Weekly Parenting Tips & InspirationSubscribe
Subscribe Today!


Public Shaming of Kids = NOT OK


Stop Lecturing and Start Living

Enter your email and we'll send you my free workbook.

Less yelling, nagging, punishing and more connection & cooperation!
Featured on
1 June, 2012

Respect will NEVER come From DisrespectThe trend that says it’s okay for parents to publicly shame and humiliate a child in order to get the desired results HAS GOT TO STOP.  Together, let’s end the trend of public humiliation, shame and humiliation parenting.

This is beyond just bad parenting. This is cruel. And I assure you, that not one of those parents out there supporting this new trend as reasonable would EVER let anyone else get away with treating them in such contemptible ways. But hey, that’s why we had kids right? …So we could take out our own personal issues on them by making them feel like nothing more than a second class citizen.

 I’m finally fired up. I don’t usually do this, and anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I steer clear of this kind of crap, but I am taking a stand.

The 10 Really Good Reasons Why Pubic Shaming (children holding signs, parents posting details on facebook walls, teachers displaying in classrooms, adults forcing kids to stand on street corners, etc). Is NEVER Ok:

1. Psychological Damage to the Child.

It is a child’s birthright to trust her parent, feel safe and to be treated with dignity and respect. For more on this topic visit www.alfredadler.org

2. Long Term Effects on HER Legacy

Your child might be on honor roll or play a varsity sport- she might be a quiet artist or a big thinker, but none of that will matter when you are done shaming and humiliating her. Thanks to you and your efforts, she may forever be remembered as the girl whose mommy punished her publicly. And this is especially damaging in the middle of the socially formative years, which will no doubt affect her and her memories of childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.

Not to mention it will leave a very long lasting label that will make your child the topic of conversation and jokes LONG after you’ve taken the photo down or the sign has been tossed in the trash. (Basically, you’ll put your shadow on ALL the work she had done on her own to make her own identity). Remember, What you DO is not who you ARE. This applies to anyone age 1 – 99.

3. It’s a THUMBS UP to Bullying
If you’re about to do something that, when boiled down to it’s core, any child would be suspended for at school (ie, hijacking a facebook feed and posting in a humiliating way or forcing someone to wear a kick me I’m a stupid liar sign) then you’re about to bully. If 77% of parents think this is a good idea, you’ve just been enlightened as to why bullying is so rampant.

4. It says, “Sure, a Double Standard is reasonable.”
You’re basically endorsing the reality: I can do this to you, but nobody can do it to me. Basic golden rule here, folks- if your boss did this to you based on his personality and preference, he’d be sued in 30 seconds, fired and sent packing. You’d be devastated if you had to sit in your office lobby with a “I’m a liar” sign or “ask me about my HR case I’m working through right now.” Or what if a teacher re-introduced the dunce cap? Can we say LAW SUIT! Seriously?


Here’s the big picture: when a teenager rebels (shocker) and a parent acts far more juvenile and without any regard to how it might feel to be shamed in public, it sends a message far louder than the one intended. Most parents would say they’d like their child to have a sense of empathy, respect, and maturity as they grow- this is sure to get more of what you’re fighting against. Unless of course the child has been so defeated she yields or he checks out from the relationship entirely.

6. It’s Boot Camp Training for Submission.
Sure, your kid made YOU MAD. Now what happens when your child leaves the house and makes her boyfriend mad? Her husband mad? Would you want someone ELSE to publicly shame your child? By doing it yourself, you’re training the child to be submissive and accepting of humiliation. This can go nowhere but to a bad place. Look ahead to us as a society of second generation shamers!

7. Being a Parent does NOT mean automatic free pass to always being “Right!”
My first analytical thought when I read a headline like this, is well, what makes the parent RIGHT? There is little or no context for these headlines. Could these parents possibly have overreacted? Could they be manipulative? Fame junkies? Desperate for help and it’s about them? Willing to hurt their child over a bruised ego? Seeking childish revenge? Embarrassed that they look like a bad mother? They don’t trust their kids so the kids tried something rebellious anyway? Who KNOWS but it seems likely the motivators are parent focused (I WILL WIN, I WILL LOOK GOOD) vs. teaching the child, hey, “stealing is not acceptable.” Maybe the kid was acting out for the parent’s attention and instead, got thrown to the wolves, getting the parent off the hook from facing the bigger picture entirely. Not to mention (and trust me I see it in every workshop) parents may THINK they have the right to demand something they have not trained the child to do. This is completely unfair to the child.

8. Respect will NEVER come From Disrespect.
Most parents say their child did not “respect” them. You can’t humiliate a child to gain respect. You must RESPECT a child to gain respect. In fact, the only way to gain respect, is to give it. Otherwise, you’re gaining other forms of response like fear, submission, avoidance, compliance…but not true human respect. That’s parenting 101: you can’t yell / threaten / coerce a kid into respecting you or his siblings / teacher, etc. You have to respect the child and train children to respect each other. VERY DIFFERENT.

