09/16/2014 03:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Dad Punishes 4-Year-Old Son By Making Him Hold 'I Hit Little Girls' Sign

Children need to be taught that violence toward women is never, ever acceptable. But humiliating them is not the way to teach them that lesson -- or any lesson, for that matter.

When dad Rob Devine found out his 4-year-old son, Tristan, had gotten in trouble at school for hitting female classmates, he took a very public punitive approach. Last week, for one hour, he stood with Tristan on the side of the road in their hometown of Monroe, Michigan, and had him hold a sign that read, "I hit little girls."

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hit girls sign

"I want him to know you can't go out and do these things and expect them to go away unnoticed," he told ABC local affiliate WXYZ.

But Devine's actions may not achieve his aim.

Last year, former HuffPost senior columnist Lisa Belkin reported on this sign-wearing trend and sought the expertise of Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, who explained that humiliation as punishment often does more harm than good. Making a child wear a sign informing passersby of his or her transgression, warned Kohn, positions the parent as an enforcer to be feared rather than trusted.

"It's not just that humiliating people, of any age, is a nasty and disrespectful way of treating them," Kohn said in his interview with Belkin. "It's that humiliation, like other forms of punishment, is counterproductive."

Kohn went on to say that this methodology perpetuates a cycle of abuse.

"No wonder so many adults who do terrible things were humiliated, or spanked, or otherwise punished -- often harshly -- when they were young," he said.

Tristan's mother, Brittany Tweed, who apparently is separated from his father, told WXYZ she thinks the punishment was overly harsh. She also said the boy will not be going back to his father's house, adding that she's asked child protective services to intervene.

CafeMom's The Stir tackled the incident, suggesting that the parents work together to try and get at the root of their son's behavioral issues.

"What should be happening is that everyone should be getting counseling so they can resolve their problems and work together to address Tristan's violent behavior," writes The Stir.



Kids Who Have Worn Signs As Punishment