Twerking Pre-Teen’s Public Punishment: Why It May Backfire

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It was one thing for Miley Cyrus to do it on national television, but a California mom warned her daughter before a school dance that it wasn’t okay for the 11-year old.

When Frances Hena learned that her daughter had defied her and twerked anyway, she punished her pre-teen with a two-hour stint at a busy intersection wearing a sign that read ‘I was disrespecting my parents by twerking at a school dance.’

While the woman wanted to embarrass her daughter into realizing that twerking was not acceptable, she told ABC News that she also hoped the public exposure of her daughter’s scolding would deter other young children from doing the suggestive dance moves.

But the humiliating punishment is drawing as much attention and controversy as Cyrus’ performance. While some parents supported her unusual strategy, child development experts say that such punishments are inappropriate and likely to backfire.

Studies consistently show, for example, that children whose parents used humiliation to discipline them grew up to be less confident and more prone to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.  And shaming connected with an issue related to sexuality — liking making your daughter stand in public with a sign related to a racy dance move — may lead to even more damaging effects.  While repeated and blatant humiliation is the most dangerous, experts say that even rare or minor humiliations can do harm.

“Unequivocally, it’s a bad thing  to do and certainly has negative long term consequences,” says Dr. Claudia Gold, who runs the early childhood social and emotional health program at Newton Wellesley hospital in Massachusetts.

According to a recent study, children who had parents with restrictive parenting styles and were shamed into submission were less able to resist temptation in lab-based tests — and presumably that could translate into less self-control with regard to food, alcohol and other drugs in real life as adults.

MORE: Being Ashamed of Drinking Prompts Relapse, Not Recovery

Other research found that when it comes to dieting and addictive behavior, shaming doesn’t deter or alter people’s actions. Alcoholics who displayed more shame about drinking, for example, were more likely to relapse. Other research documented similar effects related to embarrassment- or humiliation-based strategies for helping obese people to avoid overeating.

Gold doesn’t question Hena’s concern for her child, but worries that the scolding might actually lead her daughter to rebel more: “The mother was probably terrified that something was going to happen to her child because she was doing this sexualized [dance],” she says. “But then she unwittingly  goes and does exactly the kind of thing that will cause [more of] that kind of behavior.”

By shaming children, Gold says, parents tend to trigger a sense of despair and a feeling that they are already immutably damaged. Instead, parents can establish structure and enforce rules by using predictable and proportionate consequences for breaking those rules. Most important, mom and dad should explain why such behavior is inappropriate and by discussing these issues, model the type of mutually respectful relationships they want their children to have.  Embarrassing children may not be the best way to keep them from embarrassing themselves later.

17 comments
waincb
waincb

Of course fat middle aged women hate twerking...modesty is a pathetic attempt by ugly people to level the playing field.

hinck07
hinck07

Why did the mother want to put her daughter on display for every pervert in town.  It's almost like she said" here she is-come get her."  this "punishment" could have ended very tragically.

zberata
zberata

This is an inappropriate punishment for an 11 year old, and I feel, abusive mentally and emotionally, and could have drastic physical repercussions from the risk of standing near an intersection. Cars have enough distractions, they do not need signs distracting them. 

Consider an intersection busy for two hours, how dangerous it is. She could have been run over by a drunk who came up on the curb. One's behaviors and the consequences of them, should be kept private. Don't give that kind of behavior so much attention. Education as to what could happen if one engages in that type of behavior early... more effective than abusive public shaming. 

smoranvi
smoranvi

To those that say this is horrible.. are you even serious? Kids need to understand the impact of their actions and it is unbelievable to me that anyone thinks this activity is ok for a young girl that should really be aspiring to be a young lady. Have we completely lost all of our values and morals as a society, oh yes I forgot we have....

AndrewRiegle
AndrewRiegle

I understand that maybe this wasn't the ideal punishment, but this mother isn't a "horrible parent."  11 year olds should not be twerking.    

MeggieFrancisco
MeggieFrancisco

This is horrible. Mom made it "all about me" when in reality the girl only disrespected herself. This deserved a concerned and loving talk about sexuality and self respect. Not humiliation.

RikaFranklin
RikaFranklin

Man, people really need a license to breed...

ShannonRusnak
ShannonRusnak

If her daughter had no problem twerking at her high school dance, she shouldn't have a problem standing at the corner.  If it's not something you'd want to do in public (like on a street corner), a high school dance floor isn't appropriate either.

GerrennJennings
GerrennJennings

This parent is horrible. Its a freaking dance - I'm a parent of 2. Her daughter did nothing wrong..... Just a mom that wants her 15 mins of fame............... This is child abuse... not a justified punishment.......... Glad my kids don't know her..

Dion
Dion

Mom: "I told you I don't want you twerking!"

Mom: "Now I want you to tell the WHOLE WORLD that you twerked! That'll show ya!"

Yeah, absolutely brilliant. Let's give her more attention for the s1ut-ty dance she did. Mom of the year right here. What could possibly go wrong?

queenofromania
queenofromania

Since when did the negative, long term consequences of doing something ever stop Americans from doing what they do?

AmberStrout
AmberStrout

@GerrennJennings you're ignorant if you think twerking is "just a dance".  No eleven year old CHILD should ever do it for any reason, certainly not after her parents asked her not to.  Definitely not in public and most certainly not at a school dance.  How dare you judge one parent for teaching HER child a lesson in the way she thinks is going to work best for that child.  You don't know either of them.  Jump off your high horse and get your head out of the clouds.  At least this little girl made it home.  Twerking in public can lead to all kinds of issues for children.  They are not aware enough to the sexual connotations this dance may  bring from others.  If this little girl thought she way old enough to twerk in public, why isn't she old enough to admit she did in public?

Askker
Askker

Horrible? Child abuse? And now we know why today's youth do the things they do!! Glad my kids won't be anywhere near yours.....