As a parent, for the most part I try to stay in my own lane and not judge other parents. Despite the plethora of materials available to parents, the truth is, parenting is hard work. I became a parent two weeks after turning 19 and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. Many of my mistakes were compounded by the fact that my ex-husband and I spent most of our son’s childhood having a rather tumultuous relationship. Thankfully our son emerged from the morass of having two knuckleheads for parents relatively unscathed and at 21; he is far more together than I ever was in my 20’s. If there was one rule that has guided my parenting in the past two decades, it was and is the reminder that my children are more than just extensions of myself; they are free will humans with their own thoughts and feelings that are worthy of respect.
In this brave new digital world that we are living in, I am seeing something that is absolutely disheartening and heartbreaking, children being disregarded as actual people with feelings. There is no way around the fact that as a parent there are times when children need our guidance and at times even the dreaded D word…discipline. Yet it seems to have become almost common that these uncomfortable moments are being shared online in an attempt to “correct” children. I am sorry but in a world where bullying amongst kids has become the norm, I can’t help thinking that we as parents are modeling the bullying and shaming that so many kids now experience.
Today I read about the short shorts dad. A Utah father tired of his daughter wearing “skimpy” shorts decided to turn the tables on her by cutting up a pair of jeans, and going out on family night in his own pair of “skimpy” shorts. The mom shared the photo of dad in shorts on her blog and of course the story went viral. Dude, what about talking to your kid? Look, I have an 8 year old daughter and already she wants to wear clothing that at times makes me cringe, there are times when I have to veto an outfit and times when I have to ask myself why the resistance? Never in a million years would I want to humiliate my kid and post something online that could create blowback for her. Why? Because when we love people, we don’t want to intentionally hurt them. Period.
For some reason parenting by public humiliation has become the new norm and then we wonder why kids harass each other online? Sorry, but what are we the adults showing them? Of course last week, we had a mother who took it one step further by not just humiliating her kids online but actually her son’s friends. Mrs. Hall wrote a blog post to her son’s friends telling them that basically they dress like dusty trollops and that since the family sits around the table looking at the teenage boys Instagram feeds, if you don’t meet Mrs. Hall’s standards of best dressed, you cannot be pals with her boys online.
First off, why is Mrs. Hall all up in her son’s business? Look, we should monitor our kids’ online activity. I initially joined social media sites when my son was in high school because I wanted to know what he was up to. That said, I was not monitoring every post and page and I never had his passwords. Kids need to have space, just as adults need to have space. It’s a fine line but frankly if I were Mrs. Hall’s son, I would probably be livid. It is bad enough that the family sits around scrutinizing the kids’ friends online but to write a blog post? Not cool mom. There is also the fact that Mrs. Hall was in full slut shaming mode. Hey, Mrs. Hall no one asked for your opinions and if my daughters were friends with your son’s, you and I would be having words over what you wrote.
Raising kids is scary and once they hit the teen years, the anxiety level does rise because the stakes are higher. But I think too many times we as parents forget that we were once young and we did questionable things too. Adolescence is a time for finding ourselves and it does and will involve experimenting with things that sometimes parents wish we could ignore but shaming our kids is not the answer.
How many of us as adults have had to undo the damage that shame did to us especially around matters of sex and sexuality? *sheepishly raising my own hand* We raise our kids until they are of age to be on their own but parenting that is well done and thoughtful will create a relationship that lasts a lifetime. One upping our kids is not the way to have a healthy relationship, but creating open and honest dialogue is.