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Shame Proofing: Shifting the Dialogue

Occasionally, my mother brings up my “rebellious years” as a child. Is she describing the years as rebellious or me? That is the really important question, but this point in my life, this does not matter in terms of defining who I am – I have already done my own work on my journey to […]

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Occasionally, my mother brings up my “rebellious years” as a child. Is she describing the years as rebellious or me? That is the really important question, but this point in my life, this does not matter in terms of defining who I am – I have already done my own work on my journey to live a conscious and connected life.

However, this brings me to an important point about the language that we use when discussing our children. The way we describe, and sometimes even shame our children — perhaps unconsciously or unknowingly, can be damaging. When a child is labeled — the bad kid, the rebel, etc., they take on the persona, to the point where it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perhaps we are in the throes of trying to get our children to listen or comply, and we scream out “you never listen!” or “why are you so defiant?”

That is the question… however, we need to go about this in a different way.

As we look beneath the behavior, (why does my child ignore me, or why does my child defy me?), we might be able to find clues as to why. Perhaps our children are busy, preoccupied, absorbed, or don’t really hear us.

Screaming does not change it.

Focusing on what is underlying and trying to change that, or bring attention to it in a calm and intentional way can make an enormous difference. Yelling at a child and shaming them does not change anything.

When we shame, these negative statements and words seep in and become belief systems for the child and can become held at their core.

Instead of the shaming process, we can offer the child opportunities to shine. We can help our kids by focusing on their strengths and positive qualities so that we can empower them to move in a different direction with things that don’t seem to be going well. Empowering our kids by addressing the strengths and using them as a means to support, to help or overcome an obstacle is huge — and really supports the growth and development of our kids. Criticizing our children will not change anything today, but will negatively impact them moving forward.

Let’s use the example again of a child who is not listening. The key to changing their behavior is figuring out why they are not doing what you expect them to. Addressing the child in a way that says “When you hear what I am asking you to do, you do an amazing job at following through on what I’ve requested. Sometimes I find that you are not able to hear me. What can I do to create a dialogue with you that works for you? How best can I communicate what I need to share or have done?” can make all the difference in the way we speak to and about our children. 

Working in a collaborative process like this helps our children be part of the solution, not the problem. We are not labeling them the problem – the defiant child – the one that doesn’t listen. We are taking the challenge and working with the child to create a change together – no shaming, blaming or name-calling.

So, what would life have been like if my parents had discussed my strengths and asked how they could have supported me differently? Well, we will never know but it sure would have been an entirely different type of childhood.

How can you be sure to bring this positive energy to your family?

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