Social Question

Cruiser's avatar

Would what this mom did help or hurt her child get better grades?

Asked by Cruiser (34641 points ) February 22nd, 2011

“Ronda Holder is being criticized for forcing her 15-year-old son James to stand on a street corner with a sign reading, “GPA 1.22… honk if I need education,”

“She says she has tried anything and everything to get him to raise his grades. Her many attempts to help him were unsuccessful, but it was ultimately his indifference to the matter that prompted her to punish him publicly.”

I guess time will tell to see if her strategy helps her son get better grades. There are many layers of questions here with regards to good grades and as a parent mayself, it takes a lot of hard work for both my kids and me to help them stay on task and get good grades!

Anyone here agree with Ms Holder here in what she did? Do you have similar struggles with your own child or do you now as a student have trouble getting good grades and wish your parents pushed you harder or expected more from you? Or should Ms Holder be forced to stand on the street with a sandwich board saying I am a bad parent and my kids grades show it?

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18 Answers

syz's avatar

I suppose it depends on what other methods she’s already tried, and how honestly involved she’s been in the whole process (one assumes that he’s been tested for learning disabilities). But if she’s truly that desperate, and if he happens to be the sort of kid that social pressure or shame will motivate, then sure. A GPA of 1.22 is pretty abysmal, and many kids that age have no idea how much they can screw up the rest of their lives with stupid mistakes.

wundayatta's avatar

Yeah. Great! Let’s use shame to get our kids to try harder. There is clearly more going on there than the mother is letting on. I sincerely doubt she has tried “everything.”

Shame can motivate people—in the short term. I think it also engenders hatred of the people who are shaming you. This kid is probably going to want to get out of the house as soon as he turns 16 or 18, and he won’t come back.

If your grades are that low, it sounds like you have an undiagnosed learning disability. He needs to be evaluated and put in an appropriate situation. I’m sure at first he tried, but he couldn’t do it. Then people started yelling at him instead of helping him, and he began to grow indifferent to the shame. Probably has pretty low self-esteem by now. This is who he is: stupid. What’s the point?

Now, if the whole community starts shaming him, he’ll just feel like an outcast and there will be no point in trying. The anger will simmer inside, and who knows how it will come out? That mother should be taken in for child abuse.

littlekori's avatar

I completely disagree with what she did.

Being a high schooler, I know that it is tough to get good grades. I also know that if my parents didn’t push me my whole life to get good grades, then I would have a 1.22 GPA and probably lower. He may have a learning dissability, but he is more likely just a lazy teenager who has never been pushed to get those good grades until recently.

Has she really done EVERYTHING to help her child? I doubt it.

To be forced to stand out on the sidewalk with a sign saying something like that will ruin a childs life. I know from experience. My parents made me stand on a street corner with a sign that said “I do drugs, and I don’t care.” Well I did care. I saw a lot of people that day and I actually cried most of the time. Like @wundayatta said, when the whole community starts to shame someone they start to feel like an outcast. and i know i did. I wanted to die. So now I’m trying to get out of this house, cause I despize my parents.

There are so many things you can do to help your child, and shaming them in public and to have everyone else do the same is not something any parent should ever do. It really is a terrible thing. And I hope that that child will learn to forgive him mom and come out of the whole situation a normal kid.

Dog's avatar

I think her public shaming of her child is abuse. It is our job as parents to keep our kids confident and give them a feeling of self worth. The world will tear them down as is.

I agree with Syz on testing for disabilities. One of my twins is an awful student. She just does not study. I would NEVER subject her to public humiliation and tried all kinds of bribery to get her to complete work. Finally I had her tested for disabilities through the school and she did have one. But the most important thing that came of the testing was the suggestion to have her taken to a doctor specializing in ADD. I took her and she was diagnosed with it. She is on a very mild dose of medicine and much to my shock her grades shot up. She was not able to concentrate- it was completely invisible to me. I thought she just did not want to try. She is so happy now- she always smiles. I wish I had tested her a year ago but am glad I did not wait any longer.

I hope that kid has a stable father. The mother is cruel.

