Posted: Mar 06, 2014 8:00 AM
 
The latest trend in parenting tweens and teens seems to involve using shame to inspire behavioral correction. Parents take to Facebook and Instagram to call their kids out on their poor behavior. This kind of parenting will lead to lack of trust and increased resentment.

I'm not sure when "dog shaming" became the norm, but there are several websites that are happy to post your pictures of your family dog engaged in some sort of misbehavior with a note describing the behavior in detail. I must admit, I have laughed myself through a few of these pictures. As a bleeding heart who can't stand public humiliation of any kind (even the kind for pets), I have resisted hitting the share function on such posts. Even though it's a little bit funny to see a dog covered in rainbow frosting, I also feel a little bit sorry for the dog that can't defend itself. I mean, the rainbow cake was probably delicious and very tempting, don't you think?

Sadly, there are far worse trends taking off on places like Facebook and Instagram, and one of those is teen (and tween) shaming. You might have seen the story about the mom who took a picture of her daughter holding a sign describing her poor choices regarding online bullying. Or perhaps you laughed at the dad who cut his jeans into super short shorts in an effort to humiliate his daughter for wearing the same? For reasons I can't quite understand, parents seem to be embracing shame as a means of behavioral correction.

Shame is not a parenting strategy, and neither is public humiliation.

It takes a bully to raise a bully, so think twice before you set those wheels in motion.

Posting teen or tween shaming pictures to Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites (or tagging them in status updates that involve rants and jokes about their behavior) isn't likely to inspire change in your children. In fact, this behavior on the part of a parent falls under the title of "bullying." It takes a bully to raise a bully, so think twice before you set those wheels in motion. Beyond that, humiliation tends to lead to anger, resentment and shutting down, which are all known barriers to improving parent-child relationships.

Parenting teens and tweens is hard work, but the risks of publicly shaming them far outweigh any potential benefits (are we really so in need of "likes" and shares that we will throw our kids under the proverbial bus to get them?).

Mixed messages

In a time where teens and tweens are taking their lives as a result of cyberbullying, it's hard to imagine that a parent would even consider doing the same to their own child. And yet they do. You might think that parents follow a different set of rules, but when you publicly humiliate your child on social media you send a very confusing message.

Would you support your child's decision to post an embarrassing picture of a peer on Instagram after your child was left out of a social engagement on the weekend? Of course not! You would talk to your child about ways to handle disappointing situations with peers. You would sit down together and problem-solve. Why is it acceptable for you to post an embarrassing picture of your child after she misses curfew or wears an inappropriate outfit? It's not.

Children of all ages mirror our behavior. We need to set a positive example for our children, even when they make poor choices.

Children of all ages mirror our behavior. We need to set a positive example for our children, even when they make poor choices.

Anger is toxic

Knowing that thousands of people have seen an embarrassing photo posted by a parent is mortifying at best, and that can lead to anger and resentment for a child. Teens and tweens are still our children, after all. And anger can be very toxic.

Anger can lead to impulsive decisions, fractured relationships and poor concentration. Anger can cause your child to shut down and avoid family interaction. Anger can lead to poor coping strategies, which increases the risk for depression.

It's important to set limits and maintain consistency with teens and tweens. While they might think that they have it all figured out, they are prone to risky behavior and impulsive decisions. While patience and honesty is required in these difficult parenting moments, shame is not an effective form of solving these common teen and tween dilemmas.

Kids have feelings

They deserve the same amount of unconditional love and respect that you show to younger children, and then some.

Teens and tweens are often known for their bravado. They don't always wear their feelings on their sleeves, although they might display exaggerated fits of hysteria from time to time. Nonetheless, they do have feelings. They deserve the same amount of unconditional love and respect that you show to younger children, and then some.

Adolescence is not an easy time to navigate, and kids will make mistakes along the way. Deliberately hurting their feelings in an attempt to gain power in the relationship and correct those poor choices is emotionally damaging at best. You might think that your child lacks respect for you, but chances are that she puts you on a pedestal. Until you break her heart. Then she'll walk away with her eyes downcast and silent tears streaming down her face. Because your parents are supposed to love you anyway, not post your mistakes for the whole world to see.

More on parenting teens and tweens

How to protect tweens from online bullying
How to handle tweens with attitude
Should your tween be on Facebook?

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