My Friend Publicly Shamed Her Child––Too Many Parents Make This Mistake

by Kristen Mae
Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy, Jamie Garbutt/ Vasif Bagirov/Getty and Nghia Nguyen/Unsplash

The other day, I was mindlessly scrolling social media and came across one of those Facebook posts where a parent shares a “funny” letter their kid has written to them. I normally love those posts, but I didn’t think this one was funny at all.

The letter was a frustrated vent from a tween girl to her mom. The girl was angry because she felt her mom had yelled at her and dismissed her feelings. In the Facebook post, the mom rolled her eyes and accused her daughter of being ridiculous and overly sensitive. She didn’t feel her daughter’s feelings were warranted in the least.

In another post a couple of months back, a different woman shamed her teenage son for getting bad grades on his report card. She shared a picture of him and wrote that she hated him. She was furious at her son and wanted everyone to know it.

I know this mother does not hate her son. She was just massively frustrated. He’d told her he had his grades under control, and she’d believed him, only to be thoroughly disappointed. When they’re at that age where every grade can impact whether they get into college and/or how much scholarship they receive, the pressure on both kids and parents is enough to send any of us over the edge.

And I know that the mom who shared her daughter’s private letter online likely also deeply loves and cares for her daughter. At some point, they probably had a sit-down and a cuddle and worked through the situation. These head-butting moments between kids and parents are normal.

But sharing letters our kids have written to us in confidence, sharing videos or pictures without their knowledge, sharing difficult moments or private information — it’s really never okay. Parents, please think before you do this. Especially when our kids are reaching an age where that kind of sharing is embarrassing. Especially when you damn well know they’d be pissed if they found out you shared something that wasn’t yours to share.

Scary Mommy and Anna Semenchenko/Getty

It is really, really not okay. It’s a betrayal. You’re taking your child’s anger and making a mockery of it. Remember when you were a kid and felt your parents didn’t understand you? Remember how big and real and important your feelings felt? Remember how much you wanted someone to just fucking listen to you and act like how you felt mattered? Remember how, when you made a stupid mistake and knew it, the last thing you would have wanted was for your parents to blast it to everyone they knew?

Think of a time when you told somebody something in confidence, and they turned around and shared it without first asking you. Think about how that felt. If that’s ever been done to you by somebody you deeply trusted, you know how painful that betrayal feels. Kids should be able to unequivocally trust that their parents, of all people, would never betray them in this way.

As parents, we have a million jobs, and we’re going to fuck up. Obviously, we can’t do this job perfectly. We’re human. But this is one thing we can easily be conscientious about. It takes time and thought to post to social media. There should be enough of a thought process there to second-guess yourself. Enough time to realize that posting our child’s private info to social media without their knowledge is a breach of their trust and a violation of their privacy.

Humiliation and shame are not disciplinary tools or ways to get a laugh, and social media is not the place to vent about how obnoxious your kid is. What I noticed about the letter my Facebook friend shared is that she was engaging in exactly the behavior her daughter was accusing her of — not listening to her. Belittling her feelings.

The mother wasn’t seeing that by sharing her daughter’s private letter to her, she was proving her daughter right.

The people who repeatedly share this kind of info about their kids often complain that their kids are “difficult” with them or that they have “no respect” for them. They wonder why their kid is all backtalk and slamming doors and not looking up from their phones when spoken to.

Well, why would these kids behave in a mature, considerate way when clearly the adult in charge isn’t modeling mature, considerate behavior? There is no trust there. Respect cannot simply be demanded; it has to be earned.

Do you feel compelled to be respectful to people you don’t trust? I sure as hell don’t, and I don’t expect my kids to, either. I know that if I want them to treat me with respect, I have to also show I respect them in return. It doesn’t mean I don’t set boundaries — it just means I don’t belittle or mock them, and I sure as hell would never do so on social media.

It’s one thing to bitch to a couple of friends, or even a private Facebook group, about a situation with your kid. But to post it on a public forum where anyone and their brother can see it shows a total lack of respect for a child’s privacy and autonomy. Please, parents, if you want your kids to trust and respect you, don’t do this.