“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
― Brené Brown
Public shaming is becoming an increasingly popular discipline strategy for desperate parents seeking to curb their child’s bad behavior. From viral videos or photos with teens holding signs on a street corner saying “I was disrespecting my parents by twerking at my school dance” to posting their child’s offenses publicly on Facebook page, public humiliation is gaining a lot of media attention. Is this new method going to have the impact that parents are hoping for or will it backfire?
Publicly shaming and humiliating may lead to short-term behavior change but is more likely to lead to long-term negative consequences. While parents may have good intentions like stopping dangerous behavior, it’s important for parents to understand the difference between guilt and shame. Shame-based parenting sends the message to the child that they
are bad, whereas guilt is about bad behavior.
Dangers of public shaming
Shame-based parenting can be harmful to the child's feelings of self-worth, to the emotional bond between parent and child, and may put your child at risk for developing addictions and other mental health and relationship problems. Additionally, when the shame is public and received excessive media attention it may actually reinforce the teen’s negative behavior because it gets them attention and notoriety. Another problem with shame-based parenting is that it teaches that humiliation is an acceptable way to attempt to control other’s behavior.
What to do instead of shaming
1. Spend time with your child to assess what emotions or situations might be underlying their poor choices.
2. Use your child’s misbehavior as a time to teach and understand why their behavior is troublesome or dangerous.
3. Assign positive behaviors as discipline, like volunteering at school, at a homeless shelter, or doing extra jobs at home.
4. Enlist the help of a counselor or therapist specialized in working with teens and families.
Don’t buy in to the media hype given to these shame-based parenting stories. Just because these outrageous punishments are given a lot of attention does not mean they are a good idea. While poor behavior needs to be corrected, no one deserves to be shamed, publicly or…privately. All human beings want to know that they are worthy of loveable, even when they are behaving badly.
- Julie Hanks
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