Kids have such soft hearts and squishy spirits. Why would you ever want to intentionally embarrass them? That doesn’t stop some parents from humiliating their little ones and not accidentally. Let’s face it—we all embarrass our kids eventually but that’s usually because we dress too trendy or too dated or say something that makes us sound “lame.” I’m not a psychologist, nor do I claim to be one, but I am an experienced children’s worker and a former child. I know a little something about the crushing of a child’s heart, as a child and an adult.
I have some great parents in my children’s church but over the years I have met some that made some mistakes too. I’m not judging anyone, I’m not perfect but I am concerned when parents drag their kids to church then embark on an embarrassing tirade (in front of everyone) about all the child’s failings from the past week. I’ve heard things like, “You need to pray a little harder for Jonah. He’s never going to get off restriction…” or “Can you believe what she decided to wear? That’s what happens when she dresses herself.” Ouch and ouch. These are actually mild examples I’m sharing. I don’t want to pass on the embarrassing moments.
It’s natural to feel frustrated with your children from time to time but embarrassing them into submission is nothing more than humiliation. Here’s what you won’t do:
- You won’t make them humble.
- You won’t fix their issues.
- You won’t make them want to change.
As a matter of fact, this practice evokes a slew of negative emotions including rebellion, anger and even self-destruction. Some of these negative feelings become entrenched in the child’s personality and it can take a life time to root them out. (I have some personal experience with this.)
When I hear parents embarrass their kids regularly, I feel sad for the children but equally sad for the parent. You might be reading off a mental laundry list of all your child’s issues but you are also telling a lot about yourself. Here’s what I hear:
- I see myself in my child and it frustrates me.
- I have issues with perfectionism.
- I don’t have the parenting skills I need.
- My spouse isn’t helping me raise the children.
- My parents did this to me.
- I’m struggling with something else that I don’t want to talk about.
I’m sure there are so many other things I could mention but you get the idea. So what can you and I do?
1. Stop the embarrassment by refusing to enable parents who do this. Standing there listening isn’t going to help, other than giving the parent a place to vent. Raise your hand, wave your hand. Stop the conversation and invite the grown up to talk with you privately. If it is right before church (isn’t it always?) make an appointment with him or her. Be willing to listen, then guide them along in different ways of coping with discipline.
2. Always send the child away. Point him to an activity so at least when he’s with you, he won’t have to be embarrassed.
3. Offer parenting classes. Sometimes people just don’t know any better. Show them another way to deal with the stresses and challenges of parenting.
You can do it!
Read more from Mimi by visiting her blog at Tools for Kids Church.