Two Florida parents are facing harsh criticism after they punished their 13-year-old daughter for “disrespectful behavior” by making her hold up a humiliating handwritten sign at a high traffic intersection for an hour and a half.
Gentry and Renee Nickell of Crestview, Fla., said that they forced their teenage daughter to hold the sign because they “just didn’t know what else to do,” the Northwest Florida Daily News reported. The sign, which read “I’m a self-entitled teenager w/ NO respect for authority. I’m also super smart, yet I have 3 'D's' because I DON’T CARE! [sic]” caused such a stir among passing motorists that one resident notified the police.
“We got to the point where we just didn’t know what else to do,” Renee Nickell said of the embarrassing punishment, adding that a Christian counselor gave her the idea years ago. “We just felt like she just kind of gave up.”
The Nickells claimed that their daughter’s behavior became increasingly out of hand after her uncle was killed in Afghanistan in December of 2011. While the entire family including the couple's two younger sons had difficulty coping with the death of Renee's brother, they said that their daughter in particular had become more disrespectful both at home and at school. But while they were eager to teach their daughter a lesson, they said that they had a difficult time finding a punishment that seemed to have any effect.
Grounding didn’t work, they said, and it was logistically difficult because they still wanted to allow her to attend all of her church-related activities. That’s why they eventually settled on the sign. What they evidently weren’t expecting, however, was for a passersby to take photos of the sign and for it to go viral on Facebook.
“I wasn’t even thinking about what the public was going to think,” her mother said. “I was thinking about our daughter. It was for her to be in the public and recognize what she had done wrong. I asked her, ‘Were you scarred? Traumatized?’ She said, ‘No mom, I knew it was coming.’”
When the community voiced outrage about the punishment online, the Nickells decided to issue a statement of their own. “Walk a mile in someone’s shoes,” it read. “We are a family that has been (through) recent trauma and it took a desperate attempt to show our daughter we are not letting her go, just like our Lord did for us.”
Gentry Nickell, who accompanied his daughter throughout the stint wasn't photographed, and said that the sign has already had a positive impact. “At the end, she gave me a hug in front of the police officer and told me she was sorry,” he said.
The Nickells aren't the first parents to resort to sign shaming their child to get a point across. Last year, a Florida family forced their 15-year-old daughter Jasmine to stand on a busy street corner wearing a sign that read, "I sneak boys in at 3 am and disrespect my parents and grandparents.”
"I've taken all her toys or her electronics away; her phone, no privileges on the TV or computer and still she just laughs about it,” Jasmine’s mother, Melinda, told the local television station WESH 2 News.
In August, a creative South Carolina mother made her 13-year-old son Brandon Mathison walk along the highway wearing a sign saying, “Smoked Pot, Got Caught, Don’t I Look Cool? NOT!”
"Time outs and taking things away just doesn't work anymore," April Mathison told WTOC News 11. "Sometimes a little public humility is what they need nowadays to get a point across. If this works for him and maybe saves one or two other students from thinking about picking this stuff up, then I feel like I've done my job as a parent."