Parenting Class

This Month’s Parenting Class: Do I Parent Using Shame?

Our family vacationed at a cabin nearby one weekend. My son, who has ADHD and is a highly sensitive child, was a little overwhelmed with his new surroundings and was quote “bouncing off the walls.” He could hardly contain himself as he ran up and down the stairs, asked the same questions over and over, and was incessantly picking on his younger sister. I had, had enough and exasperated, I asked the question, “What is wrong with you?!?!?”

Have you ever done this? Have you ever used these words or something like them? Many of us have, we may not do it intentionally, but when we are pushed to our limit we can easily fall into making an unwanted behavior our child is expressing, about them personally, and not about the behavior itself. Shame seeks to harm, not guide the child in correcting the behavior. This is actually not effective in getting them to change their behavior, and can do harm to their identity.

The problem for most of us is, we don’t necessary recognize when we are “shaming” our children in our effort to discipline them. If we can become aware of our propensity to shame, then we can take steps to use other tools when disciplining. Here are some symptoms of shame-based parenting that might help you decide if this is a repetitive issue for you. Here are a few questions you may ask yourself.

1. Did I grow up in a “Toxic Shame” environment? Studies show that if you have been raised in an environment where your parents used “shaming” to parent you, you will unintentionally do the same thing. None of us were born with a parenting manual so we use the tools of experience and environment until we educate ourselves with other options. If you have suffered abuse as a child in any capacity, or had parents who struggled with addiction, it is highly likely you suffered shame based parenting as well.

2. Do you withdraw when you are hurt? Many times we as parents will hear a voice inside our heads that speaks to our insecurities. A constant critic ready to berate us at every turn for every decision made. If this sounds familiar to you, odds are these feelings may come out as anger in relationship to disciplining your children. We do not live in a vacuum. What we believe about ourselves will affect how our children view themselves.

3. Is your discipline mostly consistent? When children are criticized for a behavior one day and the same behavior is ignored the next day, it tells the child that it is not the behavior that is “wrong” but that “they” are wrong.

Parenting is hard. I don’t have to say this to you, I’m guessing you already know this, but let me say it again anyway, It .Is. Hard. We long so desperately to do it right and we are fallen human beings who get it wrong in some way, every day. This can feel overwhelming at times. Know that becoming aware of your parenting tendencies can lead you out of shame, and into an empowerment that you can actually DO something to change. Shame based parenting can be learned but it can be unlearned as well. There is hope for us and if we are willing to confess our struggles we can become more emotionally healthy parents and raise more emotionally healthy children.

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