Is Public Humiliation an Effective Way to Punish Kids?

This a common question that I hear as a bullying prevention specialist.  My professional opinion is "No!".  Here's why...

1. The consequence is the same as the negative behavior that you are trying to change.  

Public humiliation is a form of bullying, therefore when you humiliate your child to teach a lesson, you are essentially sending the message that it's appropriate to humiliate someone if they need to learn a lesson.

2. It feeds the child victim mentality.  

Believe it or not, 90% of students that exhibit bullying behavior do so because of their own feelings of being victimized in some way.  Publicly shaming or embarrassing them can increase the child's feelings of being hurt and perpetuate the behavior.  It can also put them at a greater risk of harming them self or harming others.  

3. It allows the world to weigh in on your child's behavior and your parenting

Would you allow any stranger online to speak to your child?  ... probably not.  Publishing your child's behavioral struggles in a public forum opens a door for public comments.  Labeling your child as a "bully" on social media can pose a risk to their emotional and even physical well-being.  Those labeled as "bullies" online instantly become targets for public ridicule, harassment, threats, and sometimes physical violence.  There are many people out there that are hateful towards those that exhibit mean behavior due to their own experience with bullying.  Do you really want to make your kid the "poster child" of this behavior?

Mom's Public Shaming of Daughter for Cyberbullying Makes International News Headlines

Mom's Public Shaming of Daughter for Cyberbullying Makes International News Headlines

4. It may go farther than you expect

Posting something about one of your children on the internet can be dangerous.  If you have ever told your kids "what you post online lives there forever", don't forget that this applies to you also.  Every word, every picture, every video is saved, even if you think it's deleted.  A simple picture or post can get shared, screenshot, etc.

Stories of parents publicly shaming their kids are incredibly attractive to reporters/media outlets and often these kind of posts end up on the local or even national news.  If you scold your children for their behavior be sure to do it in a place that you can control (such as your home or car), not social media which can be accessed or shared with anyone.

5. It may be a cry for help

It's very common for kids to mis-behave when they have a need that's not getting met or a problem that's on their mind.  Negative behavior is often your first sign that something is going on under the surface.  Your child may be getting your attention in all of the wrong ways but it's important that you analyze what's going on.  If you have a gut feeling that something isn't right, be sure to sit down with your child, or have a professional counselor speak with them to check in.  You can also use another adult that you and your child trust to help have this conversation if they seem uncomfortable talking to you.

As I said before, 90% of those that bully others feel like victims, meaning that they have been picked on before or view them self as an individual that has been hurt.  Their negative behavior is simply their way of reciprocating the hurt that they feel inside.  It's easy to misinterpret a cry for help.


If you've already publicly shamed your child...

If you have publicly shamed your child in the past, don't beat yourself up.  That does no good.  Instead you may choose to apologize if you hurt your child in the process and simply do the best you can with the new information that you've learned.  Babies don't come with instruction manuals.  We all do the best with what we have.  

Real Tips that Work

The best way to help a child stop bullying behavior is not to get upset and try to understand the motive behind the behavior.  The phrase "he did that for no reason" is a lie.  All behavior is motivated by something.  The question is "what?"  

Remember that anger is a secondary emotion.  As a parent challenge yourself to find the "thing behind the thing".  In other words, don't get caught up in the negative behavior but rather ask what may be upsetting your child.  Consistently teach and model the way that you would like your child to act.  Teach them positive coping skills so that they know how to deal with stress and feelings of hurt in healthy ways and provide ongoing support, accountability, and love.

Treat your child according to the Golden Rule (Treat others the way you want to be treated).  Your consistent love, coaching, and support will go much farther than exploiting a poor choice in behavior.  Love makes a deposit into the relational bank account whereas shaming is like a withdrawal.  

Love is not rude


This is an excerpt from Jeff Veley's coaching program for parents and a section entitled "Help, My Child is a Bully!".  If you or your child are in need of help to deal with the issue of bullying, Jeff can help.  Whether your child tends to be seen as the target or the aggressor.  His coaching program can stop bullying in one week, guaranteed.  To learn more, email team@jeffveley.com

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Jeff Veley

Jeff Veley is youth speaker, bullying expert, and social skills educator.

His mission is to equip students with the social and emotional skills that empower them to face adversity, grow in resilience, and solve their own social problems by exercising the Golden Rule.

To date, Jeff's message has reached over one million people.  Jeff and his program have been recognized by the Interfaith Peace-Building Initiative of the United Nations and are a recipient of the Golden Rule International Award for effectiveness in teaching conflict resolution.  The United Nations officially recognizes Jeff as a Goodwill Peace Ambassador in over 120 nations of the world.