The Washington Post

Using Facebook as form of punishment: Advice from Marguerite Kelly

(Hadley Hooper/For The Washington Post)

“I recently opened Facebook and found that my sister had posted a picture of my nephew, her son, who was crying and holding a sign that said, ‘I lied to my family,’” says the letter writer.

“Seeing my nephew treated this way on Facebook, however, was like a slap in the face to me. I was and am still furious about it because I know that I would never have used a method like this on my own kids, let alone on my wonderful nephew.

I didn’t react well and asked my sister to take the picture down immediately, but I’m still afraid that the punishment may have harmed him indirectly, which would make it even worse.”

Kelly says shaming a child, when done carefully, can be a good thing. Humiliating him, however, “is unfair, unkind and unwise.”

And his mom isn’t the only one who needs to change her behavior. Blowing up at the parent for mistreating her son was a poor choice by the letter writer, says Kelly, but there are steps everyone can take to get this family back on track.

“Give her an apology and a hug to make up for your stern reprimand and then offer to help in any way that you can,” says Kelly. “A note, a self-help book or some parenting classes may be enough to pull her out of the quagmire that she’s in because she’ll realize how much you care about her.”

Kelly also says Parents Anonymous may be a good resource for the mother, and urges the letter writer to share her concerns “with the counselor at your nephew’s school, his pediatrician or even with Child Protection Services” if the humiliation continues.

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