Recently, headlines have showcased “social-media parenting,” instances where parents use social media to “discipline” their children. I use the term discipline loosely, because I see this parenting more as punishment and less as discipline. The purpose of discipline is to teach desirable behaviors. The purpose of punishment is to stop undesirable behavior.
In both cases, parents used punishment, not discipline, to “teach” their kids a lesson.
In a modern-day shot heard ’round the world, Tommy Jordan, the father of a 15-year-old girl, used a gun and YouTube to teach his daughter a lesson. The daughter used Facebook to complain about her parents, and upon reading her rant, the father went on one of his own, accusing of her of being ungrateful for, among other things, the recent updates he’d taken the time (and money) to install on her laptop. He called her lazy at one point and listed the many ways he was unhappy with her. He ended his tirade by shooting her laptop. The video drew tens of millions of hits, and many applauded his tough approach to his “spoiled” daughter. According to a Today poll, 73% of respondents thought the punishment was appropriate.
In a more recent instant of social media parenting, a mom used her daughter’s Facebook page to convey the message that the girl, 13, was no longer allowed on Facebook because she “couldn’t keep her mouth shut.” The girl had to answer anyone who asked about why she was no longer allowed on Facebook. Supporters of this action said the mother was adapting her parenting to fit the time.
There is a term that comes to mind when I consider both these cases: humiliation.
Just in case these teenage girls’ lives aren’t filled with enough angst, let’s go ahead and publicly ridicule them for their behavior. Let’s belittle them and garner national attention in the process. Let’s show these ungrateful kids how tough we are as parents.
While I would not argue that both of these young ladies’ behavior deserved consequences, I fail to see the benefit of public humiliation. Did it stop the behavior? Probably. But did it teach them a more desirable replacement behavior? Doubt it. The message they received was to not mess with their parents, but only out of fear, not respect. In fact, I daresay the actions of both parents borders on bullying. It stripped the children of all power, dignity, and ability to rectify the situation on their own. Discipline should be about empowering kids, not forcing them, to make the right choices.
And furthermore, let us not forget that old adage: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Children, while most definitely born with their own unique personalities, are a product of their environment. If they seem to be ungrateful well, that is probably because they have not been taught how to be grateful and appreciative of what they have. If a child is ranting and raving, he or she needs to be taught a more effective, healthy way of communicating (making a video where you shoot your daughter’s laptop and then posting it on Facebook may be effective, but healthy? Not so much), and the best way for parents to teach that is to lead by example. When children make mistakes, as they undoubtedly will, the goal should be that they walk away from the situation having learned a lesson, hopefully one that will help them avoid the same mistake in the future. Using a gun to solve a problem is not one of those lessons.
photo credit: Tommy Jordan