Are You Raising a Bully?
Stop humiliating your kids
Like death and taxes, your kid screwing up is inevitable. And when they are little, it’s cute. My daughter with her hands on her hips, telling me “I ‘issapointed in you, mom!” never fails to make me laugh. But research shows that a toddler’s self-control is one of the first and earliest predictors of success. And how you go about teaching your child that self-control can have a profound impact on the rest of their life.
One popular form of discipline is public humiliation. Images of parents dressing like their teenage daughters in short skirts or sons standing on the side of the road with signs announcing their sins to passersby have gone viral. And while it may be tempting to post a picture of your toddler on Facebook with a caption announcing, “My name is Roxie and I poop on the floor.”—think again. Publicly shaming your child can have a profound impact on their psyche.
According to a recent article in Time:
Studies consistently show, for example, that children whose parents used humiliation to discipline them grew up to be less confident and more prone to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. And shaming connected with an issue related to sexuality—like making your daughter stand in public with a sign related to a racy dance move—may lead to even more damaging effects. While repeated and blatant humiliation is the most dangerous, experts say that even rare or minor humiliations can do harm.
And the risk is more than just your child. A child with poor impulse control is more likely to become a bully and act out their aggression on others. Children who become bullies often have many characteristics in common, including inconsistent discipline at home and a lack of self-esteem. In sum, research shows what we all intuitively know: If you teach your child violence, they will be violent. If you teach your child shame, they will shame others. No one wants to think of their child as the aggressor. But the truth is, how we model discipline becomes our child’s model for the world. And as parents our first test comes when the first tantrum is thrown, the first tiny fist is raised in rage.
Right after my son, my second child, was born, I was exhausted. Running low on patience and, well, everything, I found myself yelling at my daughter. And not just yelling—full-on screaming. I wasn’t proud of myself. My husband would come home and find me in tears, frustrated at both myself and my daughter who was finding new and creative ways to act out. One day, after a particularly rough morning, we were at the park and I caught her screaming at some other children. Maybe she would have screamed regardless, but watching my child model my behavior was a wake up call. True, we can’t be perfect all the time; nor should we place that expectation on our own shoulders or the shoulders of other parents. But when we screw up, I think it’s important to acknowledge that behavior to our children and apologize. Holding ourselves to the standard that we hold them to.
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