Is public humiliation really “parenting done right”?

The first time I saw a video of a parent publicly humiliating his child as a punishment, it turned my stomach, though I couldn’t fully articulate why it bothered me so much. Each similar video and picture I’ve seen since has only strengthened my disdain. But so much worse than those videos and pictures have been the applause and accolades from all corners of the web.Humilation 3

“I wish all parents were like this!”

“Parenting: You’re doing it right!”

“Go mom!”

And it goes on and on.

While I am sure there are a couple of parents out there who truly felt like they were at their wits’ end and believed this was the only way to help steer their children away from a lifetime of negative behaviors that would only yield negative consequences, I also have no doubt in my mind that the majority of these public humiliation stunts are more about parents getting a pat on the back than disciplining their children. I don’t think Andy Warhol had any idea just how accurate his predication of 15 minutes of fame would be. YouTube and social media have made it all too tempting for people to seek out that attention and parents are now doing it at the expense of their children.

I'm totally on board with the punishment listed here - the rest serves no purpose except to inflate the parents' egos.

I’m totally on board with the punishment listed here – the rest serves no purpose except to inflate the parents’ egos.

Maybe not all parents are interested in their pictures and videos going viral, but whatever the motivation is behind public humiliation, it’s just lazy. It’s so much easier to pick up a camera and mock your child for an audience of any size than it is to find out what has caused your child’s behavior and dealing with it directly. It’s been my experience as a parent, a teacher, and a mentor that when a kid acts out, there is almost always something more behind it.

I’m not saying that discipline isn’t necessary. It most certainly is. But it should be something dealt with on a family level, not a public one. One of the first things I was taught in my education classes, and it is something I always considered common sense anyway, is that you praise in public and criticize in private.

Sometimes disciplining in public can’t be avoided. I once gave my daughter (she was about 4 at the time) a time out on a busy city sidewalk. She wouldn’t hold my hand and tried to run into the street a couple of times, so I made her sit against the building with her hands folded for few minutes while she screamed. When it was time for her to get up, she held on to my hand without any more problems. Disciplining on the spot is sometimes necessary. It is never necessary to document it and post it on Facebook or Twitter.

I love the idea of the "get-along" shirt too . . . but once again, there's no need to post your kids' picture for the world.

I love the idea of the “get-along” shirt too . . . but once again, there’s no need to post your kids’ picture for the world.

In this age of technology, it’s important to teach our children that everything they put online never goes away. We tell our kids to think about what they post – whether it’s an inappropriate picture or nasty comments or anything else they wouldn’t want the world seeing, today or in 5 or 10 or 20 years – because you never know who is going to see it. And yet it is somehow acceptable to broadcast our children’s punishments. As much of a long-shot as we may think it is, we need to realize that a future professor or colleague or boss or spouse could see this one day. Is that really what we want?

Kids make mistakes (adults do as well). They do stupid things and can behave poorly. This is nothing new. It seems every generation wants to talk about “kids these days,” but the truth is that kids have always been kids. This generation has not cornered the market on bad behavior. I doubt anyone publicly humiliating his/her child was perfectly behaved in youth. Take a moment to think of your worst punishment growing up, and now think about what it would feel like if evidence of it was still floating around the internet.

What are we teaching our kids when we value them so little that we draw amusement from their humiliation? I think it’s easy for a lot of people to forget that kids are still people, human beings deserving of being treated as such. And yes, even when they screw up. Especially when they screw up. That doesn’t mean to let your child get away with everything or to ignore negative behaviors. It means to deal with them as a parent and not as an internet sensation.

I generally make a conscious effort to keep my judgments of other people’s parenting in check, but when you make the conscious effort to put your parenting on display, you’re inviting feedback. This is mine. I won’t applaud you. I won’t give you a pat on the back. I’ll feel sorry for your kid and perhaps have a bit of understanding about where his/her negative behavior came from in the first place.


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