Shaming Our Kids On Social Media is No Laughing Matter

A friend recently shared an article about a popular Instagram account, filled with photos of toddlers having tantrums over the most ridiculous, silly things.  There’s a photo of a sobbing toddler who is upset that her sneakers don’t light up, and another of a pouting little boy who asked for an ice cream cone, got it, and then 1/3 of the way through eating it, realized he’d rather have a milkshake instead.  The parents posting the photos include a self-deprecating hashtag, #assholeparent, attempting to find the humor in the situation rather than get angry.

Taken strictly on face value, these photos are pretty funny, and as a mother of 3, I do understand the value in being able to vent and commiserate with other parents. But there’s an aspect of this “shaming” trend on social media that I find unsettling. There’s something so unfair about posting pictures of these crying toddlers in mid-meltdown, their bright red, tear-streaked faces contorted with pain and sadness and rage. Yes, the thing that triggered the tantrum may be trivial, but their feelings aren’t.  I look at those frustrated little faces and my heart goes out to them.The fact that the child is too young to see themselves on Instagram doesn’t make it okay.

The pediatrician that I take my own children to (Dr. Irwin H. Berkowitz) recently wrote a great book for parents: Instructions Not Included: A Pediatrician’s Prescription for Raising the Best Kids on the Block.  According to Dr. Berkowitz, part of why toddlers have tantrums is because they’re at a crucial stage of their development, learning how to make decisions and live with those choices, how to proess their emitons without being able to fully verbalize them–like miniature teenagers.  (I highly recommend his book, by the way–lots of great insights on children at every stage from Newborn to Young Adult. And no, I don’t make a penny off of this, even if you click the link above and purchase it–that’s not how I roll!)

It just seems wrong to have a parent whip out the camera and document such vulnerable moments for public consumption and entertainment value, in order to receive validation from other parents who are going through the same thing.

Everyone knows raising kids is hard. Do we really need to hold up a spotlight to their behavior every time they lose it?  And how would you feel if someone did the same to you?

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