A Florida father has taken a stand against publicly shaming children as a form of discipline.
In a video posted on his Facebook page Friday, Wayman Gresham leads viewers to think he’s about to give his son, Isaiah, a “bald head, messed up haircut” as punishment. Instead, Mr. Gresham calls out parents who use online humiliation as discipline, sparking further conversation about best practices in parenting in the age of Internet and social media.
“There’s no way in the world I would ever embarrass my son like that,” the Fort Lauderdale dad says in the video, which as of Monday had more than 18 million views. “Good parenting starts before he even gets to the point of being out of control.”
Gresham’s admonition comes as more parents turn to publicly shaming their children as a way of enforcing discipline. One trend features moms, dads, and even barbershops giving kids bad haircuts – particularly one known as the “bald man” or “George Jefferson,” based on a popular sitcom character — to drive a message home.
The parenting techniques aren’t limited to embarrassing hair. Jeannie Crutchfield, whose daughter was caught cutting class, followed the teenager around campus with a video camera in hand, saying, “This is what happens when Ricki can’t act right. Her mom has to come to the school to record her to get it through her head.”
Another video shows mother Valerie Starks confronting her 13-year-old daughter about the latter’s hidden Facebook account, in which she pretended to be 19 and posted racy photographs of herself, ABC News reported.
Supporters have applauded the parenting technique as effective, and the videos have gained millions of views and shares shortly after they go live.
Commenters also praised Starks for her tough-love approach, CNN reported. And Ms. Crutchfield’s daughter Ricki, while acknowledging the strategy embarrassed her, told a local news outlet that she understood why her mother did it.
“It just goes to show that my mom cares,” Ricki said.
Critics, however, have said that the method amounts to little more than bullying.
“If anyone other than a parent uploaded a video to humiliate another person this way, especially a teenager, it would be called cyberbullying,” author and public speaker Demetria Lucas D’Oyley wrote for news and culture site The Root. “But because it’s a parent humiliating a child on camera and posting it online, we’re supposed to celebrate this as a new, effective model of parenting?”
Others warn that humiliation might push children to the limit, breaking critical bonds of trust within the family.
“If kids fear that they are going to be publicly humiliated, guess what, they are going to get really good at hiding the truth,” parenting expert Amy McCready told CNN.
While discipline is important, Ms. McCready said, it should come in the form of reining in privileges, reinforcing obligations, and using the child’s mistake as a chance to foster better understanding between parent and child – not as public shaming.
“No one feels inspired when they are humiliated,” McCready added.
In his video, Gresham appears to be promoting a similar message: “Good parenting is letting your child know that you love them regardless of what they are and who they are, and showing them the way by example,” he says.