As a dog owner, I admit that pictures like those found on Dogshaming cause me to chuckle. Images of dogs toilet papering the house, eating their owner’s designer purses, and rummaging through garbage are far too relatable (only my purse was from Target!). The thing that makes me laugh the most is that my dog could be featured in any of those pictures.
Dogs are not people, as anyone can see. While we love and often refer to our dog as our daughter, she is still a dog and our human son always comes before the pooch. I can only get away with sticking one of them in a crate for an entire day (and there is only one I would want to do that to, anyway!). Moreover, the dog will never grow into an autonomous being who has to live with the decisions I make concerning her future. Sticking a picture of my dog on the internet with the caption “I head-butted my metal kennel so much I made a hole and climbed out… twice” (true story!) will have no ramifications on her future because her entire future will be played out within the comforts of our home.
Our son, however, is different. Some day he is likely to go to college, find a job, maybe pursue a political future—the opportunities are plentiful for a person. Posting pictures of our son online and sharing the latest precarious situation he found himself in could have an impact on his life in the days to come.
For example, let’s say a mom who wants to shame her daughter into changing her behavior makes the girl wear an “I am selfish” shirt, hoping the picture she posts on Facebook will make the girl’s bad behavior a viral sensation. Unfortunately, the young girl will have to live with the ramifications of being the “I am selfish” shirt girl for the rest of her life. She could go on to graduate top of her class and be interviewing for her dream job one day, and then be recognized for the decision her mother made twenty years ago. A parent’s goal should be restoration and bringing the child back into good relationships with those around her, not sentencing children to perpetual embarrassment for their youthful mistakes.
Because of that, our family is committed to disciplining with our son’s dignity in mind. You will never find our child on a street corner with a sign confessing his crime to all passersby. These images are quick to go viral or make a mark on the evening news, but the cost of these images for the people in the picture have a much longer lasting effect.
The goal of discipline (whatever method your choose) is always to restore your child to right living. Why is a three-year-old disciplined for taking a toy from another child? Because she is choosing to be selfish. Why is choosing to be selfish a problem? Because living selfishly will have an impact on everyone with whom she interacts. She will make selfish decisions and it sets a dangerous pattern for how she will treat people the rest of her life. If she continues living selfishly she will hurt all of the people who love her. So, Mom steps in and says, “No, you will not behave this way” and administers the family’s agreed upon method of discipline.
All of this is designed to bring the toddler back into the bounds of living an unselfish life so that she can enjoy the benefits of choosing to live out this virtue. The goal is not to prove how mad Mom is, nor is it for the parent to take out her anger for the embarrassment the toddler caused; the goal is restoration between the toddler and those affected by her selfish attitude.
For the sake of our child’s dignity, all discipline is done in private. At home this means excusing ourselves from any other siblings or company that is visiting. When we are away from home, we remove ourselves to a private location, even if that means returning home. No mater what type of punishment is dispensed, it will be done in private. The goal is not to embarrass our child and drive him further away from his parents, rather, it is restoration with his family and all affected by the behavior.
Posting forever images of a child goes beyond correcting behavior. While the child may be too embarrassed to commit that act ever again, the relationship he has with his parents will always be affected, and will only get worse as he gains more understanding of what the parent has done. When a child’s dignity is ignored, relationships with the one ignoring their dignity will always be adversely affected. If you want to parent children who respect and appreciate a relationship with you, keeping their dignity as a primary goal in the discipline process will help you to accomplish this task. Parents need to stop shaming their kids on social media. It is time we all commit to disciplining our children with their dignity in mind.