There’s a popular “parenting wins” theme going around social media circles these days. We’ve probably all seen some variation—a parent, trying to teach a lesson, posts photos or videos of his or her child with descriptions of their bad behavior. Sometimes the child is holding a sign: “since I think it’s a good idea to post photos of myself with alcohol on social media, I am sorry to report that I will be taking a hiatus until I can make better choices.” Bonus if the photo depicts a kid standing on a street corner with a sign for passersby to read, saying: “I skip school!” or “Do not trust me, I lie and steal things!” Recently, a video went viral that depicted a father who forcing his child to demolish his gaming systems because he had not turned his grades around. While the boy cried and smashed his Xbox, the voice of the father can be heard in the background berating his son. “Here’s someone who is nailing this parenting thing!” the meme announces.
The idea is that shaming a child publicly will encourage a child to make better choices next time. But I think there’s a wide and obvious line between allowing a child to experience the natural consequences of bad choices and piling on by humiliating them publicly about it. And a really thin fuzzy line between public humiliation and bullying.
From a Montessori perspective, when parents heap shame on a child through social media instead of allowing a child to experience natural consequences, it really does not promote growth or wisdom. In fact, it more likely harms that child’s self-esteem or sense of self-efficacy. And it certainly doesn’t treat the child with respect or model respectful and peaceful ways of dealing with conflict.
I don’t know that all possibly unflattering depictions of kids in social media are necessarily all bad. A picture of a toddler who got into mom’s lipstick is cute, but that’s generally presented with a humorous “oh, the fun of living with a toddler” spirit and not with the purpose of promoting shame. And I’m completely down with shaming bad dogs. Especially when they mess with little girls.
What do you do when you see examples of this type of bullying behavior from parents on social media? What should we do?
Sheri is the mom of Clara (age 3) in Miss Nicole’s room at the Co-op and 9 year old (Lucy), who was also a Montessori girl.