To shame or not to shame...that is the question.

A few weeks ago, I walked into our development’s amenities building to find, taped to each set of doors, a picture of four young people (I'd guess about 13 or 14-years-old) sitting on a bench inside of said building, under a caption which read,

“Reminder: do not let people without key cards into the building.  These kids are responsible for some minor vandalism over the past weekend.”

Of course the first thing I did was look at the picture of the four youth to see if I knew them.  I am sure anyone coming through the doors would have done the same thing.

I immediately thought to myself, as the parent of several kids (who have on occasion made unwise choices), would I want their picture plastered on the doorways in our amenities center?  And if I did, why would I want that displayed?

Kids do things at times without thinking because their brains haven't completely formed and they aren't always able to anticipate the consequences of their actions.  

This is not to make excuses for their behavior.

There is no question the kids involved should have had to clean up the mess they created, or at the very least, apologize to the maintenance person who had to waste their time and energy doing so.  Whether or not they should have additional repercussions at home is up to their parents.  I would think knowing they were caught on camera was somewhat embarrassing and might, in the future, help them think twice should a similar opportunity for misbehavior arise. 

If not, there's probably more going on in the child’s story than a cavalier attitude about vandalism.

Publicly shaming kids, whether it’s yelling at them in front of others while in a grocery store, calling them out on social media, or plastering their picture at multiple entrances to the amenities building, does nothing to foster a healthy relationship between adults and young people.  Remembering we [adults] are the role models for kids in teaching accountability, rather than punishing, will do more to build responsible action in the future.

I happened to overhear one neighbor exclaim to another as I left the building a few minutes later, “The reason we’ve got these kinds of problems with kids today is because we don’t discipline them the way we did years ago while I was raising my kids.” 

I beg to differ.

Much of the reason we see disrespect for property and/or people from kids nowadays is not because we have moved on from regularly physically punishing them, it’s because we (a) don't often make the time to connect with our kids in a way that helps them understand we’re all part of, and working towards, something greater than ourselves, (b) kids are given too many "things" and privileges too soon, so they don’t place much value on the world around them, and (c) some parents would rather be a friend than a guide in life, so their kids don't understand boundaries.

I think publicly shaming kids is a passive-aggressive, short-term solution which may temporarily provide compliance, but isn't worth the long-term side effects, including loss of trust, respect, and connection.

I'm curious, what do you think about publicly shaming kids for their misdeeds? 

*This article, with a few modifications, was recently published in The Cross Timbers Gazette.

Kimberly MuenchComment