Trying to discipline your children can be difficult. When nothing else works, some parents resort to the tactic of shaming their children, in hopes that the social lesson will provide results where other methods have failed. However, it's important to know where to draw the line, because going over it can end up having legal consequences for the entire family. This is what you should know.
Is shaming a child ever acceptable?
Sometimes the best way to prevent a behavior from happening again is to make a child consciously aware of how his or her actions affect other people. Usually, that takes the form of making the child personally own up to his or her bad behavior and take responsibility for any hurt or problems that he or she has caused.
For example, a child that steals a pack of gum from the grocery store might be made to admit what he or she did and apologize in person to the store's manager (plus pay for the gum from any savings or allowance). A lesson in personal responsibility like that can stick in a child's mind for a long time. It does have an element of shame to it, but the shame is relatively private and only a few people ever need to be aware of the event. The event isn't focused on shaming the child, either. It's focused on teaching the child, in a safe environment, that actions have consequences.
However, involving strangers who aren't involved in the situation in a mass public shaming of your child or doing something that will physically haunt the child for weeks or months after the event can unnecessarily traumatize your son or daughter. Many experts consider that child abuse. Children's Protective Services can end up being involved if you try it and somebody reports you.
When does shaming go too far?
The newest trend seems to be internet shaming. Internet shaming involves parents doing something specific to embarrass their son or daughter and then posting the video online for strangers to see. Events have ranged from shooting a child's laptop to cutting a child's hair off.
Other parents expose their children to direct public humiliation. Dressing him or her in an embarrassing outfit, then forcing the child to endure the gaze of any curious strangers at stores seems to be one popular method of public shaming. Another is making a child carry a sign advertising his or her transgressions on a busy street corner to all passersby.
When a parent takes shaming to that degree, they're often surprised to find out that the authorities don't agree with their methods. Since many experts consider internet shaming (or public shaming in general) to be a form of child abuse, your good intentions could result in a child abuse investigation and the removal of the child from your home.
What do you do if you've made a mistake? If you publicly shamed your child, on or off the internet, and are now under investigation for child abuse, contact an attorney promptly. An attorney can help your family work with the court and child welfare authorities to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
For more information, contact Warfield Darrah & Erdmann or a similar firm.