12Oaks's avatar

In one way I do like this idea. However, if 1.22 is all he could accomplish, then all the punishment, tutoring, teaching, drilling, studying, etc., will do nothing but cause more frustration and anger in the kid and he’ll just drop-out at 16. That has worked out well for some of us, not as well for others. But so has graduating high school. Maybe schooling just isn’t his thing, and the parents should figure out what it is he could do and helo him do his best in that. If he’s a good auto mechanic then all the reading of The Grapes of Wrath (awful book, btw) and knowing who was vice-President to whom surely won’t help him when he’s doing a brake job or replacing a starter.

dreamer31's avatar

We struggle at my house with 3 to keep their grades up and it is tiresome and frustrating. Although I can see where she is coming from, there are other alternatives, and this is most likely doing more harm than helping. There could be deeper issues like emotionally why he is struggling so hard. I would never do this to my children I choose to go the encouragement route

kitkat25's avatar

I don’t think what she did was a good thing at all. What good can come from publicly humiliating a child. It is only going to make them feel bad about themselves and have a low esteem and that is not going to encourage them to get good grades. What she needs to do is find out why he is getting bad grades. Is it just a lack of trying on his part or does he have a learning disability like dyslexia or something like that. Not all learning disabilities are caught early on and when they aren’t then learning is very hard for the child.

Supacase's avatar

I don’t particularly like what she did, but I can see where she is coming from. In trying “everything” she most likely has tried tutoring, testing, positive reinforcement, severe punishment, bribery – those are common sense and I don’t doubt that she has tried them. I believe a school would test a student with that GPA, especially with a mother who seems so involved – even if just to cover their asses. If they haven’t, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t tried to get them to. I bet they’ll do it now, though.

Most parents would just bail on their kids by this point and let them learn the hard way how much damage they have done to themselves – or, very possibly, the parents just wouldn’t care.

I guess my feeling is that at least she is still trying, even if she has resorted to extreme measures. She hasn’t given up on him.

lonelydragon's avatar

While she may have had good intentions, her punishment will be incredibly damaging to him in the future. Thanks to the availability of personal information on the internet, he will never be able to live this down. When he applies for jobs, employers will Google his name, read the news stories, and decide not to hire him. If she wanted to set him up for a successful future, she went about in the wrong way.

ninjacolin's avatar

Humiliation shouldn’t be a part of the lessons she offers her son. For example, she could’ve let him wear a balaclava and kept her name out of the news. Hell, the grade on the sign could have been 1.3 or any low grade. Then he would hear the consensus of the masses (the horns) and learn what others think about it without having to be personally humiliated.

I’m generally not opposed to big creative strategies in parenting. Who knows if this or some other wild experiment might help a kid. A for effort. F for abuse.

seazen's avatar

Sheesh – he’s only 15.

He has a 1.22 average because genetically he comes from an idiot mother and a spineless father.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Actually, in reading the article, he comes from a low income family, lied to his mother about the school not giving homework, blames his lack of effort on the teacher, and only answered 4 questions on the standardized testing because he “didn’t feel like it/”

snowberry's avatar

I know someone who owned some land in the Dominican Republic. He had a son like this too, so he sent the kid down there to harvest sugar cane by hand with the rest of the farm workers. If he didn’t work, he went without food. That kind of experience is life changing. As I recall, the kid got the message, and started learning.

And the moral of the story is: It’s amazing what a person can do when they wake up to reality and get motivated.

Our society can be way too soft on people. We treat our children like children until they are well into adulthood. what do you expect?

blueiiznh's avatar

I don’t think public humiliation is the way to go. It susupect that parent made a few other boner choices that they thought would help.
Children need to be taught and supported early on about responsibility to hard work in school and grades up to or pushing their potential.
Sadly this parent will feel the results of this in their relationship, or lack of relationship with their child. And even sadder, this child will have a tougher life because of terrible choices by their parent like this one.

wundayatta's avatar

I wonder if anyone ever talked to him in a sympathetic way to find out his perspective on why he didn’t do the work.

@snowberry I think the situation you described is quite different in that it was not about shaming the boy. It was about showing him the difference between an educated and uneducated life. It could be explained as a summer job, or even as a punishment that is understandable. But it was a life lesson that could be experienced in a positive way as well as as punishment.

The guy on the street corner had no chance. This was pure shunning. Pure shame. A taking away of love (which I doubt he ever felt, anyway).

Family income is one of the important predictors of educational success. There seem to be any number of reasons for this correlation: opportunity, time spent, education of parents, etc, etc. I believe child abuse occurs more often among the poor than in families at other income levels.

