Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is Publicly Humiliating Your Teen A Good Parenting Strategy?

NO NO NO!!!! For those of you who are wondering whether you should publicly humiliate your teen using social media as a consequence of bad behavior,  I give a resounding two thumbs down. This recent story has made a lot of headlines, in the same vein as the computer shooting dad of a few months ago. It seems a young teen posted pictures of herself using alcohol. Rightly, her mom was supervising her facebook wall and saw the pictures. The consequence for the girl was to write the following sign and hold it up in a photo that was then posted on her facebook wall.
"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 and should not post.

The good news is that this mom is monitoring her daughter's facebook. For that she gets a definite "thumbs up."  But humiliation as a consequence, not good. Will it work? Will humiliation stop this girl from posting inappropriate pictures, maybe...probably, but is that the only goal? Using public humiliation as a parenting techniques to me, is analogous to spanking to punish a child for doing something wrong. Fear and humiliation are the same to me. These are not healthy ways for kids to learn and then become motivated to change behavior. These are also the kinds of strategies that lead these same kids to bully and humiliate outside of the home. If this is a sanctioned strategy in one's home, why not do it outside the home?  Hazing, bullying, taunting, where do you think kids learn how to do these things. The research is pretty strong here. If kids feel bullied and humiliated at home,  they have to find their power outside of the home. Hello bullies.

When you find objectionable postings on your teen's wall, your best bet is using this " I get it moment" and a consequence where your teen can learn a new behavior. " Hey honey, I was really disappointed when I saw the photo of you holding up a bottle of booze on your facebook wall. Two things worried me, first that you are using alcohol, and second that you feel like you need to brag about it on facebook. I get you and your friends think its funny to post stuff like that, and maybe you thought it was OK to do because all your friends do it, but it can have some serious outcomes. From now on, you can only use the computer in the kitchen, when I am present, until I see that the stuff you post is OK to post. And as for the alcohol, you are not going to be allowed to go to homes or places that I do not feel are well supervised, or until I feel you have a plan in place to let you me know that you will make smart and safe decisions.  You are welcome to have kids here, where I know you will be safe.

If you take away the computer, take away the phone,  and ban facebook, your teen will just go underground with it and you will not have the teaching opportunity. Better to set up a situation where you feel you have more control and supervision. Humiliation as a consequence only serves to disconnect you and your teen. Teens make many many stupid mistakes. They are playing around with creating new personas and identities for themselves. This is normal. But like any child learning how to do something new, they aren't sure how to do it. Just punishing doesn't teach, it just punishes.

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