Parenting Without Shame

parenting shameI don’t know about you, but I find “pet shaming” pictures hilarious. You’ve seen them. They’re the ones that show something like a dog next to a chewed up tube of diaper rash ointment, and the dog is wearing a

Photo courtesy of "Life With Dogs."
Photo courtesy of “Life With Dogs.”

sign around its neck saying, “I ate a tube of Desitin and barfed all over the new carpet during my family’s dinner party.” The funny thing to me is that the dog usually looks like he’s not the least bit sorry, and he’s certainly not ashamed. We can have a good guilt-free laugh at these silly pictures, because the dog has no idea what’s going on and isn’t feeling humiliated in the slightest. But what about the shaming of human beings?

Shaming as a form of punishment is nothing new. You read The Scarlet Letter in high school right? You’ve seen pictures of a one room schoolhouse with a child sitting in the corner wearing a dunce cap? More recently, we’ve seen judges sentence petty criminals to stand in a public place holding a sign confessing their crimes. But lately I’ve been seeing a parenting trend that isn’t funny or appropriate, especially for Christian parents: kid shaming.

This ten year old girl was lying about her age, sneaking out with boyfriends, and breaking her parents’ social media rules. So they forced her to wear a shirt declaring her age, along with a “little girl” hairdo and accessories

This barber offers parents free “balding man” haircuts for their misbehaving children.

This mom went to school with her teen-aged daughter, mocking, taunting, and videotaping her for skipping class.

If a child were doing this kind of thing to another child, we’d call it bullying, and everyone would be appalled. But if a parent does it and posts pictures of it on social media she’s hailed as an innovative disciplinarian.

Does kid shaming work to modify a child’s behavior? Sometimes. But as Christian parents, we are not called to merely modify our children’s behavior. We are called to cultivate the soil of their hearts, so that those little hearts may one day be fertile ground, ready for the seeds of the gospel and godly discipline. And shaming or humiliating a child doesn’t enrich that heart soil. It hardens it.

Children need discipline, but they need us to discipline them in a godly way. How do we discover the godly way to discipline? By following God’s example laid down in His Word. There are many reasons God presents Himself to us in the Bible as our Father. First, and foremost, it describes our relationship to Him: the depth of His love for us, His desire for what’s best for us, His authority over us. Our love for and dependence on Him, our desire to obey Him. But, secondly, God revealing Himself to us as our Father gives us a beautiful, perfect model to follow in parenting.

Want to know how to love your child? Look at the way God loves you. Want to know how to provide for your child? Look at the way God provides for you. And if you want to know how to discipline your child, look at the way God disciplines His children. Does God shame and humiliate us when we sin? No.

He disciplines us because He loves us…

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. Hebrews 12:6

He does not shame us into repentance, but draws us with His kindness. He calls us to do the same…

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21

He does not discipline to humiliate, but to train us in holiness and righteousness…

but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:10b-11

Sometimes God’s discipline is pretty intense, but it is always done in love and always to draw us away from sin and back to holiness, never to demean us. Our children are a precious gift, entrusted to us by God. We are to reflect God’s character to them as we walk with Him and seek to love and discipline them His way. Choosing a worldly way of correcting their behavior but not tending their hearts, well…that would be a shame.


How does the way God disciplines His children
show His love for us?

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Michelle is a women’s Bible study author, ministry wife, and home schooling mom. She and her husband have six children in their tweens, teens, and twenties. Michelle enjoys reading, spending time with family, and staying active at church and in women’s ministry. Her goal in writing, speaking, and teaching is to train church ladies to be “Mighty Amazon Women” of God: strong in godliness, humility, submission, discernment, kindness, wisdom, apologetics, and hermeneutics.


  1. says

    This is a great post! I found you on IBN. I love that you included that God’s discipline can be intense but it is always meant to draw us closer to Christ. It is true when we are sanctified, we may feel “shame” but it is in light of realizing how sinful we are and how glorious Christ is, then we trust Christ to shape our hearts and desires to be in line with His. This truth is good to be reminded of daily even as adults.

  2. says

    AMEN! I have recently caught myself being extremely hard with our son, and stopped myself mid rant. I realized that nothing about my behavior pointed him to the cross or demonstrated grace. This is such an important point that is lost on many parents today! I’m sharing this on social media today!

  3. says

    I do not like kid shaming either. I have spoken to my child and had conversations about their behaviors, but they are young children. How do I speak to my children about negative behavior when they get older? How do I use my bible in a teaching way when they do wrong? I need more guidance in this area.

    • says

      Those are some great questions, Brandi. Maybe I can help out a little:

      1. My kids are a little older (I have 5 boys and 1 girl- 27, 25, 19, 15, 12, and 11), and I can tell you from experience that laying the groundwork of biblical teaching NOW, while they’re young, like you’re doing, pays off in spades as they get older. First, it will prevent some of the bad behavior you’re worried might happen. Second, you have already laid a biblical foundation for talking to them about what Scripture says about their actions, their responsibility before God, your authority over them, and their need to repent.

      2. Stay in the Word and prayer yourself, obviously. You can’t rightly apply Scripture in situations with your kids if you aren’t studying it yourself. Also, there’s nothing like parenting to reveal to you how much you need to ask for God’s help and to drive you to His throne in prayer :0)

      3. Train them in the Scriptures and prayer. Teach them the Bible at home. Memorize verses together (Ephesians 6:1 is a great place to start.). Faithfully attend a doctrinally sound, Bible believing church. My children were involved in AWANA and Bible drill (and, of course, Sunday School) at church when they were young, both of which are excellent for teaching Scriptural principles and memorization. Remember Deuteronomy 6:6-7, and when things happen throughout the day that bring a Scripture to your mind, talk with them about it. It’s important that their lives be saturated with Scripture and prayer, not just when they’re being disciplined.

      4. I’d like to recommend two books to you: “Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin, will help you study the Bible correctly so you can be sure you’re applying and teaching it correctly. “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp is a great book on gospel-centered parenting.

      Hope this helps a little :0)

    • says

      I love what Michelle has said! I also recommend the book Teach Them Diligently, by Lou Priolo. It offers concrete and specific guidance about using the Scriptures in child-rearing. The Word of God brings life and changes our hearts and those of our children, discerning our innermost thoughts and intents. The more we can point our kids back to the Bible in every aspect of child-rearing, the better!

  4. says

    I REALLY appreciate this post! Also the book recommendation in the comment section. i’ll be checking that one out Jennifer! Thanks for this timely reminder, Michelle. I have grown to appreciate your posts here 🙂

  5. says

    This is an important post for all parents! It’s too easy to lay on a guilt trip rather than guiding them to Christ. I second your recommendation of Shepherding a Child’s Heart. We are just finishing it up, and boy do we have some work to do! 🙂

    • says

      Thanks, Jen. Just don’t forget to extend yourself some grace as you implement those changes. We all mess up in parenting, but God’s mercies are new every morning. Blessings to you for desiring to bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!

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