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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Mom publicly punishes son for stealing

Batavia, N.Y. --- A mother is responding to public criticism and scrutiny after a Buffalo news report focused on how she punished her son for stealing by requiring him to stand outside with a sign around his neck.

The sign read I steal from my parents and in smaller writing at the bottom it read all the time.

"Not everybody agrees with what I did and I understand everybody has their own way of parenting," said Kelly Howell, the 8-year-old boys mother. "I didn't expect to have to explain to counties (of people) why I did what I did and have everybody think of me as a bad person."

The Punishment

Howell and her husband tell 13WHAM News that they tried all sorts of punishments for more than a year but their son kept stealing things from them, and occasionally from stores. Howell said she had him write that stealing was bad over and over on a piece of paper, took away toys and privileges, and nothing was getting through to him.

The couple got the idea for the sign from something they saw on Facebook and put it into action on Friday afternoon.

"He knows I love him and that's why I'm out here with him and his sign," Howell told a camera crew on Friday. "Love him to death but at some point, before he gets old enough to be arrested for taking things, you got to start somewhere."

Despite the public scrutiny theyve endured for this punishment both said their son hasnt stolen anything since.

"He said Mom I'm not mad at you he said I didn't want to do it but I understand why you did it, Howell said of a conversation she had with her son over the weekend. I said OK, why did I do it? He's like, because you tried everything else and I kept doing it, I wasn't listening.

Neighbor Calls Police

At least one neighbor who saw the boy holding the sign called Batavia Police and Child Protective Services. He said he didnt think what Howell did to her son was correct and wanted it to stop.

"In my opinion it is just parental bullying," said Arnold Wagner of the reason he called authorities. "The child is 7-ish. I mean, there have to be better ways to get a 7 year-old to behave. He's 7.You're his parent, its your job to find better ways or don't be a parent, I'm sorry."

Batavia Police did respond to the area and a spokesman later said no charges were filed because Howell was with her child the entire and he wasnt in any danger. Howell said C.P.S. did not pursue any investigation either.

Mom Was Caught Stealing Too

What has fueled some of the public debate surrounding Howells parenting decision is the fact that she was arrested in 2011 for shoplifting from Wal-Mart. Her arrest was published in The Batavian and she pled guilty and is currently serving three years of probation.

Howell tells 13WHAM News that she admitted to that crime and that she remembers learning a lot from the public embarrassment of having her name in news reports about her arrest.

"I was humiliated and to have your boss know that you were in trouble for shoplifting when you're in a place of business that sells things it was just, it was awful, Howell recalled.

She said she did not hide her criminal past from her son when trying to teach him not to steal.

"He knew a year ago the first time he stole something that mommy was in trouble for stealing," she said. Howell added that she even had to attend a court-ordered class dealing with shoplifting and the class took her away from her son for hours on his birthday.

"I would rather be filmed and on TV and saying my mom stuck me outside with a sign than having to have everything that I've had to deal with and go through, said Howell. "I don't regret it. Would I do it again? No, no I wouldn't but in the same sense, he got the point.


Sean Carroll, 13WHAM-TV
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