Kids: Combating Shame, Part Two

We are talking about Combating Shame in this month’s Online Parenting Class video.

Consider the following. Mitch Abblett writes, “A 2011 study in Psychological Bulletin by researchers at Syracuse University and St. John Fisher College indicated a link between peoples’ experience of shame and symptoms of major depression and a stronger link for shame than for guilt. Pervasive negative emotions like shame have also been associated with inflammatory conditions such as coronary artery disease. Shame not only hurts, but it also damages.”

For this reason, it’s critical that parents learn to discern if their child is experiencing shame, even at an early age. Pay attention to their demeanour. Has their personality changed? Have they grown quiet? Do they complain about headaches or tummy aches? Perhaps the root of the problem could be that they are experiencing the powerful emotion of shame.

This feeling of shame could be coming from how your child’s peers talk and relate to your son or daughter. Or—and this takes a willingness to evaluate yourself—it could be the way you talk to and discipline your kids.

Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself how you talk to your kids. Notice the difference between the following two corrective sentences:

  1. Sue, how could you write on the table with a sharpie? You clearly weren’t using your head!
  2. Sue, sharpies leave permanent marks. If you want to colour, let’s choose a pen that won’t stay on wood forever.

The first phrase demeans the child as a person. Hearing these words might make the child feel like they are a dumb person. However, the second phrase teaches the child about the permanence of Sharpie markers to help them make a better choice the next time they want to colour. Yes, you might have to swallow the fact that your new table is ruined. However, speaking this way does not attack who the child is as a person.

Above all, ask God to help guard your words. Ask Him to help you pause before speaking to your child when disciplining with your words. The psalmist wrote, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Press on in your work in parenting. I know it’s not easy!

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