Shame On You

Shame on You

There are many ways to punish your child when they have done something wrong. Some are more effective in the moment, while others become more lasting over time.  When shaming your child becomes your choice of method, you are choosing one of the most destructive forms of punishment that exists.  This is not always intentional.  Sometimes it is just that a parent used a particular method of correcting a child when he was a toddler and doesn’t realize that using the same method as the child is nearing the age of ten becomes humiliating to the child.

Parenting has to change as a child grows.  What is appropriate and effective at one age, does not work at another.  For example, putting a young child in time-out gives both the parent and child a chance to cool down and think about their actions.  A young child may not have the ability to calm themselves down and may need to be taught that their “bad” behavior results in a time-out.  This is not humiliation to a young child.  But when you put a ten year old in time out in front of other people, your child will remember the humiliation, not the lesson.  Often, the reason a parent resorts to public humiliation is because the actions of their child have humiliated them in front of others.  Their response, therefore, is to humiliate the child and show that they will not allow that type of behavior.  But it is obvious to others that this type of correction at this age is really a result of the parent being ashamed.

This parent reprimands in public because he wants to present himself as one who is in “control” of his child.  If a child does something that does not effect anyone else, deal with it later on the same day or the next morning in private.  Talk to your child and “teach” them.  If punishment is necessary, then take something away from the child that they value and give them the opportunity to earn it back. If you have taken everything away already, then set up a reward system and tell them if they behave, they will be rewarded with the opportunity to do something they would enjoy.

If your child is hurting someone else, then once again, as calmly as possible, take your child away from the situation.  Apologize to any injured party and tell them you will resolve any issues after the situation is neutralized. That means you both need to remove yourselves and go somewhere private.   Try not to react out of embarrassment in the moment, it’s not about you, it’s about your child, their behavior, and what they need to learn.  Make a plan when you are calm. Whenever possible, talk to your child ahead of time so that they know and are prepared for the consequences of their behavior. Make punishment appropriate to the situation so that a valuable lesson can be learned.  Have your child apologize for their mistakes.  As a consequence, arrange for your child to do something constructive like helping at a food bank, collecting items for the less fortunate, or visiting a hospital and bringing gifts to children who are dealing with issues that put your child’s issues into perspective for them. Teach them to care about others and have them learn compassion rather than shame.

There are band aids and then their are cures.  Parenting your child takes time, consistency, love, understanding, compassion and respect.  But parenting also requires periods of re-evaluation and self-education so that you can remain an effective parent as they grow.  Your child WILL grow up to become an adult.  They need to learn natural consequences while they are young, because if that lesson isn’t learned then, it will be up to the legal system to teach it to them when they are older.  Just as destructive as the parent who shames their child, is the parent who rescues their child regardless of the child’s responsibility for their own actions. Childhood is the time to learn lessons, it is the responsibility of the parents to teach. Teaching never involves harming someone’s self-esteem.  Nor does it ever involve ignoring the lesson that needs to be learned.

Your child will someday be your caretaker.  The rolls will be reversed.  Treat them with compassion and respect and, someday, they will do the same for you.   Author of The Tin Box Trilogy

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