Family Matters: What's your parenting style?
Recently a mom contacted the media to report she would be punishing her children for stealing by having them stand on a city street corner in Canton, Ohio, for five days, carrying signs stating they had been thieves. She also assigned her son 100 hours of community service and her daughter 50 hours of service. She declined to report what they had stolen, or from whom.
I was asked my views on teaching by means of public humiliation. I reached out to a variety of educators and mental health professionals to discuss the current research on the effects of public humiliation.
When interviewed, I said there are many positive ways to teach a lesson without humiliation. Humiliation can lead to anger, resentment and loss of self-respect. When messages become mixed, the true lesson may be lost in the anger and resentment.
The best practice in raising children is always a controversial subject, no matter where we live. Different cultures have different beliefs and practices. Many believe in punishing, while others follow the research of effective discipline. Mistakes made by our children offer us an opportunity to hold them accountable and teach them who we want them to grow up to become.
Life lessons are learned when a child is held accountable through natural consequences. Natural consequences help children grow up feeling good about themselves, while learning to make the right choices. Natural consequences might include returning the stolen items, working to pay for them, a direct apology to the owner for stealing and community service done at the location where they stole.
I received several emails saying that, right or wrong, those children probably won’t steal again, so the lesson will have been learned.
Psychotherapist B.J. Bell, of Holland, Mich., contacted me to say, “I think the potential damage of this level of humiliation and shame will far outweigh any lessons learned.” It is never helpful to name or shame anyone, adult or child, as both naming and shaming build walls of defense and inhibit communication.
MAKING MESSAGE CLEAR
Rather than shaming this mother, she should be commended and recognized for her effort to address her children’s stealing. She should be complimented for her passion in trying to teach her children an important message and show them a better way. Many parents have no idea of what to do, so they do nothing.
Dr. Jody McVittle of Seattle said, “We live in a culture that believes we learn best when we are hurting. When we apply that to ourselves — do we really? We tend to do much better with our dignity intact.”
Dr. McVittie, a parenting educator herself, works with parents to help their children fix mistakes with a focus on what they can do to make the situation better; teaching what to do rather than what not to do. She cited some of Dr. Jane Nelseen’s work from the Positive Discipline Series, which talks about the common results of punishment: Resentment, Revenge, Retreat (I’ll be sneaky next time or have reduced self esteem) and Rebellion. To that Dr. McVittie adds Rupture. “It breaks relationships.”
Throughout my years of serving families, I always have been concerned with the effect of the multiple lessons taught within each parent’s response, discipline, punishment or consequence. Good parenting is not about impulsive reactions or sensationalizing.
Effective parenting nurtures, teaches and supports children, giving them an opportunity to fix their mistake with dignity. I am concerned that children who are exposed to ridicule or humiliation may not trust, confide in or ask for help, for fear of the reaction or more public humiliation. Children, ’tweens and teens need to trust their parents to keep communication open when they seek guidance, in order to be safe and to think through the results of their actions.
I am concerned that public ridicule will result in teasing and bullying from peers. The consequences of teasing and bullying are far-reaching. Studies show academic performance is directly linked to self-esteem, confidence, peer support and bullying.
Unfortunately, academic decline is not the only result of teasing or bullying. I am very concerned this particular incident has been posted, forever, on Facebook and YouTube and viewed as entertainment at the expense of the children involved.
I believe in building character, from the inside out, filling children with confidence. All children can be taught effectively with positive alternatives to inspire, reach and teach.
I am dedicated to offering information, for interested parents, the many effective methods that build strong, positive family values and successful, resilient children. Isn’t that what every parent wants? Parent with a purpose and raise a strong, thoughtful, resilient child able to go out into the world with confidence and make a positive difference.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting expert. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.