What Is Parent Shaming?

Parent Shaming Hurts Others, Ourselves and Our Children

We’ve all been there – we pass judgment after seeing another parent’s behavior or choice that doesn’t coincide with our own idea of parenting. Perhaps a child old enough to eat solid food is being breastfed or a friend’s daughter always is on her cell phone. Maybe your sister practices co-sleeping or a neighbor allows her children to drink soda. Remember when we were taught if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all?

Not anymore. Today it’s easy to tweet or post our objections on social media, and this kind of parent shaming can have harmful effects on others, ourselves, and our children.

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What Is Parent Shaming?

Parent shaming is two-fold. In one aspect, it is the act of criticizing or notifying others for actions that didn’t jeopardize a child’s safety or well-being. Criticisms parents face today way beyond the eye-rolling and water cooler gossip thanks to social media, which is a new, often anonymous platform in promoting our opinions.

6 in 10 mothers say they have been criticized about their parenting decisions.

The second part of parent shaming is when a parent humiliates his or her own child. There are thousands of YouTube videos that demonstrate this behavior ranging from parents who criticize their children for appearances, social media posts, how they perform chores or even create art. The question becomes, is all of this public outrage a result of ignorance or insecurity?

Our own customs, cultures, lifestyles, and upbringing all play a role in shaming others. It’s easy to assume the worst in others, but by turning a blind eye to our differences we overlook them as alternatives or learning experiences. The ways in which we discipline our children, feed them, and grant privileges all are up for discussion today. It’s not just about judging one another on our work/life balance or store-bought versus homemade baked goods.

Society can be critical and opinionated where people hide behind social media and spew their opinions and philosophies without thinking. And while everyone believes in their individual freedom of choice, we’re quick to question another’s freedom to do the same. It takes only one person to perpetuate or prevent a conflict.

The consequences of Parent Shaming

We are role models and our children, and others are watching what we do. Setting a good example through kindness, consideration, and respectful communication es a long way. If your child sees you yelling at or embarrassing another parent, he or she may see nothing wrong with taking the same tone and approach with a friend. Unless a child is being abused or neglected, we should not comment on other’s parenting styles.

It used to take a lot of courage and compassion to walk up to someone and challenge their parenting skills. Thanks to easy access to electronic media, however, we immediately tweet, post, and text our thoughts and feelings about anything and everything to various audiences.

It’s important to note that what we see and hear is not always the big picture. Blindly accusing or criticizing a friend, family member or even a stranger can yield negative consequences for the reporter as well as the target. Making false claims can fuel an already heated individual, and if authorities are notified – such as Child Protective Services – the stakes can be higher.

Shaming our children, however, has even greater ramifications. This form of “discipline” erodes trust and the parent-child relationship. Over-the-top and embarrassing behaviors of “calling out” their child publically don’t teach a lesson. Instead, it damages a child’s self-esteem, which should be reinforced by loved ones.

When a child or teenager is repeatedly shamed and doesn’t feel safe with or around their caregiver, they are more likely to become aggressive, self-destructive, and isolated. When shame is severe, it can contribute to mental illness. No parent wants to be the cause of their child’s depression, anxiety, or self-hatred, which is why it’s important to take a deep breath and collect your thoughts and emotions before reacting.

How to Speak to Your Children About their Behavior

Choose your words carefully when speaking to your child. Avoid terms like “bad,” “naughty,” “stupid” or “lazy.” Refrain from comparing them to someone you don’t like (such as an ex-spouse) and address a situation in private. The focus should be on the behavior and not the person. If, for example, your teen posted a racy photo of herself, talk about the consequences in doing so and ways to avoid those choices that could further harm or humiliate your teen in the future by destroying their reputation or chances of employment.

Yelling, name-calling, or taking her phone away teaches nothing. Create consequences for negative behavior and also use the opportunity to lend support and guidance during a difficult moment. Encourage your child to explain things from their point of view and ask questions such as, “What did you learn? How can I help? What will you do differently next time?”  Discipline your child with love, not hate.

While we think posting pictures or stories of our kids is amusing to us, it may be embarrassing to them if splattered on your Facebook page or shared with large groups of people. ing one step further and using this information to manipulate your child’s behavior or attitude to get what you want in the moment can damage your own reputation in your child’s eyes. Ask yourself, “What is my al here?”

Four Ways to stop parent shaming

There is not a day that es by when adults don’t encounter stress, anxiety, anger, fear or uncertainty. We all make mistakes and often we react with our emotions before using our brain. Whether there is a past trigger flipped inside or we’re feeling at odds with our own choices, how we talk to and treat others is not always mutually exclusive. Our opinions usually stem from either our own insecurities or inexperience.

There are ways to take control when you encounter people with different beliefs. Change starts with us because at the end of the day, we all CARE.

  1. Communicate: Talking with someone rather than at them goes a long way. Whether it’s another adult or your child, asking questions instead of making accusations is the best approach at gathering information and problem-solving. Charging at others with raw emotion instead of compassion puts them on the defense and neither of you likely will walk away feeling heard or understood.
  2. Apologize: Never dismiss the power of an apology – either to your child or another parent once you realize you overstepped or hurt their feelings. If there is a way to clarify any miscommunication or right a wrong, that extra mile and encourage your children to do the same.
  3. Reflect: What is your al? Do you really want to affect change? Do you think by shaming another he or she will embrace your message or its delivery? If you want to improve a situation to benefit a child or offer a suggestion, think about your approach. Furthermore, consider how you would feel if the tables were turned.
  4. Empathy: It’s safe to say we don’t always know the whole story when we comment about what we see in a given moment or even hear about secondhand. We often tell our kids not to assume and give others the benefit of the doubt. It’s critical we take our own advice before spewing judgment and ridicule. Nobody is perfect and if you see an individual making a parenting choice that differs from yours, ask yourself if it’s really wrong or just different.

For more information, please contact the PinnacleHealth Psychological Associates at (717) 231-8360.

About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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