An Australian mother who made her young son stand in public with a sign reading “Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief” pinned to his shirt has defended her actions, saying she had tried everything to stop him from shoplifting. The boy from Townville, and believed to be about 10, had been forced to stand in the street for about an hour with the sign in an attempt to publicly shame him. The woman said she had tried everything to stop her son from stealing before resorting to the drastic action.

“We’ve had a process over the last three years of him shop-lifting and stealing whatever he can get his hands on,” she said. “I have taken him to the police station, had the police officers take him around, shown him a paddy wagon, shown him all the cells, shown him the process of being charged. I’ve taken him to the court house, I’ve taken him out to Cleveland (Youth Detention Centre) to drive around, I’ve done all that.

“I have put him into courses, I have had counselling down, I have done everything I can. You name it I’ve had him at the shops where he’s stolen from, I’ve got the shop owners to call the police and have the police come and have a talk to him. I’ve had lots of things happen.” The mother said the last straw happened last Wednesday. “I let him go to the shops to get the family some milk or some bread or something,” she said. “Then he’s got these chocolates in his top drawer of his bedroom.”

The woman said the she believed her son had learnt from public humiliation which forced him to deal with the consequences of his actions. Townsville Child Psychologist Nicole Pierotti, who is also a parent, said she was “shocked” that this form of punishment could be used. “This gives the child the message that they should be sneakier,” she said. “He’s learning ‘don’t get caught”. It also makes you wonder what else goes on in the family. Parents are supposed to be the people a child can trust.”

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