I'm not that much older than most of the kids being publicly shamed by their parents, but I feel like I come from a generation -- and more specifically, a family -- for which this "parenting method" is unheard of. I put "parenting method" in quotation marks because what these parents are doing isn't parenting at all. It's bullying.
One of the most powerful, life-changing emotions children learn to feel is shame. Almost everyone can remember the first time they felt this uncomfortable self-awareness. I learned it when I was teased for a runway-esque walk I thought was appropriate for the third grade playground; it was a moment, and a feeling, that hasn't lost its sting 13 years later. I was mortified -- but also lucky enough to have a mom who stroked my hair, gave me a hug and told me to not to let bullies get me down.
This is the role a parent should play: the comforter, not the bully him- or herself. When moms and dads take the public shaming approach to parenting, children are taught that public humiliation is not only something they should expect to face, but something that is OK. Yes, the child might avoid making the same mistake again. But it is equally likely that the child will bear that feeling of shame -- at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect her from it -- for the rest of her life. Is it worth damaging your children to teach them a lesson? Can you really think of no other disciplinary methods?
Kids make mistakes; they break the rules, and they rebel against their parents. These are all things that, although not condonable, are part of growing up. Public shaming at the hands of a parent should not be a typical, or acceptable, experience -- although this appears to be the direction in which parenting is going. This new wave of punishment tactics threatens to irrevocably change the way parents and children interact; when parents publicly shame their kids, their relationship loses its element of respect. The parent stops being someone who can dispense comfort and advice, and turns into an enemy.
Looking back on my childhood, I feel lucky that my parents were my allies -- that they stood up for me, protected me and helped me become the strong and self-confident individual I am today. Yes, they disciplined me. But they did so in ways that helped me become a better person, by instilling in me an ability to discern right from wrong instead of an intense fear of humiliation.
No, I do not have children of my own, and I cannot yet empathize with the challenges only parents understand. But I do plan on becoming a mother one day, and I can promise my future children now that my method of parenting will not be based on the hypocrisy of public shaming. I can promise them that although I will discipline them, I will do so with the intention of helping them understand why they themselves should choose to stop what they are doing. I can promise them that I will be their ally and their protector -- not a bully even bigger than those they might face at school. For now, I can only hope more moms and dads remember what it feels like to be a child, and realize how much kids need parents in their court.
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