Public Shaming – Parenting Win or Abuse?

There is outrage on the internet which I’m sure comes as no surprise.

A thirteen year old Tacoma girl ended her life by jumping off of a bridge. Many are blaming the girl’s father for her suicide due to a 15 second video posted on YouTube in which she is shown blankly staring at into the camera with her newly cropped hair. The camera pans to a pile of long dark locks laying on the floor of what looks to be a garage.

The reasons for the hair cut aren’t clear and there are few words said on the video but apparently the girl, Izabel, did something her father found unacceptable and this was the consequence he chose as punishment.

There are reports that Izabel’s father is not the person who uploaded the video to the internet, that it was a family friend. Some of the people chiming in with their opinions didn’t even know Izabel. There will always be people looking for their fifteen seconds and, as a side note, shame on them for choosing a thirteen year old girl’s suicide to find it.

Perhaps it isn’t my place and the story is still developing but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that there may have been other issues that contributed to Izabel’s suicide. Perhaps this was just the proverbial straw. Only time will tell.

Regardless of who uploaded the video, this is an episode among many of a new found way of punishing our children – public shaming. We’ve all seen the cute little kids in the ‘get along shirt’ and it gave us all a good laugh and we mentally high five the mom because it’s just too damn cute.

But we also see older kids and teens on the street corners or in front of a school with posters and sandwich boards publicly shouting out their infractions, their faces grim and who knows what thoughts reeling through their heads.

At what point does this public shaming become harmful, maybe bordering on abusive? When does this punishment actually fit the crime? What unseen damage is being done?

As a parent, I would never choose to publicly humiliate my child. I believe in consequences but I’m not going to condone adding public, and sometimes possibly viral, humiliation to the tween and teenage psyche that is perhaps already riddled with angst and confusion. That seems to me like throwing fuel on a fire.

When one of my children was younger, they walked out of a store with a pack of gum in their pocket. They have been taught that stealing is wrong and when we do something that isn’t right, there are consequences. I turned the car around, brought my child back to the store, and I waited at the door while they went to the counter and returned the pack of gum to the cashier with an apology. Was that embarrassing? Yes. Did they learn a lesson? Yes. Was it followed up with a good talking to about consequences for their actions? Yes. Was it splattered all over the internet in pictures or video? No.

I understand that the things some kids are doing are more serious than a stolen pack of gum but my point is this:

There is a better way to handle things than putting their face in front of a crowd and risking them feeling that the world sees them as ‘bad’, so why bother to try and be good. Kids will make mistakes, and again I reiterate that there should be consequences, but is adding insult to injury the answer? Or does it only cause more harm?

It is our job to love and protect our children. It is also our job to teach them. Can we not teach them without the world being witness and increasing the feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, or failure they may already be feeling?

I just have to ask…

How many times does this method actually work?

How many times does it backfire?

Perhaps, most importantly….is it worth the risk?


Photo credit: greyerbaby on Morguefile

Bleacher Report

“You a white whore!”

Those were the words that got my attention first also perking the ears of my twelve year old daughter who was sitting right next to me.

“Ugh! Shut the fuck up!”

“You a FAT white whore! Let’s go to the parking lot. I’ll (unintelligible) at your car!”

“SHUT UP! I wasn’t even talking to you but you have to open your mouth and start….” *makes a yak-yak talking motion with her hand*

“You a fat, white whore. I’ll see YOU after the game.” Looks down at the child next to her,  whose approximate age is four, maybe five, and points. “Yeah…you hear that fat white woman right there. Mmm hmmm.”

“Fine with me. Let’s go. Why are you even in the middle of this? I wasn’t even talking to you. Shut the fuck up.”

The white woman looks over at a brave fan who was asking them to remember where they are. “I’m trying but she won’t shut the fuck up.”

Where were they? A kid’s football game.

There were more nasty words exchanged, repeated promises of meeting in the parking lot, blah, blah, blah….and then it ended as suddenly as it started.

**I feel that I have to put this disclaimer in so as not to seem racist or anti-redneck, because I am neither.  The devil is in the details. Yes, it was a black woman and a white woman of redneck persuasion (which I point out not to be politically incorrect but because it’s true). **

These women are in the stands of my son’s first tackle football game and talking trash at one another, threatening violence, and it all started because the white redneck woman made a joke to one of the water carriers on the field and for whatever reason it offended the the black woman.

It was ugly.

And it was sad.

I don’t care about the color of their skin. I don’t care about their lifestyle. I don’t care about how they dress, what kind of car they drive, or where they live.  I don’t care about what they had for breakfast and I don’t care if they use paper or plastic.

I do care that two grown women decided to have a loud, ridiculously uncalled for argument filled with obscene words and hate speech in the bleachers at my son’s football game. I feel safe in assuming that they were there for sons or other family members of their own.

The bleachers were full of kids of all ages. There were parents, grandparents, and family friends. As an avid observer, I couldn’t help but look around and notice the looks on the faces of others. Some were amused. Some seemed embarrassed. Some were frustrated or angry.

The only thing that kept me from telling them to take their childish bullshit to the parking lot and just get ‘er done was the fact that I’ve never been a fan of getting beat up and, at the age of 46, I don’t run as fast as I used to. Then there is the whole ‘want to set a good example for my children’ thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect and my kids are not naive to the colorful words (although ‘whore’ was not one I really wanted to explain). It was the vile and hateful words and very public show of ignorance and inconsideration that bothered me the most.

Wrong time, wrong place, ladies (a term I use loosely) but, truly, there isn’t a right time or right place for that behavior. Ever. Except prison. Maybe.

It is my belief that sports programs for kids are to promote exercise, fun, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. It’s fantastic family time. Nothing gets under my skin more than grown people at kids’ sporting events that can’t behave. These women were just two more on a long list of adults acting like idiots at the many, many kids’ sports events I have attended.

I have seen men go at women, women go at men, men go at men, and women go at women. I have heard coaches yelling at players for their own just plain stupid play calls and then watched those kids hang their heads in shame. I’ve seen coaches throw hats and clipboards and on one occasion, I shit you not, a coach throw himself on the ground in the end zone at a 6U flag football game. 6U is, you may have guessed, 5 and 6 year old children.

I think maybe some of us have forgotten why we’re there in the first place.

I get it….I like to win, too. Seriously, does anyone like to lose?

I don’t like everyone in the stands. I mean, who likes everybody? Some people are just plain obnoxious but I live by the philosophy  ‘Not my circus. Not my monkeys.’, not to mention ‘Karma is a bitch.’ If it is my circus or my monkeys, well….I like to think I would act like an adult.

It’s you who thinks you’re at the Superbowl or you own the field. It’s you who thinks your kid is going to earn a full scholarship to his or her (our your) college of choice based on their performance in this one game.

These are kids, people. They are watching. They are learning. And, yes, they are emulating. They just want to have fun, hang with their friends, and play a game.

So please fucking behave.






photo credit: via photopin (license)