Yesterday on my Facebook feed I saw a picture of a young teenage girl, sitting on some stairs and holding up a sign that read: “My name is Natalie*. I am a kind, caring, smart girl but I make poor choices with social media. As a punishment, I am selling my IPod and will be donating the money to the charity Beat Bullying, in hopes of changing my behavior as well as bringing awareness to bullying. Because bullying is wrong.” (What in the world would her punishment have been if she refused to write the sign and take the picture? What could be worse than this as a teenage girl? Standing naked in the middle of the mall?!? Plus she still has to sell her Ipod because being humiliated in front of thousands of people isn’t punishment enough? Remember when we could just look the other person in the eye and say that we’re sorry? That was no easy task, either, and we actually learned a lesson from it.)
My heart immediately went out to this young girl. I can’t begin to imagine the shame and humiliation that she is currently feeling. (Heck, I freak out when I’m tagged in an unflattering picture that only a few people see on Facebook.) I was also flabbergasted by the number of parents that actually liked this post and congratulated Natalie’s mother on a job well done. I am usually not the one to judge another person’s parenting skills. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to do what’s best for our children. We suffer enough self-doubt and guilt on our own and the last thing we need is another parent adding fuel to the fire. But, on behalf of Natalie and all the other kids who are being publicly shamed by their families, it’s time to speak up for these kids. No matter the offense, public humiliation is never okay. It’s not funny. It’s not righting a wrong. It’s creating an even bigger problem because the only lesson it’s teaching is that parents are the biggest bullies of all and our children will hate us for it.
Disciplining kids is not an easy thing. We are all going to make mistakes. We are all going to lose control and blow it every now and then. None of us is perfect. One of our main jobs as parents is to correct and guide our children by teaching them empathy, by teaching them the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. You want your son to honor you? You must also honor your son. The goal of discipline should never be to induce guilt or shame. All this will do is create a rip in your relationship with your child. Your daughter looks to you as her protection, her safety in the crazy storm of life. What happens when she begins to see you as the tornado? Discipline should come from a place of love. It should be a learning opportunity for growth. Discipline should teach how to right a wrong. Discipline should shame the behavior but should never shame the child.
Can we agree as caring parents that enough is enough? Can we stop humiliating our young and instead lead by example? Can we stop shaming our kids instead of truly disciplining them? Because, as Natalie said, bullying is wrong.
*I intentionally changed the name of the teenage girl and did not post her picture to avoid spreading her name and image even further. Unfortunately, her story and hundreds like hers are real.