Today’s Klout offering in my “Create” box brought to mind a trend I’ve been thinking a lot about. Specifically, the public shaming of children by their parents/caregivers.
I recently participated in a FB debate which, while heated on occasion, actually stuck to the topic at hand (to spank or not to spank?) and the professionals that participated were measured, precise, and articulate in their respective positions. I don’t think anyone in the debate was convinced to switch sides, but it was an excellent exercise of intelligence, wit, and expertise – from both positions. What did surprise me, however, was the response when other forms of ‘abuse’ were mentioned. (I use quotations because one side defines any physical punishment as ‘abuse,’ and the other defines mild physical punishment as ‘discipline.’) Very few of those professionals unilaterally condemned the action of publicly shaming a child.
Shaming strikes to the core of a child’s identity, and when that strike is perpetrated by the very person whom the child instinctively knows is supposed to love, protect, guide, and nurture him/her, the betrayal is double.
Pictures of dog shaming are hilarious.
Pictures of a child being shamed are sickening, heart-breaking, and have such long-term consequences that I am simply astounded that there is not vociferous condemnation of this practice. The dog will never come across his picture on FB, Twitter, Stumble, Google+, MySpace, YourSpace, or AnyoneElse’sSpace. He isn’t going to look at his three, six, twelve-year-old self being held up to ridicule to the whole world. He’s not going to care that someone brings up his bad deed at a party of his peers, or family friends, or his wedding.
Standing your twelve-year old on the corner with a sign around his neck, and then posting pics and videos, and allowing others to do the same is A B U S E. It’s cruel, crippling, and contrary to everything a parent is supposed to embody …aaaaaaaaaand, IT DOESN’T WORK. As a consequence, punishment, discipline strategy, or “learn-your-lesson” payback, it sucks – doing way more damage than the problem it’s supposed to cure.
Shaming is like pouring battery acid on the soul of a child. A childish action goes from being a foolish/unlearned/childish mistake to an action that is the result of a fundamental flaw in my character or personality.
When children are emotionally or psychologically abused, they grow up feeling unloved, unwanted, and fearful. Normal development is interrupted and it sends the wounded child into exile. ~Karyle McBride
It’s not much better for adults, but we can often cognitively sort out that shaming is a tactic which says more about the individual doing it than the one on the receiving end. Unless of course, shaming was the ‘Discipline-du-jour’ of your Family of Origin. Messages internalised from childhood immediately become the loudest thing in that person’s head, and generally what follows is painful attempts to drown out the endlessly looping tape of toxic self-condemnation in whatever way works.
These attempts to drown out the toxic messages is what often brings individuals into my practice. I see the reality of Jeffrey Young’s Core Schema theory on an almost daily basis. No matter what the schema might be (I am unloveable; I am worthless; etc.) it is based on the shame-filled premise that “Who I am is not acceptable.”
When I do a Core Belief Ladder with a client and s/he is able to articulate the underlying foundational belief about self (which is always negative and a lie) that is the framework for his/her life, there is inevitably grief, anger, and pain. A maelstrom of emotions leading straight back to incidents of being shamed. Inevitably, shaming (unintentional and/or deliberate), occurred in the very situation – the family – where it should have been safe to make mistakes while growing up and maturing into a uniquely amazing individual.
If those parents who think that shaming is an acceptable way to teach their child a lesson were using the equivalent physical punishment, it would have to be a beating of such magnitude that they’d end up in jail.
Sadly, in addition to the actual shaming itself, voyeuristic, ignorant, and/or malicious people are picking up the social media postings of children being shamed, and passing them around. I love social media, but I absolutely despise this side of the global visibility people’s postings may now achieve.
I think this behaviour is not unlike passing around sexualised pictures of children. We call that “child porn” and do something about it. I guess ‘shaming porn’ isn’t likely to engender the same response. It should.
But maybe that’s just me.