9. It Breeds MORE Unhealthy Five Minute Sessions of Fame
Let’s be honest, some people just want to shock and awe. And they go for it – and we feed into it. If we can stop shining a spotlight on the biggest, baddest most shocking and humiliating tactics, then we’re NOT looking out for the well being of the kids. Let’s focus back on what’s good for the kids, not fame producing for mom or dad.

10. It massively jeopardizes two BIG things: the future of the relationship and your child’s confidence to navigate the world.

If you choose to shame a child in front of peers or public, you run a very real risk of derailing the relationship you have with your child. He will replace you with others who say my way or nothing. It also hacks at the confidence your child takes into the world. If you screw up and mom takes you aside, that’s one thing. If you screw up (and kids DO screw up) and suddenly, you’re exposed to humiliation, it will shut down the drive to take a risk and make mistakes. Kids’ lives are already filled with natural consequences to teach valuable lessons via friends, teachers, coaches, etc.

If you, the key person they trust to help them navigate and learn from REAL mistakes, parades them around, it will not take long for them to take a backseat and let life steer. Shame stays with you and affects decisions down the road.

So, in all of this, I URGE you to pay attention and stand up against this socially acceptable bullying. Teens today have far too much responsibility ahead of them to be degraded to nothing and pushed down before they even leave the nest! While the logic behind it may seem reasonable, it’s NEVER okay to publicly shame a child. If we can bring this to light, we can change a major current of society, but it’s going to take a lot of conversation and common sense.

Additional information:

There is a new, troubling trend emerging in our digital world; it blends social media and parental discipline. And it’s more disturbing than one might believe at first glance. It’s even been given a name: “cyber-discipline”. Read more.

Next up: Five Things we Can Do Together to Bring Awareness to the Public Shaming of Children – and End the Trend.


  1. I blog too and I’m posting a little something very close to this blog post, “Ten reasons Public Shaming is not a Respectful Discipline
    Strategy | Vicki Hoefle”. Do you really care if
    perhaps I actuallywork with some of your personal ideas? I appreciate it ,Darlene

    1. VickiHoefle says:

      Hi Juliet,
      Glad you like our post. Feel free to quote my work and drive folks to our site. I will check out your blog, too.
      Thanks, Vicki

  2. krista says:

    Thank you!

  3. Danielle says:

    This is a topic I’m quite passionate about… My issue with this way to discipline is that the foundation of good discipline (no matter what form you use) is the relationship between you and your child. This method of discipline ruins the relationship and therefore the end results so not only might you cause emotional/social harm to your child, but you’re also not effective. Parents need better effective discipline strategies.

    1. Yes! As parents, we must do everything to tend to the relationship and protect the dignity of our children.

  4. Lisa says:

    As someone who was repeated shamed in public and yelled at as a child, this post really resonated with me. I had my first child last year at the age of 44. I did not realize how truly damaged I was from my childhood until then when all of these feeling I had buried away so deep started coming up to the surface. Every point you make in this post rings true with me. My mom always wanted to know why we couldn’t get along with her and have a nice relationship like ‘so and so’ and their mother. She always felt it was my fault and my sister’s fault that we were not close to her. It never occurred to her, even to this day, that it was her behaviour that caused the strain, not her children’s. She pushed us away. Fortunately, I have a very loving and supportive husband to help me work through it and have found some fabulous resources to help and guide me so I do not repeat history. So thank you for taking a stand!

  5. Suzie says:

    Yet another parent criticizing other parents. Seriously? Glass houses babe! Tell me you’ve never, ever gotten frustrated and yelled at or punished your child in a store. Oh, are you that angelic perfect parent who never makes a mistake. Many of us do the best we can and if we occasionally “lose it” in public and actually yell at or punish our child – you feel you have the right to stand on a soap box and preach to us about all the things we’re doing wrong because we’re not perfect. THIS is part of what’s wrong with our society – people like you who think that if a parent isn’t perfect, if they get upset and punish a child who’s having a temper tantrum in a store, then they’ve just ruined their child’s life…ABSURD!

    1. Helen says:

      If I’d tried every other avenue to resolve serious issues, then I could see that I’d be tempted to resort to it. When I see posts from teens, slating their parents in the most appalling, ungrateful, ignorant, selfish and ugly way, I take the side of the parent! I wouldn’t have dared to do that to my parents. There would have been a consequence and I know I wouldn’t have liked it!!! Kids are kids and need to know an adult is in charge. There’s a reason we are born to parents and not just left to ourselves, its for more than just food, shelter and protection. Kids need guidance and direction from their parents, not a best friend. Too many kids never grow out of their narcissistic stage, as they are never required to by their parents. I’d like a list of effective ways to discipline, if these are too evil, even as a lat resort 🙂

