In this age of social media and ‘instant fame’, more parents are taking the private act of punishing their children in the public domain. Do a quick search on Google or YouTube and you will find hundreds of hits on public shaming.
But is this necessarily a good thing or will it have far reaching implications for the parent child relationship and the child’s self-esteem? This hotly debated topic has its supporters and detractors and we will take a look at some of the more famous incidents of public shaming.
Disrespect me? I’ll shame you
One that has gone viral is the video made by dad Tommy Jordan, who in response to his 15-year-old daughter complaining about her household chores on Facebook posted a video of shooting his daughter’s laptop in an open field. The video posted on YouTube in February 2012, has since garnered over 36 million views. Other parents have also made their kids carry cardboard signs that outline the ‘crimes’ they have done, be it stealing, failing classes or even sneaking in boys into the house. These kids, some of them as young as eight are made to stand on street corners or pedestrian crossings where human traffic is high.
This idea of public shaming has not escaped Singapore as well, as websites such as Stomp! have made it easy for the public to post photos and videos of unacceptable behaviour to be judged by society.
But is this form of discipline too extreme? Especially since anything that gets posted online never really gets erased. Even if parents take down the videos, signs and photos after the child has learnt the lesson, they can’t take down all the re-tweets, shares, screen shots especially if the story has gone viral.
My child, my right
According to some parents, they have a right to discipline their kid any way they want. Add the fact that their own children are complaining and ‘shaming’ them on social media platforms, it is only fair that they can do the same. Often,parents claim that their punishments were not an immediate response but rather a last resort to their child’s unrepentant behaviour. There are also reports that the public humiliation “worked” and taught their kids a lesson.
Yet, according to Fran Walfish, a child psychotherapist in Beverly Hill, California, “Punishing a kid with public humiliation not only makes the parent appear immature, it reflects a genuine mean streak.” It also signals to the world that you have lost control of your child.
Other parenting experts have also warned that humiliation is not an effective or appropriate way to discipline a child, even when you’re at your wit’s end.
According to Alfie Kohn, author of ‘Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason’ in an interview with the Huffington Post, this type of punishment could do more harm than good because it positions the parent as an enforcer and someone to be feared as opposed to someone they can trust and respect.
He added that, “It’s not just that humiliating people, of any age, is a nasty and disrespectful way of treating them; it’s that humiliation, like other forms of punishment, is counterproductive.
Andy Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan, agrees saying, “The research is pretty clear that it’s never appropriate to shame a child, or to make a child feel degraded or diminished. Positive things have a much more powerful effect on shaping behavior than any punishment.”
Although this method of discipline might be a temporary solution to your child’s behaviour, the negative effects outweigh any positives that could be derived from it.
- It could haunt them for life
Being remembered as the girl who’s laptop got shot or who sneaked boys into the house could affect their future prospects, despite going on to be a top student or star athlete.
- It shatters confidence
A child’s confidence is usually fragile during the teen years and such action could cause irreparable damage to it.
- It does not treat the problem
When you shame your child so publicly, they might think twice about doing something wrong. Not because they see it as wrong or as doing the right thing but more so due to the fact that they might be shamed again.