This woman didn’t know what to do, and not just with this incident. I believe she hasn’t known what to do all the way along. Only education could have dealt effectively with this situation, and neither the mother nor the son had much of it, I’ll bet.

snowberry's avatar

@wundayatta Yep. Been there done that one. I had a kid like that. We tried everything. I will say that desperation makes you do crazy stuff. Our son finally told us, “Stop telling me to watch and learn from someone else’s mistakes! I can’t learn from someone else’s mistakes. I have to do it myself!” At that point, my attitude changed. In effect my response went something like, “You’re going to have some big bruises on the way. I hope and pray you survive the experience because many don’t.” And I cried myself to sleep so many nights for him.

wundayatta's avatar

@snowberry How is he doing now?

Saying he has to do it himself reminds me of something that I think is a difference between the learning styles of boys and girls. That is that boys tend to be more experimental. They need their hands on things and need to see how they work for themselves. My son, for example, is constantly taking things apart to see how they work.

Girls seem to have an easier time learning from someone else’s say-so—whether it be a teacher’s say-so or from reading something in a book. Boys have a harder time being still in class because they need to get their hands on things. Books are more likely to bore them. Girls can sit still for longer and focus better on the teacher, on average.

Your son was wise, I think, in understanding the best way for him to learn. Schools in poorer areas tend to be worse schools, with larger class sizes and fewer resources. In these situations, teachers have much less ability to be flexible and teach to students needs. They become authoritarian and focus too much on discipline and not enough on teaching. Maybe they have no choice.

If you’re a boy being told to shut up and sit down all the time, and if you get a rep as a slacker or even a trouble-maker, you’re pretty much screwed. Unless you get a very special teacher, people will treat you based on your reputation. The boy in the story probably needed more freedom to experiment, as your son asked of you.

My daughter is in public school for the first time in her life and it is a complete culture shock for her. I don’t think she’s ever had to learn from a text book before. It’s always been primary sources in the past. She’s never been graded before. She’s never been in a competitive situation before. She’s never had to take a test a day before. She’s never been bored before. She’s never been around kids who aren’t as smart as she is before. And this is at the best high school in a city of two million people.

I met her teachers the other day, and it sounds like they try, and they do have what I consider to be decent educational philosphies, but…. the older ones seem a bit tired and not so enthusiastic. And textbooks in history or science… well, at best it’s rather uncreative, although I guess they have to do it in order to have some semblance of a standardized curriculum (which I think is a bad idea).

She is doing fine (one of 32 students in a class of 550 with straight A’s), and she seems to be motivated to continue to do well (she wants to get into a good college), but I worry that this system will beat her down—and she’s a good student. I don’t want her to do it to do it. I want her to be excited about it.

To me, that’s what education is about: exciting kids about something so they can learn. If our best schools are taking the fun out of it, imagine what is happening in the worst schools! I don’t know how any kid can do will in situations like that.

At some point, a kid can take over responsibility for their own learning, and that probably happens anywhere between seventh grade and twelfth grade. But the school also bears great responsibility for the way kids turn out. Parents also share great responsibility. Depending on the age of the kid, I think that parents and schools bear the majority of the responsibility for how much the kid learns.

Parents know this, I think, and they do all they can, but what happens when “all they can” is not enough? Is it the kid’s fault? Is it the school’s fault? I assign some responsibility to the kid, but mostly, I think it’s the schools. I’m not saying to blame the schools, but I do think the schools and parents should form a good partnership, and the schools should help the parents help the kid. Schools should know things about education that parents don’t know. Schools have a duty to pass on this information to parents.

snowberry's avatar

My son was kicked out of high school at 17 because he brought a “cool” knife to school to show his friends. We kicked him out a year later because he was engaging in risky and illegal behavior and we could not have him in the house with little kids. It really hurt to watch him go down hill. He shuffled from the couch of one “friend” to the living room floor of another. He lost all of his possessions twice. Finally an Army recruiter in a nearby city took an interest in him. Our son was eager to see if the Army might have a place for him, but since he didn’t have a HS diploma it seemed impossible.

Then the recruiter took him into his own home, and made him enroll in an alternative high school. That guy did everything you can imagine to make that kid study, and my son basically was never allowed to leave the guy’s side. Shaming, threats of bodily harm, bribes of food, whatever it took, he might have tried it all-I don’t know-but my son loved him for it, and worked his A$$ off for him. He finished almost two years of high school in less than 6 months.

It turns out the Army was not as much fun as my son thought it would be (son had not yet figured out how to bow to authority), so he was given a discharge of some sort (I forget what kind). He’s now married and doing well. He’s still sorting things out, but has taken some college classes, and plans to take more.

By the way, his recruiter friend died of cancer a few years later (he was a chain smoker). Son flew 1000 miles to go to his funeral.

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