Why Child Shaming Doesn’t Work

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I remember the first time I saw this. A father discovered that his daughter, using profanity, said something very mean about him on her Facebook account. He took her laptop and recorded a message to her Facebook friends, after which he took a gun and shot the computer.

It went viral.

And like many others, I thought to myself “Right on! That’ll teacher her!”

Those Facebook posts bother me, too! This is the #1 reason why child shaming doesn't work.

Soon afterward, more pictures and stories appeared in my feed depicting children being punished by being made to hold signs – sometimes on street corners – broadcasting the nature of their crime.

That is when it occurred to me that this kind of punishment (which should not be mistaken for discipline) doesn’t teach them what I had originally thought it would.

Child shaming teaches them some things.

It teaches them what bitterness tastes like.

It teaches them that their actions are more important than the character from which their actions grow.

It teaches them to suppress the motivation behind their actions.

But is that truly what we want our children to learn?

Child shaming doesn’t teach a child to evaluate why he steals, lies, cheats, uses profanity, skips school, or any of the other myriad of things that earned him a mean sign, a street corner and a viral picture on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

For a child to learn to evaluate the nature of his actions, his parents must have to want to engage in the process of teaching him, training him, and spending the time and energy necessary to enter his world if they will hope to understand that these actions are merely symptoms of a deeper problem.

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It does your child no favors to resolve stealing if he still has a heart that is filled with envy. He will not learn to stop lying if never learns to deal with his pride. He will not learn to stop using profanity if he never learns to confront the root of his anger or rebellion.

This is true discipline. Discipline teaches and trains a child that it is what is in their heart that matters most. For if they are to be the spiritual and moral leaders of their generation, they must first have a heart full of God’s Word and desire good character.

Oh yes, we can mold and modify behavior. But if proper behavior doesn’t stem from a heart that is right with God, we have only raised puppets destined for hell!

Is child shaming the picture of our Heavenly Father?

Does He shame us? Even when we willfully sin?

Does He make a spectacle and open shame of us?

Is not the purpose of true discipline to lovingly guide our children to repentance and a change of heart?

Does not the Word say that it is His kindness that leads us to repentance?

Are we not the first picture of God they have in their little lives? Is this not how they will relate to Him as adults?

But why have parents resorted to such extreme measures of punishment? Are they desperate? Do they feel they have exhausted every other form of punishment and see this as their last resort?


But from my vantage point it simply appears that they are narcissists looking for a bunch of likes, shares, and comments applauding them for their “Extreme Punishment”.

For why else would a loving parent heap shame upon their dear child, photograph it, and then plaster it all over the Internet where it is forever embedded to hound them for the rest of their days.

It grieves me that we are raising a generation of children who are being taught that the consequences given them from the ones who ought to love them most are nothing but shame and mockery.

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This post was shared on Charisma’s Spirit Led Woman eMagazine

Here are some of my favorite parenting books:


The Dr. James Dobson Parenting CollectionThe Dr. James Dobson Parenting CollectionShepherding a Child's HeartShepherding a Child’s HeartDon't Make Me Count to ThreeDon’t Make Me Count to ThreeThe Power of a Praying® ParentThe Power of a Praying® ParentA Mom After God's Own Heart: 10 Ways to Love Your Children (George, Elizabeth (Insp))A Mom After God’s Own Heart: 10 Ways to Love Your Children (George, Elizabeth (Insp))

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  1. There’s a story in our family that my grandfather was so naughty that my great grandmother made him dress in his sister’s clothes and sit on the front porch. Don’t know what he did. I do know that I don’t want my children defined by their rebellion – or their struggle for independence – only their over-coming through Him. I am glad that God doesn’t advertise my failures in my maturing curve. However, I hope that father manages to love his daughter as loud and big and he disciplines her – let’s see that go viral:). Wonderful post – I hadn’t thought about it in that context – and I needed to:)

  2. So very insightful and wise, Rosilind! I love how you’ve juxtaposed this against the good character traits we want to instill in our kids. I’m going to share this with others. I know it’s something many young moms and dads need to see!

  3. In answer to your question, “why have parents resorted to such extreme measures of punishment?” I would have to suggest it’s because they don’t want to make the investment in time it takes to get down to the root of the behavior. Unfortunately, punishment may give the parent the immediate results they desire, but unfortunately sends the child the wrong message.

  4. The problem with humiliation as a punishment is that it works, on the outside. Consider the stocks that were used in the 16th century to shame people into “correct” behavior. So you get this external conformity, as you say, with inward bitterness and anger.

    As you say, it’s best to find more creative, kinder ways of teaching good behavior — the discipline itself should mirror good behavior, and the best model for how to do this is God. I am glad that He does not use humiliation and shaming as a technique to draw us to Him, because it doesn’t work, and He very much knows this.

