Originally published March 5, 2015
I don’t know about you, but I find “pet shaming” pictures hilarious. You’ve seen them. They’re the ones that show something like a dog next to a chewed up tube of diaper rash ointment, and the dog is wearing a
sign around its neck saying, “I ate a tube of Desitin and barfed all over the new carpet during my family’s dinner party.” The funny thing to me is that the dog usually looks like he’s not the least bit sorry, and he’s certainly not ashamed. We can have a good guilt-free laugh at these silly pictures, because the dog has no idea what’s going on and isn’t feeling humiliated in the slightest. But what about the shaming of human beings?
Shaming as a form of punishment is nothing new. You read The Scarlet Letter in high school right? You’ve seen pictures of a one room schoolhouse with a child sitting in the corner wearing a dunce cap? More recently, we’ve seen judges sentence petty criminals to stand in a public place holding a sign confessing their crimes. But lately I’ve been seeing a parenting trend that isn’t funny or appropriate, especially for Christian parents: kid shaming.
This ten year old girl was lying about her age, sneaking out with boyfriends, and breaking her parents’ social media rules. So they forced her to wear a shirt declaring her age, along with a “little girl” hairdo and accessories
This barber offers parents free “balding man” haircuts for their misbehaving children.
This mom went to school with her teen-aged daughter, mocking, taunting, and videotaping her for skipping class.
If a child were doing this kind of thing to another child, we’d call it bullying, and everyone would be appalled. But if a parent does it and posts pictures of it on social media she’s hailed as an innovative disciplinarian.
Does kid shaming work to modify a child’s behavior? Sometimes. But as Christian parents, we are not called to merely modify our children’s behavior. We are called to cultivate the soil of their hearts, so that those little hearts may one day be fertile ground, ready for the seeds of the gospel and godly discipline. And shaming or humiliating a child doesn’t enrich that heart soil. It hardens it.
Children need discipline, but they need us to discipline them in a godly way. How do we discover the godly way to discipline? By following God’s example laid down in His Word. There are many reasons God presents Himself to us in the Bible as our Father. First, and foremost, it describes our relationship to Him: the depth of His love for us, His desire for what’s best for us, His authority over us. Our love for and dependence on Him, our desire to obey Him. But, secondly, God revealing Himself to us as our Father gives us a beautiful, perfect model to follow in parenting.
Want to know how to love your child? Look at the way God loves you. Want to know how to provide for your child? Look at the way God provides for you. And if you want to know how to discipline your child, look at the way God disciplines His children. Does God shame and humiliate us when we sin? No.
He disciplines us because He loves us…
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. Hebrews 12:6
He does not shame us into repentance, but draws us with His kindness.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21
He does not discipline to humiliate, but to train us in holiness and righteousness…
but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:10b-11
Sometimes God’s discipline is pretty intense, but it is always done in love and always to draw us away from sin and back to holiness, never to demean us. Our children are a precious gift, entrusted to us by God. We are to reflect God’s character to them as we walk with Him and seek to love and discipline them His way. Choosing a worldly way of correcting their behavior but not tending their hearts, well…that would be a shame.