There is a growing trend lately of parents taking to the internet to shame their children in a variety of ways for their bad behavior. In one, a mother beats her teen with a belt for sneaking out with boys. In another, a father shaves his son’s head into a balding “old man” haircut because he got bad grades, and in the most celebrated video yet, a mother punches her son in the face to get him out of the Baltimore riots. I have no desire to link these videos because to do so would be to continue the degradation and humiliation of these children (and parents). It isn’t that I don’t have empathy for the parents struggling to keep their kids on the right path. Parenting is not for the weak willed or timid. It’s hard, back-breaking work with no pay, major guilt, and very little sleep. I have had moments where I have considered recording my child’s screaming meltdowns just so her dad will believe me, but I don’t. Something holds me back.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Even if you are not a Christian who follows biblical instruction, this verse is very helpful. Provoking a child to anger or disobedience is your fault! We need to be very careful that we are not so harsh or so overzealous in our discipline that we are actually making it worse. Humiliation is provocation. Publicly humiliating a child is daring him to rebel. This is the wrong approach. We want to capture our children’s hearts so that they want to obey our instructions–because they love us. While some fear of a parent’s disapproval is a good thing, we do not want our children to fear that we will hurt them by humiliation. Humiliating children, no matter what they have done, is not the appropriate response.
I have had to check myself sometimes when we are out and about, making sure that I don’t correct or scold my children so loudly that they are embarrassed by the stares of other people. It is important that private conversations stay private because even children deserve respect. Imagine how you would feel if your husband loudly complained in the grocery store about something that you had done! Children may not be our equals, but they are human beings that deserve respect.
Social media is a dangerous tool when used by out-of-control people. Posting videos of you humiliating your child will be out there forever. That child may become depressed, withdrawn, and even suicidal. Parents who love their children do NOT drive them to depression with their discipline methods. One of the hardest things for a child to experience is embarrassment. They will experience this naturally because they are children and foolishness is bound up in the hearts of little ones, but when they fail and are embarrassed, they should come to you for solace. Their parents, the people who love them the most, should never be the source of that embarrassment.
Discipline is crucial to child development. The Bible says that if you do not discipline your children, you hate them! Those are harsh words. I don’t mean to imply that you should avoid discipline completely, but humiliation is neither effective nor is it right. If you have used humiliation on your children you owe them an apology. Let us not be so puffed up with our parental prerogative that we cannot admit when we are wrong. Modeling repentance to our children is a great way to let them know how important the practice is. I have to apologize to my children regularly because I am quick to anger and short on patience. These are things that I struggle with. But our children should know that we share the struggle with them and they are not alone in their disobedience. We are all in this together.
When I see the humiliation videos and the comments showing support for such traumatic parenting fails, I can’t help but wonder if these people know what love is. Love is not humiliation.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”- 1 Corinthinans 13:4-8