Embarass versus Humiliate – How Much Is Too Much?

My then twelve-year old I think three or four friends over and they were in his room playing video games. I’m in the kitchen when he comes in for –I don’t remember what now– and says something outlandish but just barely within the guidelines of acceptable to me. Again, I don’t remember exactly what was said, but it was just annoying enough for me to react. I happen to be filling a pot with a four-quart pot with water to put on the stove at the time.  I jokingly held the over his head reminding him to watch his mouth and don’t think because he’s getting bigger he can get crazy. He looked at the pot over his head, folded his arms across his chest and just stared at me as if to say I dare you.  Because I really was just semi-chastising him and really did not want to clean up a lot of water, I carefully tilted the pot so only a small trickle landed on his head.  Mr. Man, Jr. then puffed out all of his mighty twelve year old frame, rolled his eyes and with an arrogance worthy of his father (those that know my late-husband can appreciate that), and declared.

“I THOUGHT so!” That was a bad move on his part; a BAD move.

Without a second thought, I turned the entire contents of the pot over on his head. I not so nicely, reminded him that he was a twelve-year-old child and he was to never, NEVER think he that he predict what I would or would not do to him as his mother. I then ordered him to go to his change clothes, come back, and clean up the water so I could continue cooking dinner.

It was only after I went to change clothes, as I had also spilled water on myself in the process, that I remembered he had company. I have no idea what he said to his friends, when he entered his room-dripping wet, but I have to imagine it was not pleasant for my child to have to face his friends like that.  I only learned several years later when the subject somehow came up, on how embarrassed, he was by that and that “I still haven’t forgiven you”.

All parents understand that some unforgiving moments go with parenthood. I never ask after the fact, because I didn’t care.  He needed a reminder, right then and there, on who Mama was before he got out of hand and that was that.

I mention the above to serve as a precursor to the following.

So, there’s this video that has run a small circuit.   Please note, while the video linked to in and of itself is not necessarily offensive, the site it comes from can be very much so, thus those at work, don’t be surprised if your company’s filters block it from showing.


Here’s the Cliff Notes version: A young black male (twelve to fourteen years of age) was seen “acting hard” in his Facebook statuses etc. The youth’s uncle, who took considerable objection to his nephew’s online persona, somehow saw the entries.  What was the uncle’s response? To force the boy to use his webcam to live stream a video of him (the uncle) “whipping his ass” with a belt while he explains that their family does not come from such (the gangs and rap culture). He makes the boy renounce not only his behavior online, but that all rap and gangs are “fake” and “bullshit”.  You really need to view the video to understand it all.

Now I love that the uncle is obviously involved in this young man’s life. He obviously commands the respect of his nephew; how the nephew represents himself, and by reflection, his family outside of the home, including online.

What I question is it necessary to take a belt to the boy in this situation?  I’m NOT saying there should never be a belt in raising a child, for that is a parent by parent decision, I’m just asking was its use necessary for the lesson here.  Was the humiliation of live streaming it necessary to the lesson.

As I said before, all parents inherently understand there are going to be lesson taught in which the method of teaching that will not be forgiven. These unforgiving moments are usually something that involved humiliation. It is a tough call to choose to teach a lesson that way, but sometimes it is the only way to deliver a message that may not otherwise be heard. Still, there is huge difference in embarrassing your child (which I fully own up to with mine at that moment), humiliating a child (the same scenario with the uncle, but only in front of the uncle’s peers) and complete humiliation of your child, which is what I think was done here.

I’m sure in my son’s case his friends teased him about it for a while, but it was over with in a few days.  This boy had to go to school the next day, with the knowledge that most of his friends and countless others saw this.  If the comments that followed the video are an indicator, it’s going to be one long hard row to hoe.  How long can this run before the novelty dies? This video is the kind of thing that can, and most likely will, pop up years from now. This level of humiliation on a young soul has the backlash of possibly creating the “hard” person his uncle was attempting to discourage. How much is too much?

I’m hoping that the uncle truly takes his “this is not where we come from” lesson to heart. I do not want some over zealous person to report the uncle and he goes through ridiculous legalities for this, but neither do not I want to see him on BET or  YouTube or wherever grasping his fifteen minutes of family values on his nephew’s back. Even if the initial video isn’t deemed bad enough, certainly this would be too much.

2 thoughts on “Embarass versus Humiliate – How Much Is Too Much?

  1. I couldn’t watch the video as, sure enough, peerless leader has blocked it as “nudity”. But I think that utter humiliation may have been overdoing it a bit. Embarrassment would probably have been enough.

    The subject of how much discipline is enough and how much is too much as become quite touchy in recent decades. In fact, one of the several reasons I chose not to have children was that during the time I most likely would’ve had them (mid 1970’s or so), the extremists among the liberals of my youth had gotten things to the point that an ordinary spanking and possibly even raising one’s voice could’ve gotten one a child abuse rap. The official line seemed to be that any discipline at all would “stifle a child’s free expression” and presumably ruin him emotionally for life.

    It is probably due, at least in part, to this state of things that America, essentially, raised an entire generation of children as animals.

  2. The public humiliation of punishment was probably too much, too far. Far better would have been a reaction to make the child (and I use the word ‘child’ with good reason) take public, visible steps in opposition to their stated “hardness”, such as serving food at a homeless shelter, reading at the library to little kids, delivering meals to shut-ins. etc. I applaud the uncle for wanting to turn the boy around, but fear that the punishment was as much a crime of “being a badass” as the kid was trying to portray himself to be. Involuntary punishment is always easier than the kind that is self-inflicted, self-initiated or otherwise requires the individual to be committed to undertaking. Having been raised in an environment where the belt was often used in attempts to control my behavior, I know for certain that it did not result in a change of mindset nearly as much as my own investment in time, energy and personal commitment towards something greater than myself did to change my ways.

So? What do you think?

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