‘I humiliated my bratty kid online’
Should parents use public shaming as a form of discipline, or is it bullying?
Image: via MyBrownBaby/Facebook

Over the last year or so there has been a spate of online discussion stirred by parents posting pictures of their kids online, mostly to social media accounts or blogs. Pictures designed to form part of a discipline-by-shaming strategy.

Take these examples from Buzzfeed:
  • The 14-year-old boy whose mom made him wear a sign at an intersections stating: “I lie, I steal, I sell drugs and I don’t follow the law.”
  • The 10-year-old Australian boy made to wear Shrek ears and a sign saying “Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a THIEF.”
  • A 12-year-old kid who was suspended after telling his teacher he “didn’t give a fuck” whose mom made him wear a huge sign about respecting adults.
  • Another 12-year-old took a pic of herself holding an unopened bottle of vodka and posted it to Facebook. Her mom then posted a picture of her to Instagram of her daughter holding a sign admitting to her “crime” and adding that she’s too young for social media.

Modern-day stocks

These examples pose a dilemma. While the phenomenon may simply be parents seeking a concrete solution to poor behaviour by teaching the child a lesson for breaking the house rules, it drifts into the territory of bullying. Sometimes these images go viral and are shared across many platforms, and the child (whose identity may not be obscured) may be ridiculed. It’s a modern-day version of putting someone in the stocks on the market square and allowing everyone to throw rotting produce at them.

Then again, these are parents who seem to have reached the end of their tether. Their kids have disrespected them, lied to them, endangered themselves or broken laws. How else should parents of these kids with no respect deal with their behaviour?

Take the kid with the stealing sign and the Shrek ears: Other parents in the park where he was forced to stand were outraged by his humiliation at the hands of his mom. One even reported the mother to a Child Safety Hotline, according to the Telegraph, and yet the child’s mom says she was fed up of the child lying, getting arrested for stealing and ignoring her.

Short-term solution, long-term damage?

We’ve yet to hear from one of the “discipline by public humiliation” kids; whether or not the treatment works is not clear, although in the examples we’ve seen online, the shame is written on their faces. Taking discipline out of the home and into public (whether online or on street corners) also exposes the parenting methods some moms and dads have. While it may have once-off benefits of shaking the child up, the longer-lasting potential damage caused by such pictures being shared online could make it less effective than desired.

Would you use public humiliation as a form of discipline?
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