I always thought my parenting approach took my children’s feelings into consideration. In fact, some people have accused me of being overly “soft” when it comes to disciplining my kids.
However, I recently read an article about shaming as a form of behaviour management. It is not something I’ve ever really considered but after reading the article I felt sick to the stomach.
I shame my kids, and I didn’t even realise I was doing it.
What does shaming look like?
Shaming is essentially anything that is said or done to make a child feel bad about themselves. It can be critical words, sarcasm, a humiliating punishment or smacking.
In my case, it might be an exasperated sigh and saying something like: “Seriously? You spilled your drink AGAIN?”
Other shaming statements commonly used by parents include:
“What were you thinking?”
“You are a bad girl/boy”
“You are so exhausting”
“What a stupid thing to do”
“You know better”
“Stop being so greedy/lazy/useless”
“Stop crying, there is nothing wrong with you”
Why is shaming so damaging?
We’ve all heard the adage that a parent becomes their child’s inner voice. If we continue to say things that shame or put down our children, they will begin to feel those things are true. It can start a cycle of negative self-talk, damaging their self-esteem and sense of worth.
While often effective in stopping a behaviour at the time, shaming turns the child’s focus internally. This means they don’t necessarily associate the reprimand with the undesirable behaviour or action, but more so with who they are as a person.
Shaming also doesn’t help your child learn how to correct his behaviour. It tells them they’ve done wrong but doesn’t support them to make better choices next time.
Turning things around
Parental shaming often comes from a place of frustration and exhaustion. We’ve all be there! However, to stop the pattern of shaming the first thing we need to do is STOP. Take a deep breath and think before we reaction. Which we all know is harder than it sounds in the heat of the moment! However, it is imperative to interact with our children from a place of calm rationality rather than haste and frustration. We need to show them respect and empathy in order to teach them these traits.
Using positive language with constructive messages is a much more effective way of helping a child correct their behaviour.
For example, in our house of many spilt drinks, what I should be saying is.
“I see you spilled your drink. What do you think would be the best way to clean it up?”
This not only gives the child the responsibility of fixing the problem but empowers them to be part of the solution.
This is definitely something I will be implementing from now on. Hopefully the result will be children who feel empowered, are good problem solvers and have a good self-esteem (not to mention there being less spills to clean up!)