Publicly Shaming Your Kids: The True Effects and What to Do Instead

You know what I’m talking about…you’ve seen the videos and pictures on social media.  Check out the example we recently shared on Facebook.  Parents basically making fun of, shaming, their kids by sharing with the world the child’s mistake and humiliation.  It’s one of the many things that keep me up at night.  It’s mean.  It’s damaging.  It’s ineffective. Parents are meant to be a safety net.  Shaming your kids, at any age, is the exact opposite.

Studies show that shaming children violates their trust in their parents and can lead to permanent, lifelong problems for kids. Every relationship is based on early childhood patterns.

Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed states that shaming can actually change a child’s development, putting undue stress on the brain. Anxiety and depression later in life can stem from a shaming incident during childhood. Some kids even suffer post-traumatic stress after being shamed by a parent, or worse yet, commit suicide.  No, this is not an exaggeration.  This is science.  And common sense.

Think about it.  If the people you are supposed to be able to trust with your life, your heart and your soul turn on you, and publicly no less, of course you will be traumatized by this!  Most parents resort to shaming because they don’t know what else to do.  But some parents are just mean and immature and need to feel a rush of power so they exert their authority over their child and humiliate them at home or in public.  This is never acceptable.

Above, I stated the true effects of shaming your child but let’s recap just to drive the point home: they lose trust in you, they feel insecure in their environment and in themselves, they suffer from anxiety and depression all the way in to adulthood and some experience post-traumatic stress that sometimes leads to suicide.   Public shaming also makes your kid a target for bullies because they are exposed online and become vulnerable.  These are probably not the results you expect when you post shaming videos and pictures online but these are the results you will get.

What can you do instead when your child acts out?

  • Sit down and talk calmly but directly with your kids.
  • Pick a neutral space, like the kitchen, instead of a bedroom, so everyone is on equal footing.
  • Give everyone the same amount of time to speak.
  • Actively listen to your child.
  • Guide and direct them on what they should do next time.
  • Finally, allow for natural or applied consequences as a result of their unacceptable behavior or poor choice.  It is important to have them acknowledge and “fix” their mistake… but without shaming them.

Parenting is hard!  Get support.  Work together as a family unit.  And don’t lose hope.  If we can help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Written by Lisa Smith

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