First there was the “hot sauce mom” who, screaming and berating her son for lying, forced him into a cold shower and shoved the burning liquid down his throat. Then there was the mom who, upset with her son’s poor grades, stuck the 15-year-old on a street corner with a chest-to-trunk poster board of his GPA dangling from his neck.
Now there’s the mom who splashed a photo of her sobbing kids holding a plastic bag of their favorite spinning top toys across eBay as punishment for the tops chipping her bathtub.
To quote Kenan Thompson on “Saturday Night Live,” “What up with that?”
Extreme discipline? Severe punishment? Maybe. But I think these public displays of parental power underscore a more serious phenomenon that is rearing its ugly face: The rise of narcissistic, bullying parents.
Here’s what the mom says on eBay, according to MSNBC.com: “We are selling 8 Beyblades, 2 of them light up. As you can tell, they are not happy about this! They have been using their bathtub as a “battle arena” and Beyblades + Bathtub = Destruction!!! With the metal ones they managed to scrape the enamel off the tub, take a chunk of tub out and break off the soap holder. SO if you “win” this auction DON’T play with in a bathtub!!! We have received a quote of $500.00 to replace the tub, some tiles, and soap holder + labor of course! They had approximately $125.67 in their piggy banks that will be going to toward the cost. We will use the profit from this auction towards the balance and then it is onto other toys!”
Gimme a break. Little boys and their toys in the bathtub is a crime? And, if the toys are scraping the enamel, then confiscate them and throw in a set of plastic duckies in the tub. But to pose your kids, have them hold up a baggie with their toys and take a mugshot while they are crying, then post it on eBay is nothing less than bullying. So suggests the National Center for Education Statistics definition, which it describes in a document. According to the document, the definition of bullying includes a variety of actions, including “being made fun of.” That’s exactly what this mom is doing in her words and actions.
I asked Susan Stiffelman, a licensed and practicing psychotherapist, and marriage and family therapist resident and ParentDish’s AdviceMama to weigh in.
“When a parent feels so out of control and desperate as to deliberately cause emotional and physical harm to their child, I call that child abuse,” says Stiffelman. “These stories underscore the truth that simply being biologically capable of parenting does not guarantee true readiness or capability to do the day-to-day job of raising children. When a parent feels so out of control that they are scrambling to find the loudest, most injurious way they can to ‘show a child who’s boss,’ they must stop, take a breath and call a child abuse hotline or trusted friend or family member.
She adds, “I don’t judge parents for falling apart; we all have different thresholds for stress and frustration. But being a parent means taking responsibility for the welfare of your children. If you cannot manage a child’s misbehavior in ways that do not harm them, get help.”
I’ve never understood the mentality of anyone who purposefully mocks or humiliates others, inflicting pain with their biting tongue and then sharing that ridicule publicly. But on your own kids?
We wonder why there are bullies on the playground or on the world of teen cyberspace. I wonder if the answer lies closer to home, in the bathrooms and on the computer screens of parents who might want to stop and take a good look at the Mean Girl or Mr. Big Man in the mirror.