Shaming children, especially in a public forum is something that needs to end. Two things have happened this week that have prompted me to go on a little bit of a rampage.
There was a viral “Motherhood Challenge” on social media. For those of you who don’t know, this one was where a friend tags to you post 3-5 pictures of what makes you proud to be a mother. Shame on you if you were not challenged, you must be a terrible mother. Shame on you if you didn’t post, you must not love your children.
Then, I got an email from a parent reporting that her child had a total meltdown after being publicly shamed in school for negative behaviors. He is yet another victim of the “Clip Behavior Management System.” For those of you who don’t know what this is…essentially, many teachers have some version of this (it might be traffic signs, bumblebees, punch cards, or any other equally demeaning visual). The concept is that a child’s conduct of the day is rated on a chart that goes from E (Excellent) to G (Good) to S (Satisfactory) to N (Not Good) to U (Unsatisfactory). It is meant to help motivate children to comply with classroom rules and teach self-regulation. It also helps teachers communicate with parents about behavior for the day.
The problem with these clip management systems is that they are usually either on a classroom board for everyone to see or on the child’s desk where most everyone can see. The moving of the clip might be done by the teacher or the student but is usually done while all of the other students are watching. Behavior analysts might say this encourages poor behaving children to follow the lead of others well behaving children. I consider it PUBLIC SHAMING. In my private practice, I have found that children frequently have meltdowns when they are told to “MOVE THEIR CLIP” because they also know that getting a negative letter will likely lead to punishment at home (no electronics, typically). In fact, I have frequently recommended that negative behavior at school be addressed at home with similar consequences. I don’t take issue with conduct reports. However, I do take issue with having children on blast in front of their peers on a daily basis.
Thus, THE CLIP CHALLENGE! The Clip Challenge is a way for ADULTS to experience what it is like to be judged on a daily basis for your behavior and shamed for doing things are in general, developmentally appropriate. Here are the rules,
Teachers might respond and say that is not how the clip management system is used in their class. Maybe not. But I see 100 children a month in my private practice and I would venture to say that over 75% of them have some sort of system like this and these are the comments I read for clip-moving conduct violations. Granted, sometimes it is for stealing, physical aggression or some other discipline worthy event. But generally it is talking, not being in your seat or not doing your work. Stuff I am totally guilty of EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
A final thought….these systems don’t seem to work. The kids who are well behaved generally get E’s or G’s every day. The children who are the “discipline problems “ generally get N’s or U’s every day. They are not being motivated by the leaders of the class. They are giving up before they even get started because they don’t feel like they will ever be successful. They are not motivated to get a prize out of some Dollar Store treasure box. They don’t even care about losing their electronics anymore. Why? Because this public shaming sends the message “I AM BAD.” People will say, no…we are focusing on behavior. WRONG…the message I hear from children is “I was bad today. I am bad.” Parents ask kids, “Were you good today? vs Did you have a good day?” This subtle difference reinforces negative self-esteem in kids.
So, as a mental health professional and advocate for children. I encourage you to take the CLIP CHALLENGE. I also encourage you to stop asking your children if they were good or bad today and start focusing on the effort involved in making good choices throughout the day.
What do the schools need to do instead? That’s a question that is more difficult to answer . I will share some of those ideas on another day.
Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org
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