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Paul Dolan, a resident of Chicago’s Roger’s Park neighborhood, was tired of kids having bad attitudes. So he came up with a unique solution: T-shirts banning bad behavior every school day, from “No moaning Monday” and “No tears Tuesday” all the way to “No fussing Friday.”

“There’s no reason you should complain,” Dolan told the local CBS station regarding his motivation behind the shirts. “Things aren’t so bad.”

Dolan says that he hasn’t received any negative feedback, and that parents apparently can’t wait to purchase these wearable punishments for bad behavior. The only complaint he’s gotten is that the shirts aren’t sized for older kids or adults.

“Message t-shirts are used all the time to spread a message; lighthearted, political or otherwise,” explained Elise Harding, president of Tee Compressed. “It is just important that the person wearing it understands and is in support of the message on the shirt.”

Shame as a Parenting Tool
Perhaps relatively few parents are going to order printed t shirts in response to a tantrum or two. But Dolan’s approach highlights a bigger issue in the parenting world: whether or not it’s ever appropriate to shame children.

Julie Nise argued in an article for Yahoo! Parenting just this month that “Without guilt and shame, your child is probably unable to tell right from wrong and bad from good. … It may sound harsh, but it’s true: A child without shame for their poor actions is one that is headed down a path to true adult recklessness.”

But other childrearing experts disagree, making the point that while discipline — defined as a healthy enforcement of boundaries — is good for children, shame isn’t.

According to widely respected parenting expert Peggy Drexler, that’s because children can’t distinguish between their actions and their person; so while an adult might see a T-shirt condemning a child’s tantrum, that child might just see a T-shirt condemning them.

CBS reporter Wendy Widom mentioned to Dolan that her daughter “would be upset if I got her a T-shirt calling out her less-than-desirable actions, in a color that reminds me of Orange is the New Black.” But Dolan responded that the shirts aren’t intended to be a “scarlet letter,” just a gentle reminder that we’re all comparatively lucky and it’s important to retain a sense of humor when communicating that to children.

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