Appropriate Discipline is an Opportunity to Encourage


disciplinePublic shaming or public humiliation is on the forefront these days as a possible use of punishment for children. We have seen this age old use of discipline being implemented on children now in public locales as well as on the internet. As a use of punishment, this is the act of embarrassing the child or making them ashamed of their actions in a public forum in the hopes that this public humiliation will deter the future behavior. This of course has been widely used throughout history and the theme to Nathanial Hawthorne’s fictional work The Scarlett Letter.

As a parent, our role is to nurture children who grow into confident and productive adults. A parent’s role is to protect their child from danger and in an adopted child’s eyes, this is even more important of a bond to achieve attachment. Building self-esteem is a vital component of building confidence in a child. Your child should see you as their greatest supporter and confidant. As the one person, who is by their side through every achievement and also through every failure. The utilization of public shaming is contrary to this belief and can be devastating to a child’s morale and their ability to trust the parent. When you publicly shame your child, you are demonstrating through your own behavior that you are betraying your child’s confidence and are no longer their supporter. You are not building their self-esteem, but rather tearing it down and tearing it down for the world to see, showing your child that you do not respect their privacy.

We want our children to learn lifelong lessons that their behaviors have impacts on others and it is because of this concern for others that we don’t want them doing some types of behavior. Public shaming teaches only that this one behavior will have this consequence on the child, but it does not teach the child how their behavior impacted someone else. In other words, public shaming does not teach compassion and sympathy, not only does it not teach it, it shows the child that the parent has no compassion or sympathy for them.

Public shaming only solves the problem behavior in the moment and uses power and control. It does not have a long lasting impact on behavior, it only serves as a band aid and temporary solution to the undesirable behavior. It does not teach the child how their behavior impacted someone else, nor does it teach the child to respect others. Taking away power and control from an adopted child is counterproductive to bonding and has a negative unwanted impact when you are trying to teach the child that they have control over their environment.

Rewards based systems for encouraging good behavior are always preferred, but when discipline is needed remember to always remind your child that it is the behavior that you don’t like and not the child. Remind your child that you love them, just not their behavior, especially true for the adopted child who needs and wants to feel loved unconditionally.

Being a parent is the most important role and duty an adult has. How a child is parented and disciplined will have long lasting effects on the child including if they feel loved and valued and how well adjusted they are as an adult. It is clear there is a struggle with valuing human life, dignity and compassion, even in our children. We have seen an increase in bullying of children and adults. We have seen suicides increase as a result of this bullying. Children need to know they are valued and loved unconditionally. Public shaming does not express love or commitment to your child and in effect, it is parental bullying of a child.

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici/

Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.