The GEM Debate: Public Shaming:
Did This Mother Do The Right Thing? (POLL)
There’s a lively debate going on over at Good Enough Mother’s Facebook page over the actions of a North Carolina mother. Her daughter was engaging in cyber-bullying and the mom took some pretty serious action. She decided to make her daughter sell her iPod and give the money to an anti-bulling charity. Mom took a picture of the daughter holding a sign explaining what she did and why she had to sell the iPod. Mom posted the picture on a Facebook page for local yard sales. Another user posted it to Reddit and, quite predictably, the story has traveled the world. You can read more about it here.
This isn’t the first story of a parent publicly shaming her child and it certainly won’t be the last. Bullying of ANYONE is a serious issue that should be handled immediately and assertively every.single.time. Still, I shake my head every time I see a picture on social media of parents bullying their own children. I cringe at the overwhelmingly supportive comments that other people leave.
Stories like this are troubling for a couple of reasons:
1. This picture will follow the girl for the rest of her life.
The picture you see here is of a pixilated face and name, but rest assured the unpixelated version is out there. Once mom hit the “send” button, she guaranteed that this picture will haunt her daughter. Someone WILL Google her name—a romantic interest, a college admissions officer, a potential employer—and it WILL show up. The girl made a mistake for which she should absolutely be disciplined. Why should she be punished for the rest of her life?
Think about the stupid things you did when you were young. Whether you bullied someone, smoked weed, cheated on a test, got into a fight with your brother, or any other countless foolish things that young people do, is that who you are today at 30, 40, or 50 years old? Would you really be okay with those incidents springing back to life every time you meet new people or look for a job? Would you be okay with people using that to define you now?
We want our kids to be wary of images and texts they put out on the worldwide web, whether they are inappropriate pictures, text messages, status updates, or tweets, but then we don’t exercise that same discretion when it comes to their lives.
2. The lesson taught may not be the one learned.
We parents are tasked with protecting our children. We are the ones who have a vested interest in our children’s safety and security. Most of us would put our lives on the line without thinking twice about it for our children. Yet, if discipline becomes something that leaves our homes in such a public way and becomes a spectacle for our neighbors to cluck at and for the world to examine, we are not protecting our children.
In my humble opinion, if I publicly shamed my children, the message I would be sending to hundreds of thousands of strangers who don’t know or love them is this: You don’t have to respect my kids. It’s okay to treat them badly—look what I just did to them and I’m their mother. If I love them and would do this, I don’t expect you to treat them much better.
I’m not saying that’s exactly what other people would be sitting around thinking. It’s subtler than that. But we should remember that it’s an all-too-human and unconscious characteristic for people to treat others based on how those who love them treat them.
More importantly, what message does public shaming send to our kids? Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason explained that “such disciplinary tactics can lead children to view parents as enforcers rather than someone they can trust.” Of course, we want our children to follow the rules and do the right thing. However, by employing harsh tactics, we run the risk of having the majority of our parenting become a jailer/prisoner relationship.
A parent bullying her own child on social media to teach her that bullying is wrong is a bad idea. Yes, the punishment fits the crime–if one desires to reduce parenting to an eye for an eye. Parents have to be the ones to teach their children to go beyond their base instincts, to learn to create value. These type of punishments destroy the child’s heart one Facebook picture at a time.
The girl will probably change her mind about bullying, but nothing has been done to change her heart. If the lesson learned is not to bully for fear of public shaming, then she will bully again—just not while she’s under her mother’s roof. Maybe she will join in some college hazing. Maybe she will be the person who berates the wait staff at restaurants. Maybe she will be the micromanaging boss from hell we all despise.
Those are my thoughts. What do you think of how this mother shamed her daughter? Would you do it? Why or why not? Take the poll and share your thoughts below.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.