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Embarrassing Our Children
Mom with a View

Embarrassing Our Children

Humiliation is never an effective parenting tool.

by

“Dad Makes Daughter Wear Embarrassing Shirt to School for Breaking Curfew” screamed the Huffington Post headline. Apparently humiliation is the new go-to tool of desperate parents.

The article goes on to cite other instances in which parents have embarrassed their children in order to teach them a lesson.

Unfortunately, they may not be teaching the lesson they think they are. The Torah likens embarrassing someone in public to murder, so deep is the shame.

I say “desperate” parents because I know how they feel. They are frustrated and at their wits’ end. Their children don’t listen, they take advantage of their parents, they are defiant; they abuse their confidence. In other words, they are typical teenagers.

And they need to be met head on with love, a love that is deeper and stronger than the rebellion, a love that their kids know will last, a love that is unconditional.

Public humiliation does not teach that lesson.

Another important idea it doesn’t convey is a parent’s belief in their child. Frightened adolescents need to know that it’s all going to turn out okay, that we, their parents, have confidence in their ability figure things out, to rise to the occasion, to make good choices.

Embarrassing them in public has the opposite effect. It undermines their confidence; it stokes their feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.

I assume these parents mean well. I assume they want what’s best for their children. But, in their misguided fashion, they are causing them a world of hurt.

A friend of mine recently consulted with me about a name for her first child. The one she had in mind was unusual, to say the least. I counseled against it. Why put your child in that position? A position where they will stand out unnecessarily? Be mocked or misunderstood?

Children are not a vanity project, a place to display our creativity through original names or parenting styles. We need to treat them as the complex human beings they are – or will be.

I feel very sorry for the children in the article. And I feel badly for their parents as well. They are allowing their frustration to block their empathy, to inhibit their common sense.

We are all at risk. Parenting, especially of teenagers, can be very difficult. Parents and children can succumb to frustration and despair.

Thank God, we have a Torah to reel us back in, to give us perspective, to remind us of the Almighty’s qualities of kindness and compassion that we wish to emulate. And to teach us that we should never, under any circumstances, embarrass another human being in public, most especially our parents, spouses and children. It doesn’t make for an eye-catching T-shirt but it sure makes for a better life.

Published: February 9, 2013


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Visitor Comments: 8

(6) Anonymous, February 18, 2013 5:08 AM

Emuna, I could hug you!! Right on target every time.

(5) Anonymous, February 13, 2013 10:15 AM

If embarrassment is unintentional...

I'm wondering if going outside to call my son (amongst his friends) to the house when he doesn't come on the time agreed would constitute embarrassment? I know it's not ideal but he needs the boundary so I hope I am not crossing that line... Would appreciate comments!

Anonymous, February 13, 2013 3:47 PM

Ask him directly

If your son complains to you that he is "embarassed" when you call him in from outside, then negotiate what you could do if he does not return at the specified time. Parenting is not a one-way street, and this might bring additional maturity to him to be responsible to honor his commitment of returning home at a specified time. I always appreciate another individual helping me work out a problem in a respectful manner.

(4) Canuck, February 12, 2013 9:24 PM

Who knows exact source of Torah comment?

Could someone please tell me where to find the passage in the Torah that "likens embarrassing someone in public to murder, so deep is the shame." I am very interested to find that source! Thank you.

(3) Rachel, February 12, 2013 9:11 PM

names

Since you don't mention the name the young mother-to-be suggested, it's hard to understand why you leap to the statement that "children are not a vanity project". A name is the first and most long-lasting gift parents can give their child. In urban America, one comes in contact with people with names from around the globe. My main concern would be that the child will not suffer for having a "strange" name or one that can be mispro-nounced to the child's embarrassment. Furthermore, what's "strange" in some circles is perfectly normal in others. Until I joined the Orthodox community, names like Pinchas, Chaim, and Mordechai were ones I only heard when men named Phil, Chuck, or Marty were called to the Torah. Furthermore, an unusual middle name can be abbreviated to an initial, or be a starting point for an interesting conversation.

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