Have you seen the video below?
Perhaps you’ve also seen, as I have, teens with posters that read, “I am a bully! Honk if you hate bullies!” on the side of the highway. I’ve seen countless toddlers and small children shamed on social media with “cooperation” t-shirts, tethered to their siblings whilst crying and begging not to be filmed. Children who cut their own hair and as punishment have their heads shaved and pictures posted online are commonplace now. Parents videotaping their kids, mid-tantrum as a disciplinary measure and sharing these disturbing messages to “likes” and comments and “shares” of “what a great idea!”
Maybe it’s time we rethink the act of shaming our children and labeling it discipline. Maybe this t-shirt idea is better than yelling, and better than spanking, but neither of the children forced into this shirt is being heard emotionally. The message we are sending our kids here is – you aren’t allowed to be angry at each other and if you are angry, you will be publicly shamed. Not to mention the abuses we set our children up for when we don’t allow them to own their own bodies and we force them to show physical affection, but for today, let’s focus on anger and how we teach our children to manage it.
Maybe teaching our children to manage their own anger is best done by modeling it ourselves. Before anger flares, try to keep in mind that it might happen and decide that when and if things take a downward path, that you will take a step back, and put some distance between the offending action and your reaction. Everyone gets exhausted, overwhelmed and even angry from time to time. It doesn’t make us awful to experience negative emotions; it makes us human. It’s what we do when we are angry, and how we manage the intensity, that are important. Showing healthy responses to negative emotions helps teach our children that all emotions can be expressed and managed safely.
There is no growth, no discipline, no lesson learned from shaming our children. We often hold our kids to a different and much higher standard than we hold ourselves. Kids are people too, with emotions and feelings and behaviors, both positive and not so positive. Maybe it’s time we all take a step back and think – would I want my mistakes, my errors written on my shirt? Videotaped and shown to the world? If your answer to that is “no” then consider that your child is as human as you are, and rise up to the challenge of parenting with a heart, with compassion, with the wisdom that comes from learning from mistakes by getting the chance to try again, and not from being publicly humiliated.
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!