You rotten kid!
You conniving little #$@!
It’s a shame that shame is so popular among parents these days.
Last month, it was the gun-toting dad who shamed his daughter (for shaming him on Facebook) by shooting her laptop and posting the video online. (And then appearing on the Today Show while his daughter squirmed on the couch next to him.)
This was the apparent kick-off for National Shame Your Child Month, which, so far, features:
- Boy’s mom makes him hold ‘I am a thief’ sign for skateboard theft (Los Angeles Times)
- Teen forced to advertise bad grades on street corner (WTOP, Washington DC)
- Teen Forced to Wear ‘Thief’ Shirt after Shoplifting Incident (CNN via WGGB):
Given the ubiquitous “Way to go, Mom/Dad!” comments, I guess a lot of people think that public shame is a great punishment. Too bad it’s not great discipline.
Sure, it makes the frustrated, at-their-wits’-end parents feel good for a while, and might even make their wayward kids behave for a while. Punishment does that. It’s a tit-for-tat, this-for-that, I’ll-show-you way of making a point.
Discipline, on the other hand, teaches. Discipline doesn’t shame. It doesn’t put your kid on the corner holding up “I’m a thief” or “I got 3 F’s” signs. It singles out the behavior, not the kid. It helps them prepare for adulthood.
Shame, says Mitch Abblett, Ph.D. at Psychology Today, isn’t the same thing as guilt:
Guilt is correctly viewed as a negative self-related emotion relative to a specific behavior one has exhibited. It’s appropriate for all of while we’re growing up to experience guilt when we’ve stepped over the line, when we’ve transgressed against others in our family, school or communities.
There’s a sense of self-inflicted pain with shame – “I’m wrong/bad/worthless/hopeless/unlovable/stupid (or whatever other all-encompassing negative label our agile minds can conjure).
Is making your teen wear an “I am a thief” shirt going to make her behave? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s not discipline. It’s shame. And that’s a real shame.
What do you think of National Shame Your Child Month?