April 27, 2012 at 9:47 AM ET
When Denise Abbott took to Facebook to discipline her daughter for being disrespectful, she didn't expect the attention of the media, or the support of the public. Abbot punished her 13-year-old daughter Ava by replacing her Facebook profile picture with a photo of Ava with an "X" superimposed over her mouth and the caption, "I do not know how to keep my... I am not longer allowed on Facebook or my phone. Please ask why, my mom says I have to answer everyone that asks."
The punishment came after Ava acted out toward her mother in front of her friends, Abbott explained. But it wasn’t just Ava who was put in the spotlight.
“I have received a lot of criticism,” Abbott said. "But still I don’t think I would have changed what I did at all. I think she definitely learned a lesson from it.”
But more than 7,000 readers responded to TODAY.com poll about the Ohio mom’s method of punishment -- and 77 percent of them supported her.
“Never in a million years” did Abbott expect the story to go viral, she told TODAY’s Carl Quintanilla. Abbott said she'd simply tried to take an approach that would be strong enough to make a difference.
“I was trying to think of something that would impact her so she would know what it felt like to be embarrassed in front of people,” she said. “I think you need to have empathy to understand the situation.”
Part of Ava’s punishment was telling every single person who asked what had happened and what she'd learned from it. Her mom told her she couldn’t copy and paste – it had to be a complete answer addressed to a specific individual -- like a digital age version of repetitive writing on the chalkboard.
Abbott says that after some complaining, Ava willingly sent the responses.
Some, like parenting expert Dr. Janet Taylor, thought Abbott went too far in trying to humiliate her daughter.
“Just like we don’t want our kids to embarrass other kids, as parents we don’t want to embarrass our children,” she told TODAY.
But Abbott defended her actions. “When we were growing up … if you got in trouble in school, you’d go to the board and you’d have to write a hundred times ‘I will not pass notes’ in front of your classmates – it’s the same, you were humiliated then.”
Ava has spoken out about her discipline in an open letter. “I don’t think a lot of people should be as judging as they are being towards the whole situation, " she wrote. "It was my mom’s way of grounding me and it’s like any other grounding…I don’t see why it’s this big of a deal.”
Abbott isn’t alone in her creative parenting skills. Tommy Jordan made waves earlier this year when he shot his daughter’s laptop with his .45 after she posted disrespectful comments about him on Facebook.
Jordan called Abbott with a message of support. “He said if that’s how you want to parent, be strong and stick to what you think is right for your child,” she said.
Abbott is sticking to her guns, and thinks her next punishment will be just as creative. Ava's Facebook profile has been changed to a photo of her happy and smiling, with the text "Forever Young."