Public Shaming: a Tactic No Parent Should Ever Use

A mother berates her 13-year-old for what she’s posting on Facebook. A father gives his boy an embarrassing haircut as a punishment. A mother confiscates her son’s smartphone and shoots it to pieces. And all are posted on social media for the world to see. This is the dunce cap of the digital age, and it should have no place in anyone’s parenting playbook.

Effective parenting is all about balancing warmth and limit setting. Establishing a positive and warm relationship with your child — and attending to the behaviors you want to see, rather than those that you don’t agree with — is the bedrock for effective discipline and limits. With this foundation, when it does come time for you to set rules or tell your kids what to do, they will be much more likely to listen.

Social media shaming, on the other hand, erodes the parent-child relationship, creating an atmosphere of fear and embarrassment, not respect. In addition, one of the most effective ways to teach children how to behave is to lead by example. Making a public display of a private family matter is oftentimes modeling the very behavior that parents are trying to snuff out. Given this type of inappropriate social media use by some adults, it’s no wonder kids are also having trouble navigating the bounds of appropriate behavior online.

[Read: Sharenting: Do You Share Too Much About Your Children on Social Media?]

So how should parents respond when they’re disappointed with their child’s choice or behavior? Here are a few tips for more effectively disciplining your child:

Spend one-on-one time with your child. Effective discipline starts before problem behaviors even occur. Spending one-on-one time with your child — even just five minutes per day — can go a long way in building a positive relationship and encouraging good behavior.

During this time, give your child a chance to be in charge; let him choose the activity or topic of conversation. Follow his lead, give him your undivided attention, and resist the urge to correct, direct or criticize.

Focus on the positive. Take the time to notice the things that your child is doing well and praise her for it. You’ll especially want to be on the lookout for the behaviors you want to see more of. For instance, if your child usually negotiates or protests when you tell her it’s time to turn off her phone before bed, praise her when she handles that direction quickly and calmly. Be sure to use very specific language — for example, “Thank you for putting your phone away the first time I asked.”

[Read: Effective Ways to Discipline Kids.]

Pick your battles. Decide ahead of time which behaviors are non-negotiable in your home and will warrant a consequence. Try to be measured, because if you get too hung up on the small stuff, the relationship will sour.

Be consistent. Follow through with the consequence that you’ve established every time. If your child is sometimes able to get away with it, the behavior will continue to resurface. Be sure to get on the same page as other family members and caregivers so that your child isn’t receiving mixed messages.

Stay calm, and be reasonable. Parents are often under the false impression that harsher is better. They may seek an emotional reaction as proof that the punishment was effective when in fact the true test is whether the problem behavior is decreasing.

[Read: Secure Attachment: Parenting From the Inside Out.]

In addition, punishments should be given in small doses: for example, a time out for three to five minutes for younger children, losing a privilege in small chunks or grounding for a limited time. When parents say that their child has lost screens for the week or is grounded for the month (or indefinitely), they lose their leverage and ability to follow through.

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