My husband and I have had sort of a tricky year.
I remember after one particularly heated argument, I put on my shoes and left the house. I just went for a long walk to clear my head, and when I returned we’d both cooled down and were ready to apologize and put it behind us. But wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d packed a whole suitcase, told him I was leaving him, and stayed at a hotel for a week to teach him a lesson?
Or if I showed up at his office in the middle of the workday, for no other purpose than to humiliate him and air our dirty laundry in front of all his coworkers?
Or kicked him out of the car and made him walk home when I didn’t like his tone?
Or spent hours – or days – purposely ignoring him, not speaking to him, and acting as if he didn’t exist until he apologized?
Or made him stand on a street corner, holding up a sign detailing everything he’d done wrong, while wearing something ridiculous of course? Hundreds of people would pass him. They’d laugh, and point. Funny, right?
Or changed the password on his computer, and wouldn’t give it to him until a certain number of days had passed, as penance?
Or put his car up for sale on Craigslist, along with a long and rambling and embarrassing description… not of the car (that would defeat the whole purpose) but of my husband, and how he’d misbehaved, and why I had to sell his beloved car, and what a great lesson it would be, and hahahahaha what a freaking hoot I thought I was.
Or took away all his clothes, and tools, and personal items, and made him earn them back one by one?
The best part would be how humiliated he would feel, how embarrassed, how ashamed. He would eventually beg me to stop punishing him. He might even cry!
Seriously, comedy GOLD, right there.
I guess I’m not that funny though, because I’ve never done any of the above to my husband. And even though it’s not what’s popular, it’s not what sells, and it’s not what gets likes and shares and accolades on social media…. I’ve never done any of the above to my children either.
And I know, I know, I’m in the minority on this, a fact I’m reminded of daily. Lest I forget, tonight I was faced with a Facebook post by a popular blogger that has been shared over 32,000 times, received over 67,000 likes, and – at the time of this writing – had almost 8,000 comments. Comments filled with story after story similar to what I wrote above, of parents purposely punishing, humiliating, embarrassing (and I’ll just say it: in some instances, abusing) their kids. The content wasn’t actually even the most disturbing part though. The disturbing part was the absolute GLEE that everyone took in the conversation. They were absolutely reveling in it. If we’re to believe this thread, making your kids feel badly about themselves is REALLY REALLY FUNNY.
The last time I wrote about a similar topic, I received some confused replies from people who just didn’t understand where I saw people celebrating cruelty to children. Facebook is where. Twitter is where. Church is where. School is where. SOCIETY is where. It is all around us. It’s cool to mistreat our children.
I don’t understand why everyone not only thinks this is okay, but thinks it is something to be celebrated.
And I’m an honest person… I’ll be the first to admit that I’m certainly not a perfect parent any more than I am a perfect wife.
I just have this crazy notion that we should be sort of… I don’t know… nice to the people we love. Sometimes I miss the mark and I have to apologize (that whole being human thing trips me up sometimes), but the overall general goal is kindness. And I get it, kindness isn’t sexy. It’s not funny. It’s not the kind of thing that garners billions of likes on a single Facebook post. But seriously, if we don’t have kindness, what do we have?
I’ll tell you what we have: We have 8,000 people congratulating each other for purposely tormenting their kids.
Being a parent is hard sometimes. Keeping our cool is hard sometimes. Dealing with stressful or disappointing or frustrating situations is hard sometimes. But you know what’s even harder? Dealing with difficult situations when you’re still a child. When you’re still learning about yourself. When you’re still learning how the world works. When you’re still maturing. When you’re still growing. Our kids need our help and our guidance and our compassion, not our scorn. They need us to reach out our hands for assistance and reassurance, not for punishment.
And if we want our children to grow up to be adults who live passionately and love freely and trust deeply, we first have to show them that they can trust us, as their parents. Punishing them and delighting in their humiliation isn’t really the best way to do that. A little bit of grace goes a really long way.
I hear people lamenting this generation and its “coddled” children. They worry about kids being spoiled, and entitled, and selfish. But I’m worried about something else entirely. I’m worried about the vast number of people who think it’s not only okay, but preferable to treat your children like second-class citizens, to parent through fear and intimidation, to use humiliation and shame as “teaching” tools.
I worry because these kids are going to grow up and become adults who think that it’s normal. Adults who believe that children should not have the same basic human rights as all our other loved ones. Adults who think that children don’t deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Adults who perpetuate the same negative and damaging cycle on their own children, and on the next generation.
This is what is being passed down. This is what we need to be concerned about. And until or unless enough people stand up and make another choice, the cycle is never going to stop.
God help us all.