A barbershop in suburban Atlanta is helping parents teach their misbehaving children a lesson.
For three days every week, parents are able to bring their little hooligans to A-1 Kutz and request the “Benjamin Button Special.” The cut is offered free of charge by Russell Fredrick to any parent looking for a new form of discipline for their child.
The cut begins by shaving the hair off the child’s crown until he looks like a balding senior citizen. Doing so, Fredricks believes, will bring on the type of shame that can only come from the teasing of friends and classmates.
Supporters believe it’s the perfect way to punish children who act out in an effort to “act grown.”
Co-owner of A-1 Kutz Fredrick, and 34-year-old father of three, said he had first used the method on his 12-year-old son Rushawn last year. The act saw immediate results. His son had been letting his grades fall at school, but after the punishment, his grades “dramatically skyrocketed.”
One parent has already made use of the special cut, and multiple others have expressed interest in having it done on their children, especially after before and after photos were posted by Fredrick of his second “Benjamin Button” haircut attempt on social media last week. The images were spread on both Facebook and Instagram, where Fredrick uses the name “Rusty Fred.”
For the most part, Fredrick says the reaction has been positive, writes Peter Holley for The Washington Post.
“There are a few people that are saying it’s emotional abuse; but on average, everyone is applauding the mother that brought the child in — and applauding me as well.”
While Fredrick was surprised by the attention given to his photos, he believes it is due to the recent increase of cases such as one involving Adrian Peterson, the NFL player accused of spanking his child with a tree branch. It is cases like that that have caused parents to pause and think about how they discipline their own children, writes Ben Axleson for Syracuse.com.
And in African American communities that holds especially true, as Fredrick said they are more likely to support the use of corporal punishment.
“Parents are at a loss,” Fredrick told The Post. “When you go to discipline kids these days, they can’t necessarily use physical punishment they way parents did in the past, but they have to do something. If you don’t, and your kid ends up doing something crazy, everyone is going to say the problems started at home.”
As for the first child to make use of Fredrick’s offer, he returned to the store four days later with his mother to fix the haircut. She said he had learned his lesson and had begun to call himself “old man Jenkins.”
Despite this, Fredrick would like to remind parents to only use this punishment as a last resort. He says his barbers are sometimes the only positive male role models for these young customers.
“I hope that most people won’t have to do this unless it’s an extreme circumstances and nothing else is working,” he said. “First, you talk or implement your restrictions. But when the conventional ways don’t work these days, you have to get creative.”
Xanthia Bianca Johnson, a Washington-based psychotherapist, agrees. She said using shame as a way of disciplining your child could have counterproductive effects. Many children who act out are doing so to let their parents know they are in distress. Shaming them is a distraction from what punishment should really do – offer the child an opportunity to reflect on their mistakes.