Health & Medicine

December 6, 2012

Melissa Arca: Publicly humiliating children is not good parenting

There seems to be a disturbing trend in some parenting circles. Unfortunately it seems to be gaining momentum.

There seems to be a disturbing trend in some parenting circles. Unfortunately it seems to be gaining momentum.

Public displays of humiliation under the guise of "discipline" seem to be popping up almost weekly in one form or another.

Take the toddler who had a potty accident in the shower (which by the way, is completely developmentally normal). Her father decided it would be good punishment to hang a sign around her neck stating what she did and posting it on the Internet for all to see.

Or the parent who hijack- ed her teen's Facebook page, posting embarrassing photos and information to "teach her a lesson" for disrespecting her parents.

Some parents I've talked to have passed by children holding humiliating signs at busy intersections as an apparent form of "tough love." Others have been firsthand witnesses online, seeing parents carry out this alarming cyber discipline in their own Facebook feeds.

And while I completely get the inconvenience of potty training accidents or the frustration and embarrassment of a disrespectful teen, public humiliation and shaming of a child is never the answer. It's harmful on so many levels.

As much as I feel for these children, I also truly feel for the parents. Most seem to think they are doing the hard but right thing, that they must exact some sort of harsh punishment that will leave an impression.

The problem is, the only impression it will leave on a vulnerable, growing child who is trying to make sense of the world is one of shame and unworthiness.

Is this really the lesson these parents want to impart?

Believe me, if parents think they will get more respect in return for antics like these, they could not be more wrong. What they may get is a child who no longer feels he or she can trust the parents. Perhaps this might be manifested by outward obedience for fear of being humiliated again. But it is at the cost of mutual respect, trust, love and connection.

That's a steep price to pay.

Some argue that "children these days" are getting away with too much and parents are merely adapting to the times. I argue that this antiquated notion of "tough love" combined with these public displays of punishment is no way to adapt.

Yes, children need boundaries, guidance and family rules. What they don't need is to feel betrayed by the people who should ultimately be their soft place to land.

The Internet is forever. Things go viral in a crazy-short amount of time. Just put yourself in your child's shoes. Would you want your parental blunders broadcast for all to see?

We all make mistakes– parents and children alike. This journey through parenthood is a two-way street – sometimes a twisting, turning and nauseating one at that. But we're learning and growing together. When we mess up, we need help from each other to make things right. We forgive, and lessons are learned when taught with respect and trust.

I know it's not easy. Parenting doesn't always look pretty. But these public displays of humiliating, shaming and embarrassing children for their transgressions are just plain ugly.

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