Extreme Parenting Without Spanking: Humiliating Children
by Dr. Coach Love
Once again in the news highlights, parents who had humiliated their children were hailed as heroic and brave parents. This time a young boy was forced by his parents to wear a sign in public confessing that he had stolen from them.
Can a discipline tactic using force and the power of humiliation be effective, loving, and positive discipline? And more importantly, do parental tactics like these have potentially damaging and abusive consequences?
I want to clarify that I do not know the people involved; therefore, the opinions expressed are not directed at them. My comments are general.
Please consider the position I explain before you attempt using the power of humiliation to discipline your child.
1. IS IT EFFECTIVE? WELL, IT DEPENDS.
§ Certainly, some children would experience this as humorous rather than humiliating. I remember a potentially humiliating tactic a teacher used with my son when he was in fourth grade. He tended to be rather active. His teacher had him spend a class period sitting in her desk drawer. Because he felt it to be a humorous response from her, it lost effectiveness. He did not allow her actions to influence his behavior.
§ Children, with low self-esteem, may readily agree to /accept wearing a sign in public. Extreme discipline like this could be effective in lowering the child’s self-esteem further. Definitely not a good outcome.
§ Children, with adequate or good self-esteem, may also be compliant with this discipline effort. They may alter bad behavior as a result. This same child, however, would likely have responded to less extreme discipline without potential harm.
§ Children, who have strong self-esteem, may refuse to subject themselves to extreme discipline tactics. How far would/should parents go to force a child to wear a confession sign? This discipline could effectively trigger severe resistance, force, or abuse.
§ In all cases, this type of discipline represents a parental example of using humiliation for “a greater good.” Parental behavior like this effectively supplies a negative role model for children. Does the end justify the means? Do we want to teach our children that value?
2. IS IT LOVING? HARD TO SEE HOW.
§ I have difficult time in seeing how a humiliating practice can be accomplished in a loving manner. Nor can I see how it could feel loving to the child. Do you realize that hitting children with weapons, like switches or belts, was once executed under the heading “I love my children”? What is your position on that?
3. is it positive discipline? No way.
§ Humiliation is a negative experience. It is an oxymoron to expect to produce a
positive outcome out of negative discipline actions.
4. Is It Potentially Damaging or Abusive? Absolutely.
§ Emotional damage, loss of self-esteem, and the example of abusive parental behavior truly are potentially damaging consequences of using the power of humiliation as discipline.
Humiliation is a shame based discipline practice. Although experiencing a sense of guilt can preserve self-esteem and produce change, shame does not. Shame creates a profound sense of being a bad person who is incapable of change.
If you are practicing shame based discipline, or are admiring the parents who do because you consider them brave and innovative, please stop, and think about it again. Are we going back to belts and switches—with words. Are we stigmatizing our children with a modern day “scarlet letter”?
What do you think?
MORE INFO LINKS: Aticles-Parenting: Obedience and Disobedience;
Lists- Top 10 Parenting Qualities
Reflections- Parenting: Shame and Children