I came across an article recently about public shaming of children on the Internet and in public. It was one mother’s take on the whole ordeal. I can’t help but feel that she has confused discipline with shaming in her article. The first example she sites is the apparent humiliation a child suffered in front of friends and family after being dressed down by their parent. This did not happen on the Internet, and most of us wouldn’t have known about it if Ms. Heidi hadn’t written about it herself, but what she did talk about next was the trend of parents posting pictures of their children all over social media to shame them for their wrongdoing. She stated in her post that public shaming is equal to “sanctioned parental bullying.” I tend to disagree.
I believe some situations warrant a public display of their child’s wrong doing in this day and age. Cyber-bullying is a prime example. There was a picture of a young girl wearing a sign that outlined her participation that had been posted by her mother after being caught. Without the complete back story, it is hard for us to judge the mother for use of “public shaming.” In context, I believe it is an adequate response to the child’s well-deserved.
We often ask our children, “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” The point is, how would they know how to feel unless they had experienced it themselves? More to the point, how did they get to develop a lack of empathy toward others in the first place? Personally, I think the latter it is indicative of a larger problem that we’re not addressing.
The problem isn’t public shaming but the total lack of discipline and guidance that parents have given their children. Parents have resorted to these antics because not only do they think that shaming their child on Facebook or in public will teach their child a valuable lesson but that it draws attention to their “superior” parenting skills as well. (Please note that I state the latter half with sarcasm.) In some cases, it may teach the well deserved lesson that they need, but the pictures are also a cry for approval as well. The more Likes, the more of a boost to their ego. However, this shouldn’t be about how many Likes or laughs you get for punishing your child publicly. It should be about the lessons you are teaching them, starting at an early age.
Now back to the point from earlier where Heidi seemed to confuse public discipline with public shaming and/or sanctioned bullying. If my own children acted out in public, their behavior was corrected accordingly, even if it meant a swat on the bottom. Even scientists have stressed that a child below the age of five or six responds more to physical punishment than by words alone. Their minds aren’t developed enough to reason or understand the consequences of their actions whereas a physical stimulus enforces the appropriate behavior when applied. Other studies say otherwise, but they are an analysis of the extreme, not the norm. If you are confused by this, then let me explain.
Those of us who are in or nearing our forties grew up during a time where it was common place for our parents to discipline us in public. If I acted out, then I was often taken out of the store, spanked, and forced to sit in the car until my parents were finished. Alone. And let me tell you, the backseat of a car for the next hour or two while waiting for them as they took their sweet time was boring. Not only that, the embarrassment I felt from being disciplined in front of a bunch of strangers had an impact on me. I learned very quickly how to behave in public, and I also learned that how I acted reflected the level of respect I had for my parents well. Of course, there was a healthy dose of fear thrown in that every parent gave their child for good measure. Young of today have been deprived of a sense of fear (and respect) when it comes to authority. This starts with our parents at an early age and then branches outward as we develop into adults. So, trust me when I say that a certain level of fear, which a parent instills in their child, is a good thing.
The problem today is that starting with our generation, our hands became tied as parents. The “experts”, many of which failed to spawn themselves, dictated what was socially acceptable regarding how our children were punished. We went from a time where it was common to expect a spanking when our father got home from work to a society where parents feared touching their child because someone might take them away. Trust me. There is a distinct difference between abuse and the occasional spanking. Spanking is not hitting.
From my own experience, I can say that my father was abusive with his punishments. My father belted me with a PVC pipe when he thought I deserved it, which was quite often. And I was a good kid. This is not an exaggeration. I had more welts and bruises than I could count at times for something as simple as bringing home less than an A on my report card, but what my father did, I attribute more to the PTSD he suffered as a combat veteran than his inability to be a good parent. It’s not a justification or excuse, only a reason. The truth was my father was an excellent parent as far as teaching me what I needed to know… the right things, and I learned a lot from him despite his more physical punishments. Let me be clear. I’m not irreversibly damaged, nor do I have any regrets. Because facing the alternative, I could have been knocked up, on drugs, or a criminal before my 18th birthday had there been no discipline at all. I can’t change the past. It is what it is. If anything, the lesson I took from my childhood experience impressed upon me the proper way the proper way to discipline a child, even through physical means. I know it isn’t politically correct to admit that you spank your children, but I have mine. I make no apologies.
Getting back on topic, we’ve gone from a society that agreed that some form of corporal punishment was acceptable to one that deemed being a friend was more important than being a parent. The child has become the master of the relationship, leaving the parent to sit in the corner with their hands tied. Now that they see the fruits of their inaction, parents are resorting to measures that are unorthodox in nature, an action on their part that has come too little too late, in my opinion.
I’m not expert and admit that every child is different. I’m not boasting to be perfect, either. I’ve done my own share of resorting to the electronic babysitter at times when I was just too tired to care or yelled when my patience wore thin. As parents, we’ve all done this from time to time. To deny it would be ludicrous. I’d like to think that working with my husband, we resorted to the appropriate methods of raising and guiding our children, even if that meant a spanking or simply sitting down and speaking with them individually. It’s all about consistency and balance.
In all, the punishment of my children is a private matter that doesn’t need public scrutiny or shame. I believe my children are the product of my actions as a parent. I want others to look at my children and notice how polite and well mannered they are, how considerate they are of others, and how respectful they are of myself, my husband, and of other adults. That should be my lasting testament as a parent… no Facebook post, no picture that will live forever in an electronic world that never forgets.
I don’t think it is a question of whether or not you would shame your child on the Internet. If you’ve done your job as a parent, then it is a subject that should never come into question.