Author ReShonda Tate Billingsly made The Huffington Post news when she posted to Facebook a picture of her daughter posing with a hand written sign that read, “Since I want to post photos of me holding liquor I am obviously not ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus until I learn what I should + should not post. BYE-BYE."

By the looks of the number of “Likes” on the article, many (frustrated parents?) agree with ReShonda’s actions. I do not. Here’s why.

First, I want to make it clear I do not want to publicly shame ReShonda. She, like most parents, wants the best for her daughter. Perhaps she thought the harsh punishment of public shaming would teach her daughter a good lesson. My concern is that it may teach her daughter the wrong lessons.

Public shaming may be effective in teaching our children what specific behavior they should stay away from in the future to avoid future humiliation.  However, shaming can damage the parent child relationship. Children quickly learn they cannot trust their parents. Children need to feel safe and secure and to be able to trust their parents. Without such safety and trust, children’s brains do not grow and organize optimally. That means children are at risk for thinking, acting and behaving in detrimental ways. 

ReShonda’s daughter learned the dangers of posting pictures of alcohol, but did she learn the dangers of alcohol itself? Shaming children may also teach them to go underground with risky behavior.

As a parent, it is difficult to avoid letting our children’s behavior trigger us into emotionally reactive responses. A good parenting tool is to step back and regain your composure if you are emotionally reactive. You will be more able to think of compassionate responses so your child will be more likely to learn the best lesson from their mistakes.  

Children make a lot of mistakes. That is often how they best learn. They need to know their parents will be there for them when they make a miss step; otherwise the fear of failing or shaming will keep them from exploring and learning.

It is a challenge to raise children in today’s world. One way to avoid problems around social media is to have a discussion and agreement about proper posts and consequences of posting improper content before your child creates his/her account. If the need arises, follow through with consequences in a neutral, non-reactive manner.  If posts are inappropriate, the behavior depicted in the postings needs to be discussed, for that is the real issue that must be addressed.

Our homes need to be a safe sanctuary first and foremost. The world will provide all the grist for the mill teens need to become smart, tough and resilient. A parents’ primary role is to do everything they can to provide a safe, secure environment best suited for enriched brain growth and development.  That helps our teens grow up able to think, feel and act better. Shaming does not.

About the Author

Jennifer Austin Leigh

Jennifer Austin Leigh, Psy. D., is a life coach for teen girls and a parenting coach for their mothers.

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