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Any parent who spends time
on social media has seen it: a photo of a child holding up a sign "confessing"
to some transgression. It can range from the seemingly harmless—something
every child in the history of humankind has done at one time or another—to
the serious, like theft and doing drugs.
Tsaberry, author, speaker
and clinical psychologist, is not comfortable with the shaming of children in
any manner for any reason. She describes
shame as toxic. "[Shame] creates disconnection, a betrayal of trust. Shaming
never works. Connection is the only way."
Katie Hurley, LCSW and author of "The Happy Kid Handbook" agrees.
has never been easy, and parents today are navigating new territory," Hurley says.
"It's difficult to say what triggers one parent to take to the Internet to
shame a child for 'misbehavior' while another confronts the issue in the safety
of the home, but there does appear to be a combination of anger and control
beneath the surface of these posts."
Children of all ages make mistakes. Trial and
error is the business of growing up, and they can't get it right every single
time. Shaming them, online or just in person, causes significant damage to the
parent-child relationship. The paren-child relationship should focus on
unconditional love and trust.
Personally, the photos I see online, even when they are clearly shared in the spirit of fun and as a way for people to bond over the challenges of parenthood, make me cringe.
"Does that mean parents shouldn't address
wrongdoing?" Hurley says. "Of course not. It means we need to make children feel supported and confident in their ability to work through the hurdles with their parents. When
parents try to control kids and shame them into better behavior, kids
feel hurt and disconnected. If we want to raise kind, empathic kids who think
before they act, we need to remain present and empathic, even when the chips
Following the suicide of Izabel
Laxamana, a result of public shaming, Dr. Shefali was
compelled to act. Through her powerful videos, she not only outlines the pain
children experience through public shaming but also provides examples parents may relate to.
"How would you like it" she
asks, "if you made a mistake at work, and your boss shaved off your hair and
posted it on the company's website?"
She urges parents to look in
the mirror and think about their motivations, in addition to the damage they
are doing to their relationship with their children:
I asked parents I am connected with via social
media to weigh in on the topic of public shaming. Here's what a few had to say:
"I don't think it's a
healthy way to discipline children. I wasn't a perfect teen, but my parents
handled me with love and rules. I would have been mortified to have been
publicly shamed for cutting class and underage drinking." —Mandy
mortified that parents would shame their children like this. I can't imagine
the irreparable damage it does to the children and their self-esteem and to
their relationship with their parent." —P.J.
think in general we've lost sight of what is local and temporary and what lives
on forever without context online. It takes the "moment" out of 'learning moment' when you put something online. We're supposed to be teaching,
not punishing." —Tracy
"To a certain extent, I do believe it's okay. Now, shaving your
kid's hair into an old man haircut—no. Having your child wear a sign while
you video and post it on Facebook—no. Those effects are lingering and
consequences are heavy. As parents, we have the splendid opportunity to offer
grace and make each day new (and sometimes, with my little people, each
moment). With that being said, if my child embarrasses me in public, I will
not think about their dignity or pride before I respond. What I mean is this: I will not let a teachable moment pass. I'm sorry if it's in front of your
friends that you decided to cop an attitude, but it will be in front of your
friends that you receive the consequence of that." —Brittany
Personally, the photos I see
online, even when they are clearly shared in the spirit of fun and as a way for people
to bond over the challenges of parenthood, make me cringe. While I have
never taken or posted a photo of my child holding up a sign, I have engaged in
some of the behaviors Dr. Shafali encourages parents to examine and reconsider.
So I am pledging, publicly, to do just that.
Because I cherish the connection I have with my child. I never want to do anything to harm it, even in fun.