Growing up in a North Carolina, Christian home in the early 90s, it wasn’t unusual to hear Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” This has been loosely interpreted into, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Not everyone agrees with this matter-of-fact way of rearing children.
While discipline is necessary in shaping and molding a child, there are varying interpretations of what discipline actually means. A pop on the bottom to discourage your child from doing something that will harm them doesn’t compare to grabbing a weapon and knocking your child’s teeth out. The former is discipline and the latter? Child abuse or assault. Both happen more times than we know, but now people are starting to share their various forms of disciplining their children online.
Social media has come into the conversation around disciplining your children in a very viral way. Parents have been posting videos of them publicly shaming their children on Facebook as a form of punishment for their bad behavior. A Denver mother shared a video of herself shaming her 13-year-old daughter who pretended to be a 19-year-old “freak” on Facebook. She posed in a photo, wearing only a bra. The angry mother asked her daughter, “Do you know anything about being a freak?” She then turned to the camera and said, “She’s a kid and she’s gonna stay a kid. As long as she’s under my roof, she’s going to do what I say.” The mother then forced her daughter to talk to the camera and say that she’s going to obey her parents’ wishes and then listed the amount of punishments she would be receiving.
Many parents praised the mother for actively punishing her daughter, but this “punishment” seems to cross the line into shaming. “Shaming is is not a form of discipline, it is a form of emotional abuse and until we understand that, we will continue to do a great injustice to our children. We will be unintentionally creating adults who perpetuate emotional abuse and whose interpersonal relationships will be chaotic, dramatic and painful,” author and emotional expert, Teal Swan says.
That’s not to say that the kids in these public shaming videos weren’t wrong in their actions. But public shaming does more than embarrass children, it deeply cuts them. Izabel Laxamana, a 13-year-old, was publicly shamed by her father after getting “messed up.” He cut off Izabel’s gorgeous long black hair and asked her if it was “worth it.” In the 15 second clip, she sadly said no. A couple of days later, Izabel jumped off a bridge onto the interstate and died. Laxamana’s father severed their relationship when he made the choice to hurt his daughter for the whole world to witness.
“Trust is broken through public shaming because by publicly shaming the child, the parent has taken action to demonstrate that they do not have concern for their child’s feeling state. The child cannot trust the parent to care for how he or she feels. In fact, public shaming takes this one step further and demonstrated that the parent not only doesn’t have concern for the child’s feelings but in fact wants the child to feel hurt. This is more like the motive of a sadist than a loving family member,” Swan says.
Laxamana’s father may have been only trying to make a point by creating the video of him cutting off his daughter’s hair, but it created a sense of emotional neglect. Swan explains that, “Things like deliberate threatening, shaming, humiliating, exploiting and isolating” are considered emotional abuse. Swan also claims that there’s another form of emotional abuse that often happens, but isn’t recognized and that’s emotional neglect. “It leaves even deeper scars. Instead of trauma caused by what is done, it is trauma caused by what is not done. People who have suffered emotional neglect as children grow up to have painful relationships, they are at especially high risk for suicide and addictions.”
Public shaming is never an appropriate part of parenting. So how do you discipline your child? Swan says, “The alternative is teaching children about healthy boundaries, both of the child himself or herself and of other people. We can help our children develop a moral conscious by helping them to understand the consequences of their actions and also how those actions affect others without stripping them of a sense of self worth by destroying their self worth through shaming. ”
Recently, a father posted a video on Facebook and at the start, it was very similar to the public shaming videos many parents were starting to post. But the video took a turn when the father hugged his son and said that he could never embarrass him like that. “Good parenting starts before he even gets to the point of being out of control,” the father says.
Disciplining your kids is about control. Swan says, “Controlling a child puts a child in a state of powerlessness. No child or person is ever going to react well to that. It makes you an enemy instead of an advocate. This is not a loving thing to do to a child. We need to stop trying to control our children and instead seek to give them a sense of control over themselves.”
Swan says parents need to ask themselves, “What can I do to model respect, empathy and caring and how can I demonstrate doing what I know in my heart is right?” If parents then model that type of behavior to their children, they would be able to approach their kids directly with respect, empathy and care.
Going forward, parents could effectively communicate with their children if they seek to understand their child and to be understood by their child, instead of trying to be right.
ABOUT TEAL: Emotional expert and YouTube sensation Teal Swan was born highly intuitive. A survivor of ritual sexual abuse and torture, she now travels the world teaching others how to heal by discovering and owning their self-worth and self-love. Her new Hay House Publishing book, “Shadows Before Dawn: Finding the Light of Self-Love Through Your Darkest Times,” is a beacon of hope for anyone who has suffered trauma, struggled with fear or lost touch with their authentic emotional self. Teal Swan is the founder of Teal Eye, LLC and the accompanying nonprofit, Headway Foundation. Her vision is to enable everyone on earth to live free, joyous and healthy lives and she is determined to make that vision a reality.