Yesterday, the jury in Alaska who had been deliberating the case of Jessica Beagley convicted her on one count of misdemeanor child abuse. Now known as the “angry mom” from the Dr. Phil show, I wrote about her case last week. Beagley had given her seven year old adopted son some unusual punishments, including putting hot sauce in his mouth for lying and making him stand in a freezing cold shower. We can argue amongst ourselves over whether this is truly abusive behavior or not, but now it is clear (at least in the state of Alaska) that these punishments are beyond the law.
This simple result belies the inherent complexity of the situation. We can get out our torches and pitchforks and go marching through the streets, but the question still remains: What can you do when you deal with children, and conventional methods of discipline don’t work? The jury’s verdict in this case only tells us what we can’t do. But what can we do? What should we do?
Even before I had a child of my own, I worked with children everyday during my days as a schoolteacher. At my last teaching job, I worked in a bad school with horribly behaved high school kids. And they didn’t care about whatever threats I threw their way. Now, I’m not stupid or weak. I knew who the ringleaders were, and I could have pulled them aside and put all kind of bizarre and cruel thoughts into their heads. There are things I could have done and said that would have straightened the situation right out. But all of those things could have potentially gotten me fired. Or worse: arrested. So I was forced to sit on my hands while the kids went wild.
We don’t want to admit it, but some children are like germs or viruses that just won’t stop, then they maliciously adapt and become resistant to all forms of behavior modification. It’s rare, but it happens. What can you do when nothing works?
Unfortunately, the Beagley case is just making matters worse. And the more I read about it, the more weirded out I get. I always assumed it was the husband that was filming the punishment video that went viral. Apparently it was the other adopted son that was filming those punishments the whole time. That certainly lends to the creep factor. Mrs. Beagley, you’re not helping things.