Shame and Punishment Aren’t Forms of Discipline
I’m really not one to get worked up about things, but this week I was pissed off.
Yesterday, a video came across my Facebook newsfeed of a father publicly shaming his son. It was the second video of a parent humiliating a child that I’d seen in less than a week.
The videos were almost too painful for me to watch: A severely emotionally distressed boy screaming and crying in the back seat of a car, while his mother yelled at him and mocked him. And a boy forced to smash his video game consoles with a sledgehammer because he was unable to raise his grades at school.
I felt so much compassion for these two boys, and I desperately wished I could comfort them. And I felt so much anger toward their parents. I wanted to take the sledgehammer and smash the phones that were recording their sons. The behaviors being chastised (the tantrum, the poor grades) are just symptoms of much larger problems that need to be addressed.
While I hate to promote these videos further, maybe their impact will help parents make a positive difference in the long run. Warning: these are difficult to watch. Please don’t watch them with your own kids around.
These are children. Children who need parents to help them because they don’t know how to help themselves. Yelling, laughing, and punishing only make the situations worse when these kids end up feeling bad about themselves, alone, and completely demoralized.
“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” – Brené Brown
These boys are begging for connection and love through their behavior, but their parents are too blinded by their own egos to recognize it. These parents may feel powerful bullying their kids, but in my opinion, they’ve just publicly weakened and humiliated themselves.
In the private Facebook group where I saw the first video, the comments exploded with hostility as many moms argued and attacked each other over whether the boy should have been spanked, diagnosed with autism, or abandoned on the side of the road. And according to a poll on PopSugar.com, where the second video appeared, almost 40% of voters agreed that the child needed to experience “this type of discipline” to understand the importance of school and good grades.
The problem is: Shame and punishment aren’t forms of discipline.
Although the words “discipline” and “punishment” are often used interchangeably, they’re actually quite different.
The word “discipline” comes from the Latin word “disciplina,” which refers to education and training, whereas “punish” or “punire” refers to inflicting pain and suffering.
Below are some key differences between discipline and punishment.
When parents stay calm and connected to their kids, while setting and sticking to reasonable limits, I promise — they don’t need to rely on punishment to raise well-behaved, respectful, and responsible children.
There are many ways these situations could have been handled differently. In the comments below, please share your thoughts and insights.
If you recognize your own behavior in either of these videos, please contact me about my services. I can help you turn things around.
Wishing you a week filled with kindness and compassion.
I couldn’t even read your post about this upsetting situation with these two children. I am disgusted to hear that parents or any adults for that matter treat their children like that! The children can’t defend themselves. I feel like crying right now. I do hope parents will change or someone could give those children love. It’s heartbreaking!
Oh goodness Pam. I haven’t watched the videos, and to be honest I’d find them too distressing so won’t. Unfortunately the cycle is likely to be continued isn’t it? I can only imagine the physical symptoms of behaving like that toward children – increased blood pressure, high levels of hormones racing through your body, distress, anxiety. It’s got to “feel” bad physically – so why do it? I’d want to give those kids a hug too. Xx
Beth said it all really. Like her I found these videos really disturbing and distressing. Those poor kids. And to film these kids and post it publicly is a violation of their privacy and more wrong and disrespectful than anything their kids have done. I just wanted to reach out and give those boys a huge hug.
You’re doing wonderful and meaningful work Pam. Parenting is hard and we need a lot more parenting coaches out there in the world.
Thank you, Kelly. You’re doing amazing things at Project ME, too!
I couldn’t finish watching either one. The first one almost had ME in tears. Kids have meltdowns. Stop the car. That’s number one, because it wasn’t safe for the mom to continue driving under those conditions. Her son wasn’t strapped into his seat and his tantrum was certainly a huge distraction. Speak with the boy, maybe you stay on the side of the road 15 minutes, maybe an hour, but everyone must be buckled into his or her seat for the car to be in motion. It’s not negotiable. So to continue driving, it seems in order to continue videoing the meltdown, was horrible. And the mother tells her son he’s grounded for “the entire summer.” For having a tantrum? What could a kid possibly do to warrant that kind of consequence? But on top of ignoring safety concerns, in addition to meeting out draconian punishment, she allowed someone to video her boy’s meltdown and post it on line? I’m guessing in the privacy of her home, that mom has lost it on more than one occasion. How would she like it if her worst moments were broadcast to the world?
As for the second video, when the boy starts towards the machines with the hammer, he mumbles, what sounds like, “I hate my life.” Poor kid. Now I say this as a mom with a son who spends, as far as my husband and I are concerned, far too much time computer gaming, and not enough doing lots of other things. But we worked with our son to set up reasonable time limits for playing, and set our server to turn off at a certain time each day. A kid with poor grades needs for his parents and teachers to work as a team and help the student. Maybe he does need to play less on the xbox, but that’s the parents’ job to figure out and implement limits. This parent’s solution was just wrong, and again, putting a video of the boy on line is beyond the pale. I felt so bad for that kid.
Your comment is brilliant. Yes, yes, and yes to all of it. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Hi I stumbled on on this, and i feel i want to pull my hair out with my 3 year old. i get to the point where i have lost it and yelled at my child, do i feel guilty yes of course i do, i dont mock him nor do i hit him, i want to tho give him a smack my son doesnt listen to me at all i am patient but when my patience runs out i turn into a mad women that screams and i promise myself next time i will try harder not to, i feel completely inadequate when my son doesnt listen and throws a tantrum i try to console him he kicks me bites me tells me to go away. he constantly needs attention this morning i yelled at him on the way to school as he was whining and crying over literally nothing i heard him that he needed a tissue to blow his nose which i didnt have one on me so i told him i dont have one he carried on and on until i actually felt like ramming my car over the bridge. why doesnt he just hear me i acknowlege him i try do all these parenting tips and i still feel like the biggest loser and failure. i have tried time out a smack and yet i fail everytime. we are both seeing a child psychologist and i know its time and consistancy but i really dont know the only time i get my child to listen to me is actually to shout at him and tell him to cut it out. but what you described yes i do feel like these parents sometimes, i am pregnant again and my hormones are all over the show, i blame myself for the child that i have that doesnt listen and yet i blame my mother too when i tried to discpline him i got undermined now i sit with this problem between mother and son. the connection is lost i try to rebuild it but i feel like its gone. i feel like my child doesnt want me around and it hurts me. i feel like my child is this little boy and i am the big bad wolf.
THANK YOU for taking the time to share your story. You are not alone. I had similar struggles when my older daughter was young, and I’ve coached many moms who have experienced the exact same things as you.
I invite you to check out this video I did on Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/lessdramamoremama/videos/1504532539557859/) and get the free workbook that I mention toward the end.
This blog is full of advice and resources to help you, so please subscribe. I’m also happy to work with you 1:1.
I promise you that things can be better — amazing even — when you have the right tools and mindset.
Just acknowledging that you’re struggling and that you want things to be different is a step in the right direction.
YOU CAN DO THIS!