parent opinion

"Parents are meant to protect their children. Instead, they're publicly humiliating them."

Last week, it was a dad forcing his son to run to school in the rain as a punishment for bullying. Now, it’s a mum making her sons walk 7km to their school because they were rude to the bus driver.

Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad. But the boys, aged seven and 10, had to walk the 7km in a small town in Canada, where the current daily maximum temperature is one degree Celsius. They were made to carry a sign saying, “Being bad and rude to our bus driver! Mom’s makin’ us walk.” Then their mum posted photos of the punishment on her Facebook page.

“Sh*t just got real for them,” she wrote proudly.

Within two days, the post had been shared more than 30,000 times. Comments included, “OMG ur the best,” “You’re fricken rockin’ the mom hat, girl,” and, “Awesome job, Mom! This is how you raise children.” There were more than 20,000 reactions to the post. The most popular ones were “like”, “love” and “haha”.

What about “sad” and “angry”?

Image: CBC/Facebook.

Okay, so the mum was upset because she’d received a phone call from the school talking about her sons’ bad behaviour. I would be upset, too. She wanted to punish her sons so they wouldn’t do it again. I would, too.

Would I make them walk 7km in freezing weather? I’d be more likely to go for a screentime ban and a letter of apology to the bus driver. Would I make them hold up a sign so everyone could see what they’d done? Definitely not. Would I post photos of the punishment on Facebook? No way in the world.

CBC News in Canada contacted the Children’s Aid Society for comment on the mum’s punishment.

A spokesperson, Tina Gatt, didn’t have a problem with the punishment itself, but did have a problem with the shaming.

“We would be concerned,” she explained, “and not just Children's Aid, we should be concerned as adults, about shaming children.”

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Gatt said shaming rarely works with adults and "simply is not going to motivate children to be better".

This is what really bothers me. We worry so much about cyberbullying. We’re terrified that other kids are going to be nasty to our kids online, to post something that’s going to hurt or humiliate them. But then, when a parent does just that to their own child, we praise that parent.

What does it do for a child’s mental health when their own parent, the person who is supposed to be protecting them from harm, publicly humiliates them?

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We need to stop giving these posts a “like” or a “love” or a “haha”. We need to tell the parent that public shaming is not okay. No matter how many thousand friends and strangers tell them what an “awesome” parent they are, they’re not.

In a follow-up interview with a Canadian radio station, the mum said she’d had “some backlash” for what some people said was “shaming” her kids, which she insisted she wasn’t doing. (The mother was happy to be named in the interview, once again identifying her children.) She said she wouldn’t have posted the photos on Facebook if she had known what the outcome was going to be.

“Have I learned a lesson? Yes, the power of social media is very powerful and when someone sees a story, they pick what they want and they make their own story.”

Obviously, she still doesn’t get it.

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