While many parents are used to counselling their children through the experience of being bullied, it’s quite a different situation to learn that your child is actually the one doing the bullying.
For Terri Day Evans, a single mother of four, the instinctive way to deal with her son bullying a new girl at school was to take to Facebook, and publicly shame him for his behaviour.
In a lengthy Facebook status, that has since gone viral, Evans wrote of her 12-year-old son Jacob:
‘Absolutely disgusted that my 12 year old son saw fit to purposefully tread on a new girls foot at school and twist his foot with such force it broke her brand new shoes (causing the heel) to snap.’
‘I’ll tell you something Jacob, if you so much as breath (sic) in her or anyone’s direction in a bullying manner I will personally hand you over to their parents for every demeaning chore they see fit for as long as they do.’
Evans also demanded that her son use his birthday money to pay for a new pair of shoes for the girl he bullied, and used the hashtag, #IWillNotHaveaBullyInMyHouse.
Originally, the mother tagged her son in the post, “so his friends could see that his actions have consequences.” When the status started to go viral, she removed the tag.
In an update to the status, following an unexpected amount of attention, Evans wrote, "he is not big, clever, hard or funny, he’s a 12 year old boy answerable to his mam."
The status received more than 54,000 likes and was shared over 11,200 times, before the post became 'no longer available'. It's assumed that either the post was removed, or Evans changed her privacy settings, restricting access to view the status.
While many Facebook users praised Evans' "fantastic parenting", rather predictably, she also received a great deal of criticism for her approach.
‘I don’t much care who doesn’t agree with my parenting style, my son humiliated and embarrassed a girl, regardless of his reasoning (which was he didn’t expect to break the shoe he just thought she may step out of it or stumble) that little girl still cried, for anyone’s knowledge that girl may have left her old school because she was being bullied… then imagine how much worse my son’s ridiculous act would have made her feel.'
There were a number of comments accusing Evans of 'humiliating' her son. Alison Kyle commented, ‘Why extend the humiliation? Your poor son. This will haunt him forever. A mistake at 12, online now for all to see.’
Another concerned onlooker, Michael Crowley, wrote: ‘This is an incredibly dangerous thing to do to any child… What is even more disturbing are the huge numbers on here who cannot even see the dangers of what she has done.’
But Terri stood by her decision, posting that embarrassing her son online was 'quite frankly nothing in comparison to the humiliation that little girl had to face walking round with a broken shoe and red eyes from crying when she is new.'
She also refuted some commenters who implied that her status was the only way she had disciplined her son. She wrote, 'of course I sat and spoke to him about his behaviour, I didn’t just tag him in a post and he read it! I am wholly confident this was a single occurrence which won’t be repeated.’
It's yet to be seen whether this approach will be successful in terms of teaching 12-year-old Jacob a lesson about bullying.
In general, psychological research suggests that shaming your child in pursuit of discipline can have a range of negative consequences. Young children in particular struggle to understand the difference between their actions and themselves. Publicly shaming them, rather than having an open, frank and complex discussion about what they've done, is likely to make them feel personally ashamed, rather than ashamed about their behaviour.
Parents shaming their children online is a new phenomenon, but is becoming increasingly common. Perhaps before we jump on the bandwagon, we should consider what the implications might be first.
Watch The Motherish confessions: 'The time I felt like a terrible mother'.