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.