      1. JenniferNault says:

        Thanks for your thoughts Helen. We appreciate all of the feedback. Making someone feel so badly about what he did or himself that he will never do it again will absolutely work in the short term and stop whatever is going on. We are asking parents to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. How is this child feeling about himself, now? Is he able to separate the action or mistake from his identity? Is he building healthy self-esteem? Also if parents can humiliate and slate their kids in the most appalling, ungrateful, and ugly way, how can they expect more from their children? Consider that the relationship parents have with their children is the blueprint for ALL of the OTHER relationships these kids have in their lives. Do you want punishment and humiliation to be part of the design? Humiliation breeds humiliation and kids will take this out into the world and either humiliate to “get their way” or allow themselves to be humiliated because they don’t believe they deserve any better. You state that kids need guidance and direction from their parents and we agree 100%. We suggest parents take a broader view and look for ways of being in relationship with their children that model mutual respect, dignity, empathy, and boundaries. We are not suggesting that parents be their child’s best friend. We are suggesting that if parents invest in a healthy relationship with their children and look for respectful ways of teaching and training – it might take longer, but the results are priceless. Imagine a world where people actually believed they are deserving of love and respect. I know that some things kids do or say about their parents can be horrific, however – if parents can rise above and look for the source of the problem, they will see that the solution is not in public humiliation or in other words the solution is not to continue the trend.

    2. I thought this post was refering more to things like parents posting pictures of their kids holding up signs by the side of the road saying “I lied to my dad,” or going on their child’s facebook page to detail to the child’s friends what missteps on the part of the child led to their restriction from internet, and those types of extreme parenting.

    3. VickiHoefle says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. This post is not to call out parents who “lose it” with their children. We understand and believe that everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have. It is our job to provide new information. Our goal is to bring an awareness to parents who feel it is beneficial to publicly humiliate and shame their children to “get them to learn from their mistake.” We feel that public humiliation is never a respectful or dignified action and we offer effective and respectful strategies for parents to build strong, healthy relationships with their children and support them to grow into respectful, confident, capable, cooperative, resilient adults. Our program is not about “perfect parenting” or “perfect children” as there is no such thing. Our program is about helping parents identify who they want to be as parents and supporting them to proactively plan and decide who they will be and how they will respond in moments of crisis.

  6. Yes, I totally agree. Thank you for articulating it so well. Sharing.

  7. Liesl Garner says:

    This is brilliant and so timely. My heart hurts when I see parents using their facebook page to shame their children. I just private messaged someone on Facebook today trying to be gentle, share my own experience as a rebel child that my patents decided to out-love instead of shaming.

  8. masterbard says:

    Dog-shaming: hilarious. Daughter-shaming: horrific.

    (and possibly even worse for your son; male self-esteem is less resilient and respect is a crucial element for males of all ages.)

  9. Jenny says:

    Thank you for this.

  10. Katherine says:

    This is a great post, but I found the capital letters very hard to read and I didn’t finish it. Could you consider formatting your blog in sentence case?

    1. Hi Katherine! Apologies- there is a bug – the caps appear when reading on mobile (in the h3 font only). On screen, it’s not caps- I am trying to go back and reformat the posts. I’m sorry it’s appearing that way!

      1. You have my sympathies – I’m building a WordPress site at the moment too so I know how it can get!

  11. ginny says:

    Absolutely spot on. I cringe when I see these types of punishments and read the comments and virtual high-fives parents give each other. They claim they’ve tried everything else, but I doubt very much they’ve tried treating their children like fellow human beings worthy or respect.

  12. Brenna McKinnon says:

    My 7 y/o daughter was put against a brick wall in 100 degree weather at dance camp yesterday, behind a sign reading, “DO NOT talk to me. I am in TROUBLE.” Someone took a picture and sent it to me at work. Broke my heart. This is a subject that has never crossed my mind until now. Horrible and sad. Now I’m trying to figure out the best way to handle the situation. Shaming your own kid or someone else’s NEVER ok.

    1. vicki hoefle says:

      I agree. It’s never okay to punish a child in this manner. I often wonder what possesses someone to hurt a child in such a demeaning, disrespectful and humiliating way. Personally, I think it’s time for the staff to consider a new career choice. Unfortunately this kind of “bullying” happens on a regular basis and so often parents don’t know it’s going on. It’s time for a revolution. I hope the situation worked out for all of you. Feel free to keep us posted on how you moved forward.

  13. Amaljahmee2011@gmail.com says:

    Loved this. Learned a lot from it!!

  14. Shaming is bullying, and is not good parenting. The way I see it if a parent has got to the point that they feel they have to force their kid to wear an embarrassing sign in public they should be re-evaluating their own parenting strategy, and not put all the burden and blame on their kid. There are much better approaches than making your child suffer in public!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Stop Lecturing and Start Living

Enter your email and we'll send you my free workbook.

Less yelling, nagging, punishing and more connection & cooperation!