How are you doing this week? I hope you've discovered wonderfully positive things about your kid in the last week. When we shine the light on what our kids are doing right - it’s amazing how creates a positive feedback loop. The more you focus on what they’re doing right, the more confident they become, the better they handle stress, and the calmer things get. The calmer things are, the better you can focus on what they’re doing right and it loops back around. Pretty awesome, right?
Like I mentioned before, we often do things as parents without realizing it and without understanding the impact it’s having on our kids. This week’s topic is hard one. I want to talk about shame. You might be feeling uncomfortable or uneasy just reading the word. It might be because shame is the most damaging and toxic of human emotions. And sadly, we have all experienced it to one degree or another. But we never talk about it.
I swore I would never use shame to motivate my kids. But even while trying to be conscious of my words- there were times I slipped and made them feel shame. I feel awful about that and am determined to help you not do the same.
Brené Brown nailed it when she said, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” She goes on to define shame as “believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
How in the world do we communicate to our kids that they’re not good enough? That they are flawed, unworthy of love and belonging? We would never intentionally do that to our kids. So how does it happen? Keep reading…
The Back to School Parenting Practice to Avoid #2
Using Shame to Motivate -following the thread from last time, when we focus only on the negative, our first reaction is to want to make “the negative” stop. In order to make it stop, we begin by “motivating” with our words. The most benign way to do that is by simply saying “stop that!” And we all know that most of the time, that doesn’t work. From there we begin to pull from our “tool box” all kinds of ways to get the negative behavior to stop. One of the most damaging tools is using our words to shame. And shame is born of criticism. When we criticize our kids, we communicate to them that they are not good enough, not worthy.
Here are some forms of criticism we can fall into:
• Comparisons- comparing your child to their sibling, friend, neighbor-anyone. “Why can’t you be more like Joey?” “ I wish I had a son like Mark, he’s so athletic and smart too.”
• Assumptions-assuming their intentions are bad, or that their behavior is willful. Using labels to describe them. “The problem is you’re just lazy. You will never change.”
• Using “Shoulds"- criticizing what they do with a should- “You should know better.” “At your age, you should be able to do that.” ”You should be ashamed of yourself”
• Public Disapproval-Correcting them in public(in front of others-whether one person or many) in a way that belittles them, or embarrasses them. ‘I can’t believe you wore that to school today, what were you thinking?”
What we can do instead:
Build “guardrails” for your words. Before you speak ask yourself a series of questions. Here are some that have helped me through the years:
- Is it Kind?
- Is it Helpful?
- Is it Edifying?
- Is it True?
- Is it Necessary?
- Does it communicate I trust them?
- Does it communicate I believe in them?
- Does it communicate I love them?
If nothing else, asking yourself these questions will help you to pause before you speak. Once you really reflect on the questions and are honest with yourself, using criticism, in any of its forms, will start to disappear from your speech.
For all of us that have experienced shame and sometimes still struggle with it, there is no more important lesson than to understand the power of our words. We have our kids in our home for a very short time. Let’s use our words to solidify their sense of worth and belonging.
Here’s to a better year with our kids, a year of deeper connection and less stress!
P.S. Please feel free to email me with your experiences, your victories or any questions you might have.