Stepmom Makes Girl Wear Frumpy Old Frocks as Punishment for Bullying

After learning that her stepdaughter had been “relentlessly harassing” another girl at school, teasing her about her clothes and calling her a “sleaze” and a “slob,” Ally went to a local thrift store and purchased $50 of used clothing. Ally (as SFGate refers to the woman; her last name and that of her stepdaughter, Kaylee, are not identified) then had her stepdaughter wear the ill-fitting, outmoded clothes to school for two days as punishment for bullying the other girl.

Such stories of parents publicly shaming their children to discipline them for bullying, being suspended and other behavior issues have been made much of in the media, SFGate says. Parents have made their children stand in public carrying signs saying “I engaged in bullying behavior” or “I was rude to my teacher / I can’t come to school / I am sorry.” Parents have also posted photos on their children’s Facebook pages as a response for a child talking back to them or for drinking.

Whether these methods are actually effective is questionable. Some say that public shaming of children is the “new spanking,” a case of parents themselves behaving badly as they attempt what could be just a quick fix to a deeper, underlying issue in a child.

A Stepmother Outfits Her Stepdaughter In Used Clothes As a Lesson

Kaylee’s teacher had emailed Ally to tell her that the fourth grader had been bullying another girl for three weeks about her clothes, to the extent that the other girl wanted to leave the school. When Ally talked about bullying to her stepdaughter, Kaylee “did not show any remorse for what she had done.” Her stepmother — with whom Kaylee has a “mother-daughter relationship,” according to her father — was determined that she know that her behavior had been “unacceptable.”

As Ally said to Salt Lake City’s KTSU-TV/Fox news station, “She really needs to know that this had such an effect on someone else’s life.”

So Ally purchased the vintage outfits. Kaylee cried when she first saw them. “I died. I did,” she said to KTSU-TV/Fox. But Kaylee did wear the clothes, felt embarassed and found that her classmates were talking behind her back. As a result, she says that she has learned that bullying is “stupid and it’s mean” and that “it hurts” other people. Her stepmother Ally says that “I think now that she knows what it feels like, and she doesn’t want to be that person anymore because she knows how hurtful it is.”

Experts Say Public Shaming Could Backfire

Child development experts emphasize that Ally’s public shaming of her stepdaughter is not at all the norm and could even be counterproductive. As Dr. Douglas Goldsmith of the Children’s Center in Utah says to KTSU-TV/Fox, “What happens with that is the person walks away at the end saying, ‘Now I’m really angry, that was humiliating and now I’m angry.’”

In addition, public shaming can damage the relationship between children and their parents, says child psychologist Jennifer Leigh in She Knows Parenting:”Children quickly learn they cannot trust their parents. Children need to feel safe and secure and to be able to trust their parents.”

Dr. Goldsmith instead offers a proactive suggestion to teach Kaylee empathy by having her “volunteer at a place where there’s [sic] poor people.” Doing such would encourage Kaylee — or another child who had bullied — to do something that requires positive interactions with other people and that can lead her to reflect on how her actions and words affect others.

Public shaming can be seen as a sign of desperation in parents who are uncertain how to address a child’s challenges but eager to show the world that they can deal with it.  It can have a short-term effect, as suggested by Kaylee’s statements to KTSU-TV/Fox. But there can be long-term consequences as a child learns that the “answer” to bullying or other inappropriate behaviors is to have something similar done to her.


Photo from Thinkstock


anita TUCK4 years ago

I'm sick of so-called 'experts' interfering in the raising of children.... that's why this world is in its present mess. Reasonable parents who love their children and know how they tick are perfectly entitled to deal with their own children without strangers getting in on the act. I'd rather have a kid humiliated to demonstrate to him or her what it's like to be in that position than for it to 'end in tears' as my Mum used to say; BUT, a word of warning... at some stage children who bully also need some kind of reinforcement and assistance in finding out why they bully others in the first place. Children can be cruel sometimes, without even realising it, and if they're worth anything, they usually see reason after a good 'chat with the folks'.

David B.
David B4 years ago

why is it when a parent do something the shrinks disagree with "there could be long tern consequences?" at lest the mom tried something other than rack up and big fat money bill like the shrink gives you.and he gives you nothing in stone that he can even help her.

Peter A.
Past Member 4 years ago


Shannon Moody
Shannon Moody4 years ago

With all the teen suicides recently, from bullying, I choose public shaming over teen suicide any day of the week.

Shannon Moody
Shannon Moody4 years ago

I fully support what the stepmother did, and it worked, did you see how the ex-bully responded? In a day and age where we can't hit kids anymore, public shaming is would make kids think, wow my parents might do that to me. Thumbs down to the people in article opposing it, saying "kids need to trust their parents and feel safe", there are many kids that talking to them does NOT work, even this kid, who showed no remorse for her actions, because she didn't understand the pain she was causing, and they walk all over their parents, because parents aren't allowed to do anything anymore. Kids need to UNDERSTAND what their actions do.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

The perfect punishment!

Diana S.
Diana S4 years ago

BRAVO to the stepmom! What a perfect way to "make the punishment fit the crime," as well as teach the girl what it feels like to be on the other end of the bullying!! If you're of a religious mind, it's also a perfect example of "an eye for an eye," but nobody loses any body-parts, or bleeds, or dies.

Good job, mom!!!

Jeni Mitchell
Jeni Mitchell4 years ago

The experts are the reasons that children are they way they are today; they have little discipline as it is. The experts are the reason we can no longer use spanking to punish our kids; and let me tell you something from personal experience... it is GOOD for children to have a healthy fear of things like punishment. Keeps them on the straight and narrow later. I was spanked as a child and there is nothing wrong with me, so the experts are full of it when they say that spanking demeans a child. No, it incorporates a healthy fear of the consequences for breaking the rules. So I say "Good job" to this step mom who wanted to teach her step-daughter a lesson in the consequences of bullying.

Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago

not really a terrible punishment for scaring someone, so I agree, and think it should have been harsher.

Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

Lillianna G, I like your ideas but not every child will respond to that kind of thing, untill they really understand how being bullied feels. I don't have all the answers of course, but in this instance, I thought the step mothers actions were valid and useful. As far as the example of hitting someones head, I have no problem with returning like for like if necessary, I just don't like conflict at all and do not seek it, but some people project stuff onto you and then take out their frustrations.Who knows what's going on in a kids head? The one who got hit is who needs to defend themselves in some way.Bullies are bullies because they get away with it. There just are no general rules because circumstances are different, like if the one being bullied is out numbered, then escape if at all possible, but the bully still needs swift justice, then the type of alternative action you recomend is in order. It's not an either or sollution, it's both.I wish I could offer something more satisfying but people are so different. Best to you and those you love.