Pooped in the shower: Readers, experts weigh in on dad's 'shaming' photo

Oct. 1, 2012 at 12:26 PM ET

No parent truly enjoys cleaning up a child’s poop, especially when it lands outside of the safety of the toilet or a diaper.

One dad took his disgust with the dirty work of parenting to the Internet. He had his smiling, pajama-clad daughter, who looks to be about 3, pose for a photo with a sign around her neck that read: “I pooped in the shower and daddy had to clean it up. I hereby sign this as permission to use in my yearbook senior year.”

Now the unidentified dad who shamed his daughter for the world to see on Reddit is getting a dose of his own medicine. Thousands of online commenters have weighed in, with many calling him a mean dad who went too far, sapped his daughter’s confidence and violated her privacy. 

“Someone called it ‘cute’ -- like dog shaming but with a kid,” Jan Arzooman wrote on the TODAY Facebook page. “People are sick and this goes too far. It is abuse. What purpose does it serve? ... Internet bullying by your own parent? Terrific.”

Several suggested that the dad be forced to wear a sign too.

“What a terrible thing to do to a 3-year-old little girl,” Christine Davis wrote on Facebook. “The dad should be ashamed of himself! He should have to wear a sign that says 'I have no compassion for my daughter.'”

“This child WILL be scared for life,” Lisa Rougeux wrote on the Facebook page. “This is going to cause many, many issues in this child's adult life!! He needs the child removed from his care if there isn't a woman to teach him to be a real man and father around.”

Not so fast, experts say. Without knowing anything about the girl’s childhood, it’s too soon to know what one photo will do or what kind of parent the dad really is.

To Dr. Tanya Gesek, a child and adolescent psychologist in Syracuse, N.Y., the photo looks like an impulsive move that the dad might regret. She called it a “bad parenting choice,” but said it certainly was not abusive. 

“It was unnecessary and could have negative impacts,” Gesek said. “I don’t see anything positive that can come out of it.”

"It could be nothing and it could be everything," she added.

The girl could feel shame and humiliation, which are not effective tools for discipline, Gesek said. Or, the girl could have enjoyed all the attention from posing with the sign and want to poop in the shower again, Gesek said. “No matter how you look at it, it was a bad choice,” she said.

Once the girl gets older, if her friends come across the photo and she’s already vulnerable to problems because of poor social skills or academic performance or has other risk factors for bullying or low self-esteem, the photo could cause more harm, Gesek said.

“If her peers get a hold of it, it could impact her social standing,” Gesek said. “If you’re already a target of bullying or weakness, it could really set you up to be a massive target if the picture goes viral.”

Dr. Penny Donnenfeld, a psychologist in New York City who specializes in children, said the way the girl turns out as a young adult will not depend on this one photo. What matters is the quality of her home life.

The photo might just have been a harmless prank by a fun-loving dad, said Donnenfeld, who said it's normal for a child to have accidents up until age 8.

“I would caution people from assuming that they know everything about this dad and his parenting based on this one picture,” Donnenfeld said. “There are a multitude of possibilities of what kind of dad this is.

In the photo, Donnenfeld sees “a child who’s relaxed and amused and she doesn’t look traumatized.”

“One picture doesn’t tell the whole story,” she said.

Related stories:

Why pranking your kids for YouTube kicks is not cool

Pups confess their sins on Dogshaming blog

TODAY Moms' potty training tips: No pressure, lots of patience, and Cheerios

Parents debate whether it's OK to let kids pee in public