Since Yahoo Parenting launched on Oct. 23, the editors and writers have posted nearly 600 stories on the site. They chose this article – originally published on Oct. 29 – as a highlight of the pieces that offer trusted advice, inspire provocative conversations, and hopefully add a little fun to your life, every day.
When Kevin Jones discovered that his 10-year-old daughter had created several secret social media accounts and was dating a boy, he was understandably upset. His response was to dress her in a pink T-shirt that reads: “I’m 10 Years Old” on the front and “5th Grader” on the back. She also donned barrettes, pink shoes, and a Sofia the First cartoon backpack. Jones posted photographs from all angles on his Facebook page as punishment for her rule-breaking, along with an update that reads, “Here’s the consequence behind her actions. An age-defining shirt. Yes people she is 5’9” & 10 years old.” His full post is below:
The result? The post went viral, collecting more than a quarter-million likes and 80,000+ shares (not to mention nearly 4,000 comments). Most Facebook commenters have been supportive of Jones’s tactics. Precious Rorie Green wrote, “I love this. A real caring, loving, and concerned father.” Tosha Stephens added, “Kudos! Our daughters need more influential fathers like you! She’ll thank you in the long run!”
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Other commenters, however, have objected to Jones’s public form of punishment. On Jezebel’s story about the situation, YolandiVisser wrote, “I definitely don’t think the father’s intentions were bad, but whether he meant to or not he publicly humiliated this girl at an age where anything that happens to her is going to end up being very formative. And I think being shamed in front of all of the internet is a pretty big deal to a young girl’s self esteem. That’s something she’s going to remember forever.”
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Jones not the first parent to choose public humiliation through social media as punishment, as the tactic has become increasingly popular. Last year, for example, a California mom upset by her 11-year-old daughter’s twerking, forced her to stand on the corner of a busy intersection holding a sign that read, “I was disrespecting my parents by twerking at a school dance.” Similarly, a Utah woman who discovered her soon-to-be-stepdaughter had been bullying a classmate over her “sleazy” Daisy Dukes punished the girl by forcing her to wear dowdy thrift shop clothes, then posting the photos to Facebook, causing the 10-year-old great embarrassment.
So are these parents exercising creative discipline and setting good limits, or have they gone too far? We asked Dr. Stacey Radin, psychologist and founder and CEO of Unleashed NY, a social justice program for middle school girls: Should parents publicly post kids’ punishments like this?
“I would not encourage public humiliation,” Radin, who is also author of the forthcoming “Brave Girls: Raising Young Women With Passion and Purpose to Become Powerful Leaders,” tells Yahoo Parenting. “Maybe [Jones] was anxious and wanted to stop her, but put yourself in this daughter’s position — ashamed, embarrassed. Those aren’t the feelings you want to create. Parents should be building up their kids, not tearing them down.”
Radin understands why some people may be reacting with a “good for this dad” attitude, but she says there are more layers to this issue — it’s not simply a joke post, and Jones’s actions could create a dangerous pattern. “If you set up a power struggle like this, she’ll up the ante as a teenager,” Radin warns.
She suggests that a private conversation is the best way to handle this type of situation. “It’s very common to have a fake social media account,” says Radin, adding that it’s also not okay. “It’s illegal until she’s 13, so tell her that. Talk to her, and explain the consequences of social media — make sure she understands that being online means that everybody in the world who wants to see you can see you, it’s not just your friends.” Stress that having social media accounts at age 10 is a safety issue, and that your job is to keep her safe, she explains.
Then shut down the accounts and say firmly, “This is over.” Radin advises telling a child, “You weren’t strong enough to say no to social media, but as your parent, I know that you’re three years away from this being legal so there’s a clear boundary here.” Inform her that the trust is broken and you’re going to be more watchful of her online activity — out of love. “That’s being a protecting parent,” says Radin. “What this dad did was not protective.”
With the boy issue, Radin recommends talking to her about the family rules and asking her why she felt it was okay to break them. “Create a dialogue and listen to her concerns,” she advises. And in terms of pretending to be older, Radin encourages parents to think about their young daughters’ internal self-images: “She’s growing up, so she’s experimenting with dressing older — that’s normal. Give her a safe space to do that by putting on makeup at home or fixing her hair with friends at a sleepover. Have her wash her face before she goes out, but know that she’s gaining confidence and trying new things.”
Radin says that if this daughter was starting to mature and feel confident — and that’s a good thing, with boundaries — her father very likely just damaged that in one second by pressing “post” publicly. “This action takes her self-esteem down ten notches,” she says. “A parent’s job is to build self-esteem with parameters and limits. But this strips away at it.”
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