    Sadly, religious people are too often enamored of bad disciplinary techniques, repeating, “Spare the rod and spoil the child!” as a mantra. You can almost hear the glee in some people’s voices at how this is going to hurt, hurt, hurt.

    It doesn’t help that things like this go viral, you know? But then again, maybe it says something about us, something that isn’t particularly nice.

  5. It sure does. Yes, God’s discipline, though it hurts at times, always leads us to true repentance and back into relationship with Him. Whereas mere punishment heaps condemnation that leaves the relationship splintered and strained. There is great differences – it all comes back to the heart!

  6. A very good post! It made me think very hard. With my son, when he does something wrong, I first expect him to apologize and then explain what he did wrong and why it was wrong. I want him to understand why something should not be done or said, or why he should have done something differently.
    But there are times when that is not enough. Not many times, but for instance when my son was smaller he almost killed a kitten by gripping it from the throat, really hard for his age. He did it because the kitten was so cute and he wanted to hold it.
    Since I found him at the crime scene, and tugging the kitten would have been the death of the poor thing, I grabbed a bit of his hair and tugged that. He instinctively yelled and let the kitten go.
    After that, I had him stand on our own yard (not outside and not with a sign) and think how he would feel if someone bigger would come and grab him by the throat. I told him how the kitten almost died and how animals die and made him remember how sad he was when we would find dead animals. I made him think about how much the kitten must have hurt. And since grabbing his hair had hurt, he very well understood what hurting meant.
    He did feel shame, a lot of it. It was a very strong experience for him and he still cries and gets upset when he hurts an animal, even accidentally.
    I think shaming is important, in some occations, as well as physical punishments, if we do it with explication of our motives, with follow-up on what was wrong and what it can cause. The emotional stress of the shame, together with physical pain, and logical explication can be a tool of inmense value and strenght.
    But it is no automat, shame your child and that’s it. Spank him and he’ll behave.
    Like you say, parents need to teach the child and spend their time and energy to accomplish it.

  7. You bring up a great point here (and this is why I love discussion, because we can explore the deeper issues of a topic without the writer writing a War-and-Peace sized novel). I think there is a huge distinction between a child feeling ashamed for his behavior and being publicly shamed for bad behavior. Feeling a sense of shame for participating shameful behavior (consciously or otherwise) can be healthy because it creates a strong memory that will prevent him from engaging in it again. I do think that to make this work the parents need to strongly enforce why the behavior was wrong – from the standpoint of character – much like you did. Addressing behavior alone is like mowing over dandelions.

    I think we can all agree that this is strikingly different from a parent making a public mockery of their child – something that will not ever bring about positive results.

    Loving guidance – even tough love – always restores relationships. Public shaming only further splinters what is already obviously broken.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences. You added such useful dialogue to this very important issue!

  8. Thank you Sarah! Exactly. Loving discipline restores relationship, public shame only builds more walls and further destroys relationships that are already obviously troubled. Thank you for hosting each week!

  9. An important post. I grew up in a house where shaming was a day affair….it is NOT the way to discipline and can cause so much damage. Thank you for speaking out and for sharing it on the blog hop!!

  10. Wow. This is a great post. In fact it brought tears to my eyes because it is so true! Thank you so much for sharing from you her heart on this one and sharing it on T2T. Always love seeing what you have to share but this one tops the cake.

  11. It’s sad that parents would use social media to shame their children. We’re supposed to build them up and teach them how to be good by example.

  12. I am completely against public shaming- on facebook, in any public setting includin having them hold signs on corners or anything else. I think it is cruel. Great post. I am so happy you shared this post at the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop . Big Hugs

  13. I could not agree with you more. It saddens me so much to see parents so fixated and busy on so many things and/or themselves that they have no energy or time or desire left to teach their children.

  14. I agree but it took a long time to learn what I now know about raising children. Andrew Murray says to come along side the child. There are ways that we can deal with our children that causes them to go ‘underground’ with their sins instead of learning to come to us for counsel. I didn’t learn all this while raising my children. I am better prepared now to be a mother than when I was busy with a full household. I am so glad that the Lord can do better what I attempted to do in raising my/our children.

  15. Dear Pam – I am so sorry that you were shamed as a child. That breaks my heart. I wish I could just grab every child who has ever been shamed and love on them with Jesus’ love!!!

  16. Yes – you hit the nail on the head! Parents are too busy sometimes to do the most important task- training and teaching their children. It takes time and energy that we must plan for…make time for….make a priority in life. Other things are just not as important as this.

  17. What great advice – “coming along side a child”. Oh – there is so much to learn, and I am feeling my way along, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown my hands in the air and cried out for wisdom. I am so glad for the Holy Spirit’s grace that fills in the gaps!

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