Parents Force Teen to Hold Humiliating Sign as Punishment: Tough Love or Too Far?

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Worried about their 13-year-old daughter's increasingly disrespectful behavior, two parents decided to make her punishment humiliating and public.

Gentry and Renee Nickell of Crestview, Fla., made her spend 90 minutes standing at a busy intersection with a hand-written sign describing her sins:

Parents Sign

The sign they made her hold says: "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."

Passing motorists saw the teen and took pictures with their phones. Some of the photos ended up on Facebook, where they were shared within the community.

Someone called the cops, who showed up to talk to the teen and left after deciding that she was "aware of her punishment and she was not in any harm."

Now, however, the parents are feeling a little humiliation of their own.

“I wasn’t even thinking about what the public was going to think,” her mom, Renee told the Northwest Florida Daily News. “I was thinking about our daughter."

"It was for her to be in the public and recognize what she had done."

"We spend so much focus on not wanting to hurt a child's self esteem that we don't do anything," the Nickells said in a statement defending the punishment.

"As they say, walk a mile in someone's shoes," the statement read.

"We must undo at home what the world tries to tell her is better."

Renee Nickell said the family has had a hard time since Renee's brother was killed in Afghanistan in December 2011. Her kids were close to him and his family.

Since losing her uncle in the war, Renee's 13-year-old girl has become much more defiant at home and at school, and her grades have dropped.

"We just felt like she just kind of gave up," Renee told the newspaper.

Holding a sign in public wasn't their first choice for punishment.

They tried grounding her, but it didn't help. They didn't forbid her from attending church, they said, because that was supposed to reinforce strong values.

They didn't confiscate the teenager's electronics because neither she nor their two younger children, ages 2 and 6, even have any, the couple said.

"We just got to the point where we just didn't know what else to do," Renee said, then they heard about the sign idea from a Christian counselor.

The girl's dad stood next to her the whole time. "At the end, she gave me a hug in front of a police officer and she told me she was sorry," Gentry said.

But soon, the Nickells were surprised to find out that their daughter's punishment had gone viral, and were shocked by the anger leveled at them.

What do you think? Was a little tough love warranted in this case? Or did they go a little too far? Are they the worst parents ever? Discuss below.


The 13 year old is a product of her environment. Is it parenting? Peers? What are the influences that have created this product? She's old enough to start looking in the mirror. What does she see? How did she get where she is and where does she want to go? Is she a loser? Probably not but that maybe what others see. Once you are called a duck, you start believing you're a duck and acting like a duck. Get her a tutor. Once the grades start improving, it becomes habitual. Success breeds success, just like failure.

Lauren gardner
@ MontanaTrace

Montana, Love this answer, especially the compassionate tutor part.


These parents showed they cared about their daughter. If you've never had a young teen child, then you have no background to comment. We need more parents like these 2, and less of the excessive permissiveness type parents who are raising an unruly/entitled generation.

Christy m coleman

This is a great idea! I will be doing this soon with my 13yr old, that is out of control at home and perfect everywhere else. We've tried everything, so this might work.!


I back up the parents. Now a days kids thing they can run all over their parents. Not having Respect for parents or authority is what ends up corrupting our children. Trying to guid your kids on the right path is hard especially when there are people that can so easily judge. I'm sure that all the negative comments from people have teenagers that are tough to handle or they were difficult teens themselves. Parents should always have control of their children but without hurting them. This only made her reflect on her disrespectful behavior and using that grief as a cruch. When they have tried everything else you continue to find something that will work, again, without hurting them. I bet if your child answers back or disrespects you your reaction would be to want and slap that child...that is the wrong reaction....find something else to get your point accross like these parents did.

@ Lou

Public humiliation of a private family matter is cruel and abusive. Even the courts have the wisdom to protect the names and images of child offenders from the public. The parents should have found a way to deal with their rebellious daughter. Because of the way they handled this, their parenting skills should be questioned by the proper authorities.

@ Lou

I raised a daughter who, from 13 to 17 yrs of age had an "attitude" and mouth on her too - I never wanted to slap her, nor did I want to publicly humiliate her either. There are many ways to handel these situations and practice good parenting. She is now 30 yrs old, married, and has a 3 month old daughter of her own...when she turned 25 yrs old, she actually THANKED my husband and I for being strict parents while growing up and not allowing her to get away with any crap. We managed to do a good job and not publicly humiliate her either. You are right though, every child is different, so each situation has to be delt with differently.BTW, this young girls parents admitted they made a mistake!


I'm sorry but I think that The Nickells wasted BOTH their time and their energy with this certain kind of punishment for their 13-year-old daughter. And, I have a feeling that the kid in question only went along with that stupid sign holding to (1) shut her parents up and (2) to get her parents the hell off of her back. Let's face it...the parents here got PLAYED!!!!! Case closed.


I honestly think this was a very creative idea! Every child or person needs lessons in different ways and maybe this was hers! There will always be people to judge, especially in the world today! These parents did not beat their child, and although I don't know them it doesn't seem like they are mentally abusing her either, it actually shows that they care for their daughter deeply by trying anything to help her life!
There are so many kids in the world that are basically left alone because their parents don't care at all so I say, good job!!:)

Mia tetangco

These parents are idiots. Instead of confronting their obviously grieving daughter about the way she felt and why she had changed, they grounded her, then humiliated her in public. And she's 13, too. They should be more surprised if she didn't change. Such lack of communication in the family--no wonder their daughter's not getting better.

@ Mia Tetangco

I agree Mia. Even the parents realized they made a BIG mistake humiliating their daughter in public. Those who say it's good ol' tough love are clearly not thinking because in this particular situation, their daughter needed a much deeper, more compassionate way to handle her out of control behavior due to her brothers sudden death. And as if that's not bad enough, she's THIRTEEN for crying out loud - a very tough age to be sometimes because you're not grown up, and yet you're not a little kid anymore. I am totally against publicly humiliating any child. That crap will forever be on the Internet now! smh.


TOUGH LOVE !! I dont think the parents did anything wrong. They would rather have their daughter stand with sign than stand on a corner tricking or selling drugs or whatever. This may not work for other children or parents but THE WORST PARENT IS THE ONES WHO DO NOTHING TO CORRECT THEIR CHILDREN'S NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR.We are responsible to grow a child to be a decent member of this society with good character and values. What these children are demonstrating shows none but shows everyone who sees, that their parent does not care about them enough to guide and correct their behavior

@ silkie

Yeah, but just because a parent does something about their childs bad behavior does not mean they are demonstrating good parenting skills! Hell, even this girls parents realized they made a BIG mistake afterwards. In this case, I have a feeling it's the parents who actually learned an even bigger lesson (in good parenting). This kind of stunt could have TOTALLY backfired on those parents...thank God they actually have a smart daughter who has the ability to not only learn, but to forgive as well.


If they need help that bad her sign should have read: My favorite uncle died and I don't know how to function in society now. My parents are at their wits end and I'm going all dysfunctional. Look, they taught my all by themselves how to spell a big word! At least we are doing our best! lol!!!

Tracy nash

I totally understand and support what the parents did...If more parents did this, then we would have less problems with kids today...And before anybody asks, YES I have a child who is now a responsible adult .