hopelessly confused about what is truly shameful.

And just so that we can all gain a little perspective, let’s all take a look at this mother in Mexico City who also employed an unorthodox punishment:

A mother in Mexico has been arrested on suspicion of gouging out the eyes of her 5-year-old son during a ceremony…The mother is believed to have removed the eyes with her bare hands because the boy refused to close them during the ceremony, police told a news conference.

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2 thoughts on “Unorthodox Teen Discipline Prompts Criticism

  1. swallison50 says:

    A twelve year old made a childish mistake and therefore deserves for thousands to be informed about it? I don’t think so. Seems an unnecessary humiliation to me. I think this presumes greater moral culpability than she was capable. But of course I do not know about how the mom and daughter interacted, and how they felt and their intentions and their feelings about the punishment before it was carried out nor prior warnings/discussions. The extent of notoriety was probably not expected. In which case, the mom probably learned a lesson about social media as well. Hopefully, one day down the road they can find a way to laugh about it and find meaning from the situation in a way that despite it all, enhances their relationship. On the story from Mexico, my how awful.

    • I also don’t have any knowledge of the greater scope of their relationship or their mindset or previous discipline/expectations of consequences, something that it is important for all of us to remember as we comment on news (which all too often is just people’s private lives dragged into the public sphere).

      But the “punishment” seems perfectly just and logical to me as it matches the “crime” exactly. The offense was committed on social media. The apology should take place there as well. More importantly, the primary point I was trying to make is that the original picture ought to be what is considered the humiliation. Not the apology. Having your child take responsibility for her actions is dignified, not humiliating. That our society perceives otherwise is what’s offensive to me.

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