Why we don’t need to (publically or privately) shame our children…(or anyone)
There’s a news story today about a father who punished his 13 year-old daughter after she sent what he judged an inappropriate photo to a boy. He cut off her long hair and then videotaping her standing beside the hair as he described her punishment. It was posted to social media, although the father claims this was not his intent. A few days later, she committed suicide.
Shame is something I see all the time and we don’t talk about enough. I have a job because of shame; it feeds depression and anxiety; it’s difficult to function at all with this weight of shame on us.
WHAT is shame? Is it the same as guilt? Guilt is “I made a mistake”, and shame is more “I AM a mistake” Guilt is “I did something bad”, and shame is “I AM bad”. Some measure of guilt is natural and healthy (sociopaths have no guilt), and it serves a purpose; it allows us to learn from mistakes and it helps us function as respectful people in relationship with others.
Shame has no purpose, other than it is used to manipulate people. Shame is a noun, and also a verb. We “shame” others. Parents have always used it to try to get children to stop doing undesirable things. It’s been passed on from generation to generation; instead of looking for healthy ways to grow and motivate our kids, we use fear and shame. We somehow think if we tell our kids they’re lazy or stupid or bad, they’ll want to be the opposite. It doesn’t work that way.
It just doesn’t work. Here’s the irony in the recent tragic situation (and I should say I have no need to shame this father; his consequence was far worse than anyone could imagine)… He wanted to teach his daughter to make good decisions. He wanted her to learn to respect herself. His actions, however, disrespected her; he degraded her, and there’s no possible way this could result in his daughter respecting herself more. Disrespecting our kids doesn’t make them have more self-respect (or respect for authority). Only self-respect (that comes when we respect them and ourselves, and teach them about their worth) will help them make good decisions.
If you have SHAME…
SEE a qualified therapist. They will help you shake off the burden of these beliefs about yourself that aren’t true.
REMIND yourself that whoever shamed you did not do so because what they said was true. They said/did those things because that was the only way they knew at that time to reduce their OWN SHAME! Parents panic at the thought of a child who makes bad decisions…they don’t want to feel like a bad parent, so they grab the first tool at their disposal…shaming…to protect themselves from their own shame. How ironic is that?
READ BRENE BROWN, a shame researcher. She believes in imperfection and shame-busting.
If you have a SHAME habit…
SEE a qualified therapist. They can help you shake off your own shame and learn new ways to motivate kids or interact with others in a healthier way.
THE WHOLE PUBLIC SHAMING fad is just a crazy amplification of this shame problem. Shaming someone publically is about wanting power; and it’s destructive. Dogs with signs on their necks saying they pooped on the carpet…funny. Shaming a person…not funny.