I don’t write often about discipline online because it’s a great way to have an argument with strangers. I feel like in general we have enough yelling on the Internet and I don’t need to contribute more.
Parenting is fraught with controversial topics and discipline is certainly on that list. But today, I wanted to share one thing that I think we can all agree has no place in parenting.
Now we could have a long, boring conversation about healthy guilt and owning the consequences of your actions, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now.
I’m talking about leaving shame out of your discipline. More specifically, I’m talking about not shaming your kids in front of their friends.
I saw this happen recently. A parent had to discipline their 14-year-old and went out of their way to do it in front of their son’s friends. The whole thing was pretty difficult to watch. Why is this so harmful?
Well, for starters, the shame blinds the kid from actually changing their behavior. Shame is loud and neon. Instead of being able to fix the situation, the kid gets this tidal wave of shame that blocks out everything else. It’s hard to learn from your mistakes when shame is screaming at you. It also turns minor offenses into seemingly terrible situations. Shame exaggerates what has actually happened. And last but not least, a middle schooler already carries a load of shame around just by the nature of their season of life. You don’t need to add more.
The problem the parent was mad about wasn’t a big deal. It was minor, right up until they decided to handle the punishment essentially on a stage for all to see.
What should they have done?
They should have pulled the kid aside. They should have talked quietly. They could have even discussed the issue a few hours later. Young kids need to be disciplined in the moment or they get confused. Teenagers can receive discipline after the specific event just fine. (This is not new information either. Every parent on the planet has removed a misbehaving kid from a restaurant at some point.)
Discipline is not easy. It’s definitely one of the many challenges of parenting. When possible though, don’t punish your kids in a way that shames them in front of their friends.
The effect of doing that ruins anything good that might come from the discipline.