Publicly Shaming Our Kids – Good Parenting or Emotional Abuse?

May 31, 2015  |  

Making the rounds lately on social media are videos of parents publicly punishing or shaming their children when they do something wrong. Some seem harmless, like parents making their children carry signs that read “I lied to my mother” or “I cheated on an exam.” But I’ve also seen a video of an African-American father punching and slapping his teenaged son in the face because his son wanted to join a gang. The father’s intention was to show how “soft” his son was and that he was no where near “gang material.” And others show parents shaving their son’s head, or giving them “grandpa” haircuts because apparently the child thought he was “grown” and doing things that were inappropriate for his age.

And more often than not, these videos usually involve African-American parents and their children. I’m not saying White parents don’t do this, but it seems to be an overwhelming trend of these videos going viral when it pertains to African-Americans, and I wonder why WE of all communities feel this is necessary.

Now I’m not saying parents shouldn’t discipline their children when they lie, cheat, skip school, smoke weed, fight or want to join a gang. Making sure our children go down the right path since there is a war waged against them daily is imperative now more than ever. Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin – our children  (especially our sons) are being gunned down at an alarming rate, so I understand wanting to set them straight now so that “they” don’t get them later.

But when setting them straight and ushering a punishment, is it necessary to make a video of it and put it on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram for all to see? My guess is that parents assume that if they publicly shame or embarrass their child, they’ll learn their lesson and never commit that infraction again. But could a parent be doing more harm than good?

Parenting is hard, I know. There is no right or wrong way to parent a child, and one could argue that these parents know what will get through to their child to get them to act right. But in many cases, I wonder if the parents aren’t publicly shaming their child to correct their behavior, but to get kudos and accolades for being a good parent. I read the comments section of these posts and many applaud the parents for their “tough love” and not putting up with any nonsense. But do you need the approval of friends, family or strangers to discipline your child? Since when is humiliating your child for the world to see protecting them from trigger happy cops? Are you building them up or tearing them down while you look for “likes” and cosigns from people who are happy to see your child traumatized on social media?

I have a son, and I know that I will inevitably have to discipline him for something. While the jury is still out on whether I’ll spank him or not since he’s just a baby, I don’t know what types of discipline I’ll employ to teach him a lesson. I do know that if I DO spank him, it’ll be a last resort. My mother didn’t believe in spanking. She believed in talking to us and explaining why our actions were inappropriate while also explaining the consequences of our actions. She also believed in taking privileges away – no phone, TV, friends over, etc. Luckily that was enough for us to fall in line.

I know all children are different, so one form of punishment may not fit all when disciplining a child. And I understand that some parents feel that spanking that behind first and talking later is all that is needed to get that kid’s mind right. Most kids I know who were spanked appreciate their parents for laying hands on them, and even claim they were better off for it and turned out to be wonderful, well-adjusted adults.

But beating your kids on social media – is THAT necessary? I’m not saying don’t punish the child. I just wonder if doing so publicly can backfire on you. Nadine Bean, a professor of social work at West Chester University says the videos “are a way to gain temporary fame and kudos. But the impact of psychological maltreatment is well-documented … and lifelong. They can take the form of insults, threats, public shaming, belittling, being emotionally neglectful, being insensitive, cruel, etc.” While it’s a parent’s job to discipline their child, it’s also their job to make them feel safe and protected. In a world where they are looked at as inferior and used for target practice, the last thing I’d want my child to feel is that I was against him too. If he’s not safe at school, going to the store for some Skittles or simply walking down the street, at the VERY least he should feel safe in his own home and not feel bullied by his or her own parents.

Shaming and humiliating children under the guise of good parenting says more about the parents to me than it does about the child and whatever the child did. Most times, it seems that these parents are doing this to say, “See, look at me, I’m punishing my child therefore I’m a good parent.” There’s an insecurity there that makes them embarrass their child in exchange for applause for “not taking no stuff.” And since most times the parents are blamed when a child does something wrong, especially in the Black community, I feel we have a tendency to overcorrect the problem because we feel inadequate as parents. But emotionally abusing your child so that he can face further humiliation and ridicule can have longer lasting negative effects that can lead to stress, depression, substance abuse and low self-esteem. Is it really worth it?

I’m all for finding ways to discipline a child, but do so in a way that doesn’t dehumanize him. With #blacklivesmatter as our mantra, it seems our children need us to be their strongest allies, not their enemies. Punish your child yes, but do it privately, talk to him/her and get to the root of the problem from the inside out. You may find that you are part of the problem, and therefore can most certainly be the biggest part of the solution.

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