We live in a society of over-sharing, thanks to social media. As a result, parents are finding creative ways to use Facebook, YouTube and blogging as a means to showcase their children's sometimes funny/sometimes not-so-funny mistakes and the ways in which they punish them for those mistakes.
"Funny kid shaming" is a recent trend where parents point out or "get back" at their kids for the embarrassing things they do and the mistakes they make. A quick Google search and you'll find pictures parents have posted of their kids posing (or sometimes sleeping) with signs that read:
- "I threw up in my new car seat the very first time I sat in it."
- "I eat dog food."
- "I threw a bowl of pasta on the carpet. Then I refused to clean it up."
- "I opened the restaurant bathroom door while mummy was still in there peeing."
While it's easy to see that parents are connecting over this latest trend of sharing everyday parenting troubles, it begs the question, how does "funny kid shaming" differ from more extreme forms of public shaming?
In my opinion, there is no difference. It could be argued that parents may be trying to disguise the shaming and humiliating with humor, so that they won't experience the backlash parents who blatantly shame their kids do. There is no difference between these two groups. Before you jump on the bandwagon of this trend, consider the damage that's done when public shaming becomes an acceptable disciplinary tactic:
- It can psychologically damage the child. I believe that it is children's birthright to trust their parents to provide a loving, caring and safe environment where they are treated with dignity and respect.
- There are long-term effects on THEIR legacy.
Your child could work hard for years to become class president, play a varsity sport, or be an active community leader, but thanks to your efforts, they will forever be remembered as the kid who's dad got famous for creating a blog of all the things that made him cry.
- It's a THUMBS UP to bullying.
If you're about to do something that any child would be suspended from school for, then you're about to bully (i.e. hijack a Facebook feed and post a humiliating picture of a peer or force someone to wear a "kick me, I'm a liar" sign). If an overwhelming group of parents think this is acceptable, then it is no wonder bullying has become so rampant -- it's just funny, right?
- It's training your kids to be submissive.
Your child made YOU mad. Now what happens if your child leaves the house and makes their significant other, friend or teacher mad? What if it was a teacher re-introducing the dunce cap or the more recent scenario of a teacher taking away a child's desk as punishment for drawing on its surface? By doing it yourself, you're training the child to be submissive and to accept the idea that others have a right to humiliate them.
- It models a HUGE lack of empathy, respect, tact and maturity.
When a parent acts in juvenile ways and without any regard to how it might feel to be shamed in public, that sends a message much louder than the one intended. Most parents would say they'd like their children to have a sense of empathy, respect and maturity as they grow -- this form of discipline is sure to breed more of what they're fighting against. Unless of course, the children become so defeated they yield or check out from your relationship entirely.
- Just because you are the parent does not give you free pass to do what you want.
Scenarios of public shaming seem to have one thing in common: the parent believes he/she has the right to humiliate or shame the child in an attempt to either teach them a lesson or to make them suffer in the way the parents feel they have suffered. I think I can safely say that there is no education value in using shame to teach a lesson. It seems reasonable to me that children behave in less than exemplary ways for many reasons, including: trying to get their parent's attention or they don't understand that what they were doing was "wrong" in the first place.
- Respect will never come from disrespect.
The only way to gain respect is to give it. Otherwise, you're fostering fear, submission, avoidance, and compliance but not true mutual respect. That's parenting 101.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Public shaming jeopardizes two very BIG things: the future of your relationship and your child's confidence to navigate the world. I don't know any healthy adults who would stand in a relationship where their significant other felt they had the right to shame or humiliate them in public, whether they did it with "humor" or not. Why we think our children will tolerate this behavior is a mystery to me. If you are determined to fracture and potentially destroy the relationship with your child, a sure fire way to do it is to participate in the trend of "funny kid shaming." And, if as a parent, you are determined to undermine your child's sense of confidence that they can navigate the world beyond your threshold, then by all means, plaster their picture all over the Internet so millions of people can have a chuckle at your child's expense.
Kids today have far too much responsibility ahead of them to be pushed down before they've even learned to tie their own shoes. While the logic behind it may seem reasonable, it's NEVER okay to publicly shame a child, regardless of how easy, "funny" or cute it may be. If we can bring this to light, we can change a major current of society, but it's going to take a lot of conversation and common sense.