Growing up I would say (or so I like to think) that I was a pretty good kid. I rarely got spankings or put on “punishment” and when I did my parents made sure I understood why I was being disciplined and punished. Their “trust” in me to make good decisions always weighed heavily in my mind so I often tried to make sure I made the best decisions so that I would not lose their trust. As a child, that’s a BIG deal, to have your parent say they “trust” you to make the right decisions. I respected that my parents respected me. I didn’t want to let them down and more importantly I wanted to be “good”. As children and teenagers we all go through our rebellious, “I know what I’m doing” stages, but once I finally grew up I realized that the rearing of my parents was only for my well-being and to shape me into adulthood. I look back and thank God for parents who not only loved me enough to teach me right from wrong, but disciplined me in a way that lifted my morals and values and shaped my character.
I’m sure many of you have witnessed this new trend in parenting through social media realms. Many of us have seen videos and photos of children being punished for their wrongdoings and while many of the videos and photos are funny (yes, I laughed at a few), I’ve grown to become disgusted by them the more and more I see them appear in my timeline feed. It’s like the new way of punishment and it’s becoming sad. I’ve done my research (as I like to do when wanting to learn about new topics) on this particular subject and many of the articles I’ve come across have supported my view on this new trend. I’ve also seen comments on these articles that are in favor, but I’ll discuss that later.
Public humiliation as a disciplinary strategy to ‘teach the child a lesson’ in my opinion is NOT a disciplinary strategy. A few of the videos and photos that I have seen include:
1. A young African American boy who claimed to be a gang member and his uncle beat him on camera and posted it on his Facebook page telling him to tell viewers that he is not affiliated with any gang. Weeks (or maybe months later) it was reported that this young man was killed supposedly by the gang in which he denied.
2. A younger African American boy being forced to hold a chair while his mom and then grandmother spanked him with a belt while the camera man taunted and teased him.
3. A young Caucasian boy being forced to stand on the corner in his neighborhood with a sign around his neck saying “Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief.”
4. A young Caucasian girl who put a rant about her parents on Facebook and the dad found it, read it in the video and then shot up her laptop.
5. A young African American boy who was “acting grown” at school so his father gave him the George Jefferson haircut, “a grown man hair cut”.
Like I said, I’m not going to lie, some of these were pretty funny. HOWEVER, just because it’s funny doesn’t mean it’s right. Also, if it’s supposed to be discipline, which is about teaching right from wrong, why and how is that funny? Public shame and humiliation of a child by a parent teaches them what lesson in life? It has become more and more of a trend to publicly humiliate children as punishment. Some may argue that because children/teens value acceptance from peers, the fear of embarrassment may stop or prevent the negative behaviors from occurring again if they are “hit where it hurts”. While that may hold some truth I believe that does more bad for the child. Punishing the child via social media opens the door for taunting and teasing among peers – bullying, lower self-esteem within that child, resentment toward the parent (for violation of trust and privacy), the child using the same tactic with peers as form of punishment, and the list can go on.
I am not a parent, but I have several year of education, training and practice in child welfare and child abuse and I classify public humiliation for punishment of a child as emotional child abuse. A child is supposed to feel loved, supported and protected by their parent even in discipline and by punishing the child via social media (beating them on camera, posting pictures of their punishment, etc.) robs them of that love, support and protection they are supposed to feel and instead leaves them feeling shame and embarrassment. Yeah this may help them to not do a certain behavior again, but they aren’t going to stop doing it because it’s wrong, they stop doing it for fear of how their parent will punish them. I think the lesson should be in why they shouldn’t do certain behaviors (i.e. putting certain images on Facebook or talking certain ways on Facebook) and the results they could experience in life versus “don’t do it or I’m going to beat you” or “don’t do it because I said so”. I think we have strayed away from teaching and guiding children and are clinging more to the punishment.
Still having a difficult time believing there’s nothing wrong with punishing your child via social media? I took this quote from clutchmagonline.com, “What if adult transgressions — infidelity, poor money management, drug abuse to name a few — were plastered for everyone to see? Imagine the degradation and shame that we would feel, and how much harder it would be to better ourselves with the world watching and judging. That’s the kind of ordeal that publicly humiliated children go through at the most impressionable time in their lives. I’m sure the kids who were ridiculed in front of thousands of strangers would take a spanking over shame any day.”
Kidspot.com reports that research indicates that children whose parents use humiliation and shame as ‘teaching’ tools are more likely to use similar strategies with other children.
So when parents launch viral online social media attacks on their children, what is being taught? Are kids learning good ways to act? Of course not. Instead, kids learn that the big person has the power to make me do anything. So might is right. Public humiliation and shame do not teach anything that we want our children to learn, so why do we do it?
Humiliation and shame have serious consequences
A lot of parents will claim, “Hey, it works. There’s no harm in it. It’s even a bit funny. And I get a result. The kid stops doing it.”
But there is harm. Here’s why:
In an online world, content is forever. An image can be copied and go viral in minutes, whether globally or just within your child’s circle of friends. Significant damage can be done to a reputation with just a couple of clicks. The ramifications are significant and can last a lifetime.
For a child to grow up healthy and happy, they need to trust their parents. Trust is the foundation of psychological security. To shame and publicly humiliate (or even privately humiliate) a child is a gross breach of trust and undeniably undermines the relationship you share with your child.
Psychological effects of shame and humiliation include a decreased level of self-esteem and sense of worthiness, diminished self-efficacy (the belief that a person is competent and can do things), and can even lead to depression, anxiety, and elevated stress. The real problem with using shame and humiliation as disciplinary techniques is that only two things are really taught, and both are damaging. Those two things are that the child is unworthy and that the person with the power is always right.
Shame and humiliation are tools of power-based parenting. The emphasis here is on making things happen to the child in the hope that those things (which are external to the child) will make the child change. Instead, parents and children will both do better if they adopt a team-based approach where they work together on a problem. The parents should consider the development of the child and whether their expectations are appropriate. And then they can discuss, together with their child, what the limits to behaviour should be and why (Kidspot.com).
As a Christian, I try to think of how Jesus would handle a situation when I’m unsure. I look at His example and how we sin everyday, countless times. He doesn’t punish us by displaying our sins for others to see, the lessons He teaches us and/or allows us to experience are lessons in love so that we truly understand our wrongdoings and have a desire to do right. If anything, the shame should come from doing wrong and disappointing your parent and/or Heavenly Father and not from the ridicule of others because your wrongdoing was publicly displayed by your parent.
I could go on and on about this subject, but I’m curious to hear my readers thoughts. If you are a parents, caregiver, aunt, uncle or just someone with an opinion, please share your thoughts on this topic below.
Thanks for reading! Until next time…