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Using Shame To Discipline

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A mother of a 14 year old who was skipping classes and lying about it, decided to get creative with her solution to the problem.  Her approach? She followed her daughter around school, taunting and humiliating her. The mom filmed the ordeal and then posted it online.  It went viral.  OUCH!

Just for the record, I did NOT watch this mom’s YouTube video and I am purposely not posting a link to it.  Why?  Because I believe this is bullying behaviour. By watching the video I am a bystander and thus a contributor to the bullying.  Public shaming requires an audience and I didn’t want to watch it.

I did, however, watch a news clip about the story and that gave me enough of a flavour of the situation that I feel comfortable commenting on some basic principles.

Shame and Humiliation

Shaming and humiliating are types of abusive acts designed to hurt.   Just as with all methods of punishment, the goal is to make another person obey, submit, or comply  with the punisher.  As parents, we justify this action since we are blinded by our notion that our motives are good.  After all, shouldn’t children be made to go to school?

The fact is, you may accomplish your goal of shaming your child into compliance, but at what cost to their soul? The psychic scars that accompany punishment methods are life long, and other methods of achieving the same behaviour change are available through means that lead to winning a child’s co-operation.

That’s why I created this site; to help parents learn about non-punitive ways of discipline and child guidance.  We can’t beat our teens up – we need to win them over.  Co-operation trumps obedience.

How much pain is needed to constitute being punitive and damaging?  

Many autocratic parents argue that they do use punishment but it’s not all that harsh. I disagree whole-heartedly with the notion of rating the level of severity as if to allow some types of punishment and not others.  All forms are hurtful to the child and will invite a child to either rebel, sneak around you or simply to it suck up and become a pleaser.  Even sarcasm is hurtful. After all, isn’t it just an insult wrapped in pretty language for camouflage?

Brene Brown is one of the most popular TED speakers.  Her TED talk on shame and vulnerability have millions of views. She has been researching shame and humiliation more than anyone else in the field.   Please check her out.

Click this link or the image below to watch the video on the Canada AM site

Shaming Kids In Discipline






About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

2 Responses to “Using Shame To Discipline”

  1. kellybourne

    I’ve just recently had a friend introduce me to Brené Brown’s work. Her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, has really opened my eyes to the long-term effects of shame and guilt. I’ll have to check out her TEDtalks – thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Allison

    Agree wholeheartedly Alyson. I’m interested in knowing your opinion on teachers handing out colour cards to children. A black card if they have been “bad” and red if the child has been “good”. If this is method is considered shaming, can you suggest another strategy which could be used? My concern is the child would be labeled as “bad” by the teacher and other students.


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