Yesterday I talked about the three levels of thinking and how they effect life. I promised to talk about this woman and the parenting style of shame and fear. Then the conversation had some great questions about how exactly does it look to discipline with an eye toward teaching moral reasoning versus just punishment. I’d like to deal with why I think the lady making her son wear a sandwich sign won’t work like she hopes/thinks it will. It might work…but I doubt it.

Guilt and shame rarely work for the long term. That is not to say that people don’t experience guilt or shame and then make life changing decisions about how they are going to live their life. It’s just rare that it happens. People change when they have something to aspire to. They change when they have hope. I fear that this poor woman may have already lost and this is evidence by a desperate attempt.

Guilt and shame typically lead to resentment and loss of hope. This type of parenting is rooted only in the reflective stage and I could probably argue it is actually in the reactive stage. It’s usually born out of frustration and is followed by statements that say something like, “Everything else I’ve tried isn’t working…”

I’m not blaming her. To be honest, I’m not interested in assigning blame at all. I do wonder what kind of male influence the young man has in his life. What kind of consistency in discipline has he had growing up? Too often we as parents are inconsistent and we wonder why our children make bad choices. Here’s my question for people who think this is a good thing.

If knowing the law and the consequences of the law didn’t work, why will this work? Why will this shame tactic be the one that works? Why will this suddenly be the one thing that “makes him see.”?

It won’t.

I’m not saying the boy shouldn’t be disciplined. I’m not saying he doesn’t need some structure. Obviously, he needs both of these things. But a person selling drugs is doing so for reasons that wearing a sign designed to embarrass and shame aren’t going to fix.

This is emotional thinking because it feels good in the moment. It feels like I am doing something. It’s like those silly Facebook status’s that try to shame people into reposting. They don’t actually do anything. They don’t actually change the way we live. This type of punishment fails to look at the values that drove this young man’s actions. If fails to deal with him holistically. It fails to see that we are complex creatures as human beings.

Please understand, I’m not condoning selling drugs or whatever else he did. I hate drugs. I hope that he never sells again. But shaming and guilting isn’t going to work.

Moral reasoning says there is a right way and a wrong way to treat people, even those people who break the law. Think of the golden rule. Jesus said, “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.” Even, if you don’t think religion should factor into this, the golden rule is commonly accepted as a good thing. I simply do not believe that anyone would want to be shamed into doing the right thing. If you say that you do, I don’t believe you. That’s good enough for me. Moral reasoning as parenting says what is the right thing to do? It asks questions such as, “Where did the values that drove these actions come from? How do we shape his values and morals? Do we want to teach him (or anyone) that it is ok to guilt people into actions?”

What about you? I’ve stated why I think this is wrong. What do you think? Why? By the way, I’m not arguing that this should be illegal as some seem to be arguing.

Tomorrow, I’m going to answer a reader’s question about what does it look like in everyday living to parent from a moral reasoning perspective.

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