Parent Bullying: A Double Standard
On May 29, a 13-year-old girl in Tacoma, Washington died after jumping off an overpass into oncoming traffic. Her name was Izabel Laxamana.
A few days earlier her father, Jeff, had punished her for a reason that remains unclear. He chose to cut off her long hair and videotape the interaction. Izabela shared the video with friends at her school.
A news report states that Izabel was being bullied in school because of the video. The video of the interaction was put on Youtube by one of her friends.
Currently it is unclear if this punishment was the main cause of her suicide although in the court of public opinion many are linking her father’s actions to her death. It’s a sad and unfortunate story. (It has since been determined after the police investigation that Izabela left eight suicide notes and does not blame her father for her decision to kill herself.)
An Update on the story of Izabel has been completed by the police. Learn more HERE.
Sadly, more and more parents are disciplining their children and posting video of it online.
The most famous example is probably the story of Tommy Jordan. In this instance, he found his daughter had posted rude comments online about him and his wife. He filmed himself reviewing her critiques and ended the video by using his gun to shoot her laptop. He posted the video on Youtube on February 12, 2012 and currently it has over 40 million views. Comments for this video have been disabled.
This is not discipline
Let’s call this what it is. It is not discipline, it is online bullying. If this type of behavior were happening to a child by someone other than their parent the world would be in an uproar. Parents would call it online bullying. The world would call it online bullying. Yet, when parents do it to their children, it’s accepted as parenting. Why the double standard? Parent or not, shaming your children on social media is online bullying.
What is really happening here?
In viewing multiple videos it appears there are two main issues going on with the parents involved: first, these parents are tired and second, they don’t know how to help their children understand their point of view.
Being tired is common. They appear tired of trying to teach their children to behave appropriately. I recognize the deep concern and often disappointment parents have with their children. When posting videos it is often stated by the parents that they have tried other methods first with little to no success so they opt to try this new approach. They are fed up and are doing what they feel will finally change their child’s behavior. Unfortunately, it is often creating greater animosity and placing a strain on parent child relationship.
Tired or not parents can benefit from learning different skills to engage with their children. They can even benefit from a paradigm shift in how they view discipline, punishment, consequences and addressing negative behaviors.
Learning how to communicate effectively helps eliminate these misunderstandings.
Punishing vs. Teaching
One of the most important things a parent can do is to recognize the difference between punishing a child and teaching a child to correct a behavior. Teaching a child involves setting up strategies that help the child understand that their behavior needs correcting and showing them how to do it. Punishing is punitive and usually involves using tactics that scare or intimidate children to behave a certain way. In essence, punishments rarely work to help children learn new behaviors.
Teaching includes consequences. The best consequences are usually natural consequences related to the negative behavior. For example, if a child messed up a room a natural consequence would be to clean it up. If a child was fighting with his younger sibling over a toy and became aggressive a consequence might be allowing the sibling to have the toy. While this may be the consequence the teaching still needs to demonstrate what the child should do if that situation arises again. When there are no natural consequences, parents should focus on consequences that are related to the negative behavior and continue to teach their child what is acceptable behavior.
Smarter Parenting and professionals also encourage the parent and child practice the new behavior at least 4 times to help the child integrate the new behavior in their minds. We have strategies to help improve behaviors without having to resort to extreme methods of intimidation, shame or punishment. Watch the Correcting Behaviors lesson and you will see how parents teach their children the behaviors they expect and want.
The recommendation is to provide a consequence, teach the child what they should do by demonstrating it and practicing the correct behavior with the child at least four times so they can internalize the new behavior.
Children will make mistakes. Parents will mistakes too. They need guidance. They need help. They need love. The goal is to learn how to work through problems together. The world is a difficult place for children to navigate and they need the help of a trusted parent who is on their side.
My deepest condolences to everyone involved with Izabela’s situation. My hope is that her story will be a tale of caution for other parents to reevaluate what methods they use to teach their children and to correct their behaviors.
Questions? Please contact me.
Cover photo Sirena Covington
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you’re in crisis or feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat online with someone from NSPL at any time, day or night.
Siope is a Mental Health Therapist who has been working with children and families for over 13 years. Siope coordinates efforts in support of mental health treatment options for underserved populations. He is a father and enjoys spending time with his family. Siope is a member of the Smarter Parenting Team.