Yes – you… the ones with teenagers, babies, tweens and toddlers… I have a question for you.
When did parenting become about shaming?
When did we go from teaching, nurturing, correcting and loving to humiliating, yelling, punishing and degrading?
I saw a story on the news this morning about a mother in the US who wasn’t too pleased when her eight year old son was suspended from school for bullying. I don’t blame her… as a victim of childhood bullying myself I have always let it be known in this house that bullies will never be tolerated. However, that is where our similarities end. She chose to punish her son by having him stand in a busy intersection, holding up a large sign declaring that he was a bully in big black marker. My heart broke for this child, and try as I might I simply cannot understand this rationale.
Doesn’t this make the mother a bully?
So often in today’s busy, impatient world I see parents losing it with their kids – and I’ve been guilty of it more than once, myself – but what are we teaching our children? We yell to teach them to stop yelling. We hit them to teach them not to hit. We embarrass and humiliate them to teach them to treat others with respect. How does this make any kind of sense? When did we get things so backwards?
I am a firm believer that the behaviour of a child starts at home. Sure, some kids have emotional and psychological issues that are rooted much more deeply than that, but for the most part I think that the example that you set is the behaviour that you will see; a “reap what you sow” sort of affect. So it begs the question – what kind of home life does this eight year old boy have? WHY was he acting like a bully and mistreating his peers at school? Looking at the behaviour exhibited by his mother following the incident, I admit it makes me wonder.
Would it not have benefitted everyone involved for her to have a very serious and meaningful conversation with her son, and insist that he apologize to the children that he hurt with his words and actions? I’ve thought long and hard about what this little boy has learned from all of this, and here’s what I have come up with: If someone acts in a way that you dislike or disagree with, you should act swiftly and harshly. Embarrass them. Punish them. Humiliate them. BULLY THEM into submission and use your power over them to force them to behave how YOU want them to. Somehow I don’t think that this is the lesson that mom intended, and I suspect that she now has a very angry, confused little boy to deal with.
Our job as parents is to protect our children, not hurt them. We need to teach them, not shame them. While a punishment was surely justified in this case, I just don’t think that it fit the “crime”.
When my first child was born almost ten years ago, her father and I talked a lot about what we wanted her life to be like, and what kind of parents we hoped to be. Having been bullied in school myself, I knew that I always wanted her home to be her safe haven, a place where she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was loved, protected and cared for at all costs. The thought of parading her in public, broadcasting her poor choices is horrifying to me. If her parents don’t have her back, who DOES? There will always be kids that are mean, teachers that you don’t like, bad days, bad decisions, arguments and tears… but at the end of those days, my children will always come through our door and leave those feelings outside. Sure, we have our fair share of issues within our family – everyone does – but MY job as a mother is to help my children learn from their mistakes. I am a teacher, a counsellor, a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on. As in every area in life, I am far from perfect and struggle to find an appropriate balance. I am not my children’s best friend, but I am their rock. When the world fails them, I never will.
I’ve seen many stories in the news in recent years about similar punishments and I have always found it unsettling. Parents are posting statuses on their kids’ Facebook pages, hacking into their accounts to let all their friends know exactly what they’ve done wrong and what their punishment will be. They’re making You Tube videos and blogging about the failures of their children… but I think that the failure lies with them. While I applaud any parent who doesn’t just sit back and blame the world for the actions of their kids, I also think that discipline and parenting are private and should be dealt with in the home. Social media has become not only a hot bed of bullying amongst school aged children, it is now a medium for parents to discipline their kids and that’s just plain lazy. When did it become the norm to publicly humiliate our babies?
Hell – when did it become acceptable??
I don’t know about you, but I think that the world is a scary, cold, cruel enough place for our children without us as parents making them feel even more alone.
Kids today are not growing up in the same world that we did. I was a child of the 80’s, when we played outside and jumped rope. We knocked on doors to find our friends and passed notes in class. If I got into trouble at school it was for talking during a lesson, and the worst that happened was I’d have to stay inside for recess. We didn’t have texting, email, Twitter or Facebook – heck, we didn’t have internet! If I thought someone was upset at me I had to call them on the phone and talk about it. We live in a world now where everyone hides behind a screen and that includes adults. Unplugging from all of this and taking the TIME to talk to our kids is truly what matters. I want to know what my children are doing because they tell me about their day, not because I read it in their status. I want to SEE the faces of their friends, and know their parents too. I want my kids to know that their home, and my love, is a safe place to come back to every single day. I will teach them, and sometimes punish them, but I will listen to them, and really HEAR them. I will never use their flaws or bad choices as ammunition against them, and I will never share their shortcomings with the world.
I understand that this is just my opinion and nothing more. I know that many parents choose many ways to raise their kids. This is just my little corner of the world, where I share what I think and feel. I respect others and their right to choose differently, and I know that there are surely details of the eight year old’s story that I don’t know about. But, at the end of the day, my thoughts on the issue remain the same.
If we want our children to become kind, respectful, intelligent adults, should we not be acting like kind, respectful, intelligent adults ourselves?
Just some food for thought.
What are your feelings on this touchy subject? Was mom right for choosing the punishment she did?
Have you ever been faced with such a tough call?