Last week Mike wrote a post on BuzzFeed about parents who discipline their children by publicly shaming them. If you’re unfamiliar with this trend, it’s where parents do things like make their misbehaving child stand on a street corner while holding up a sign that says what the child did wrong, and they post a picture of the shaming on the internet. Mike was against this kind of parenting, but many commenters on the post strongly disagreed, saying these were “good parents” and totally in the right. I agree with Mike on this one.
First, let me say that I understand my oldest living child is only four-and-a-half, and Mike and I have yet to deal with trouble created by tweens and teens. I also obviously have no idea what life is like for the fifteen families featured in the post, or what other methods of discipline have been used. With that said, I am certain Mike and I will never do anything like this. That’s not to say my kids won’t drive me to the end of my rope (teenagers have a way of doing that to you… actually, four-year-olds do, too), but I don’t think shaming them will ever be the answer.
Parents need to be role models for their kids. We have to guide children with maturity and set an example of the responsible people we want our kids to become. These parents are not modeling what it is like to be a rational, responsible adult. Making long, profanity-laden rants that you upload to the internet is not what a rational, responsible adult does. Chaining your child up in his room, or shaving your kids head into a horrible haircut, or forcing your child to hold a sign for everyone to see is not how a rational, responsible adult behaves. It’s what bullies do.
And it is bullying. If another child were doing this to our kids we’d be shouting from the rooftops about how wrong it is. So why are we okay with a parent doing this? Children need to be able to trust and rely on a parent, and I fear that this sort of public shaming will break that trust.
Therapists and child psychologists agree this isn’t healthy. Mike linked to a couple of articles that confirmed this in his post, but I also asked my friend Melissa Springstead, who is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, for her professional opinion. She said:
One of the most important roles of a parent is to keep their child safe; physically and emotionally. When you publicly shame your child, you are not keeping them emotionally safe and are instead leading them to feel vulnerable, unaccepted and unloved. Those feelings can lead to depression and anxiety and feelings of not being good enough — impacting them in academics, employment, and relationships (and, someday, parenting their own children). Instead, a parent needs to accept, understand and feel with their children (show empathy). This will help their child grow up to respect others and themselves, leading to an emotionally healthy life.
I think the weirdest part of this is the parents seem to be seeking validation for what they’re doing. It’s not like they are going online to have a constructive discussion with other parents about discipline options; instead, they’re like, “BAM! LOOK AT HOW I SLAMMED THE DOOR ON THIS PROBLEM!” and not addressing all of the factors that lead to the child being in this situation. In my gut I don’t think this is what an active, involved parent would do to their child. If a parent is doing everything they can and their child is still acting out, there are probably much more serious problems at play that public shaming won’t solve. I know we’re all just doing the best we can with this parenting thing, but is this really the best?
But I guess if I’m honest, I’m somewhat thankful for these public shaming pictures because they’ve helped me. I never want to be that parent. I will work harder to keep my anger and frustrations in check. I will do everything in my power to be a dedicated parent to my children, no matter how difficult they may make it. I will be the strict parent now, so we can hopefully avoid being in these crazy situations years down the line. I want my children to feel safe with Mike and me, no matter what. If they don’t, I will consider myself a failure as a parent.