New Parenting Trend: Shaming Kids to Discipline?

I’m sure you’re familiar with the latest story about Utah dad, Scott Mackintosh who donned a pair of homemade Daisy Duke-like shorts while on a family outing, to convince his 19-year-old daughter Myley that her choice of immodest apparel was unacceptable.

Prior to this latest escapade of child-shaming tactics as a form of discipline, there were others.

Back in April 2012, 15-year-old Quandria Bryant of North Carolina was made to carry a sign on Highway 17 in New Bern that said, “I have a bad attitude. I disrespect [sic] people who try to help me.” Her father Donnell employed this public shaming tactic after Quandria was suspended from school for her increasingly disrespectful attitude toward her ninth grade teachers.

My question is, was her dad involved prior to her disrespectful escalation that led to her suspension? As a parent, I know schools don’t do this without some warnings to the student and parents. So what forms of discipline, if any, were incorporated prior to this public shaming?

In March of this year, 13-year-old Kayla Nickell from Crestview, Florida was forced by her parents to hold a sign on the corner of Ferdon Boulevard and U.S. Highway 90 that said, “I’m a Self-entitled teenager w/NO Respect for authority. I’m also super smart, yet I have 3 ‘D’s’ because I DON’T CARE!”

The parents admit Kayla’s increasingly disrespectful attitude along with dropping grades happened after her uncle (whom she was very close to) was killed in December 2011 while serving in Afghanistan.

The Nickells claim they had to do this to Kayla because the loss was difficult for everyone in the family, but Kayla’s the only one who behaved so badly and they felt that “she kind of gave up.” Well of course she did. Isn’t this somewhat of a normal reaction...for anyone, child or adult?

Where’s the sacrificial love and understanding? Was there a family grief counselors involved? Did her parents daily provide her with a non-judgmental and safe place for her to share what she was feeling or thinking, no matter how ugly her thoughts and feelings might’ve been?

The Nickells claim to be Christians, so the greatest confusion I have is why didn’t they search God’s Word for His wise counsel? Why did they prefer to employ a shaming technique suggested by a “parenting coach” when Kayla was seven or eight?

Shortly after this incident, in May 2013, 10-year-old Kaylee was publicly shamed by her father’s long-time companion Ally, because Kaylee was bullying another fourth grader at school for how she dressed. After one reportedly ineffective conversation with Kaylee, Ally resorted to purchasing a wardrobe that would publicly humiliate Kaylee. Ally made her wear them to school for two days so Kaylee could see what it felt like to be bullied and taunted.

My first concern here is, Ally isn’t even Kaylee’s mother...not even her step-mother (which many stories purport, though Ally is not married to Kaylee’s father). Kaylee’s father has full custody of her (a rarity), which obviously means there are painful issue with her biological mother.

My next concern is, why did the teacher email Ally regarding Kaylee’s poor behavior at school, rather than her biological father? And why after only one conversation with a 10-year-old girl that didn’t immediately produce a repentant attitude, cause Ally to decide to publicly shame her as a form of discipline?

My goodness, if these exasperated schemes to discipline, teach a lesson or get a point across were exercised by our employers when we weren’t “getting it” at our jobs, how would that affect adults? I mean, when’s the last time someone corrected you, and you immediately responded with a positive and agreeable attitude? Exactly. Most of us don’t, and we’re adults; yet we expect immature children to respond to difficult situations in life in a manner we don’t even expect from ourselves.

In reality, us adults have a lot of trouble getting through this life without some outbursts of disrespect to authority, allowing our pride to get away with us, refusing help from others and altogether behaving in unacceptable ways.

Though these public shaming campaigns seem to be on the rise and well applauded by both Christians and non-Christians, the question still remains—is it right?

I say it’s not, because I can’t find an example of this in God’s Word.

As a Christian, I’m granted the beautiful comfort and serene joy of knowing that God Almighty alone is perfect, and that His Word details all that any human being needs to navigate well through this life.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known....The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”
~Jeremiah 33:3, Psalm 19:7-9 (ESV)

I see three important things that appear to have been overlooked or purposely ignored in all the stories of public shaming (which are not exhausted in this article) as a form of discipline.
  1. Most of these public shaming tactics have been exacted on daughters and not sons;
  2. The consideration of each family’s unique dynamics have been neglected;
  3. There’s more concentration on the child’s external behavior rather than on the condition of their heart.
In a day and age where truth is relative—morality, modesty and character seem to also have become…well, relative, and effectually extinct.

So what’s a parent to do? What is proper discipline for rebellious and wayward children? I’ll cover that in my next article, “Discipline: A Parenting Conundrum” which will include encouraging resources for parents to learn how to shape their child's will—leading them to Christ, rather than break their child's will—leading them to destruction.