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How Shaming Children Impacts Them Long-Term
Posted: 4/18/2014 | Parenting Comments
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Someone brought two videos to my attention recently. One was of toddlers given lemons to suck on, and the other appeared to be a father mocking his 10-year-old son, who was upset about something. Many people had viewed these videos, and the comments were mostly positive. People thought they were funny.

But both of the videos were very sad to me.
As a psychotherapist who works with children and families, these videos aren’t funny. They are shaming, cruel, and a violation of the child’s trust in their parents and caretakers. 

While working with people, I witness how damaging the long-term consequences can be from this kind of treatment. Shaming a child never helps anyone grow up to be an emotionally healthy adult.

This type of behavior doesn’t feel good at any age. How do you think an adult feels when someone they trust and feel safe with gives them something, as a prank, implying they’ll find it pleasurable, yet knowing it will be very uncomfortable for them.

In that first video, you can see the distressing facial expressions on some of the children. In those moments, do you really think most of those children felt emotionally safe with their parents and the other adults involved?  Absolutely not. Those children looked miserable and that causes long-term harm for them.

This kind of behavior is the cause of Strain Trauma.
Strain Trauma is what happens when children are not being sufficiently attended to or cared for physically, emotionally, or mentally, on an ongoing basis, and it leads to many difficulties down the road.

If the parents of these children really understood what their children were feeling and the damage that was being done to them, they surely would not have allowed their children to be in either of these videos. Even when parents are very caring, compassionate, and nurturing, life has its disappointments. Children don't need this done to them simply for entertainment’s sake. It's damaging.

In the second video, we see another example of Strain Trauma as a man is mocking his son in front of the camera while the son is upset about something. This man is teaching disregard for others and the benefits of being cruel, to his children, as well as to the world, as people watch this video. A bully can often look like a winner, but from the perspective of having a happy and content life, we all know this isn’t true. I imagine this is what the father in the video experienced in his home while growing up. This probably feels natural to him and seems as if it’s a funny thing to do in front of the camera or he wouldn’t have done it.

It’s sad for all involved, including the other child who’s standing behind his Dad, watching what’s happening and laughing at his brother. We don’t know the back story. One possibility Dad could do instead of shaming and mocking, is calmly say “no” to his son about whatever he’s going on about, if that’s appropriate to the situation. If the child keeps going, he might say, “You can keep asking, but my answer will still be no. So, I think we need to stop talking about this.” Mocking someone doesn’t help them learn healthy or helpful boundaries.

I know it's hard to be a parent, and sometimes you can feel worn out. But remember, you signed up to be a parent, with all that’s included in that. The parents, producers, directors, and anyone else involved with these videos, and this kind of behavior toward children, need to look into their own childhoods to see why this seems alright to them. I’ll bet there’s a parent or caretaker in their past who was shaming or cruel to them.

Based on the popularity of these kinds of videos, it’s no surprise that bullying has increased in recent years.

How have you witnessed a child being harmfully pranked, shamed or mocked?
What did you do?

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photo credit David Castillo Dominici via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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