Shaming Your Kids Is Not Always A Bad Thing
For most parents, shame and parenting is a very touchy topic. The very word â€œshameâ€ conjures up stories like the mom who bragged about selling her daughterâ€™s concert tickets, or parents who make their kids wear shaming slogans on shirts and signs. And on the whole, most people seem to feel that public shaming by a parent leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
Historically, I think we all agree that shame has often been used in ways that are, well, shameful. For generations, society made people feel ashamed for things they could not control: because they were born in poverty, because they were the â€œwrongâ€ race or sex, because they were struggling with mental illness or a disability. But shame has also been used to do great good â€“ non-violent protest movements are essentially a way of shaming a whole society into doing the right thing.
So I, like most parents, have wrestled with this thought: arenâ€™t there some things kids should be ashamed of? I myself have times that I feel what I would call â€œappropriate shameâ€ â€“ when I am mean and judgemental, for example, or when I lose control of my temper. This shame isnâ€™t crippling; it doesnâ€™t make me feel like a terrible person, inside and out, or affect me socially the way a child who is publicly shamed is affected, but it is a powerful motivation. The shame that I feel is a signal that I have made a decision I should not feel good about, and that makes me re-examine my thoughts and behaviour.
As a result, yes, I feel that shame can have a role in parenting. But obviously, I donâ€™t feel that public shaming is the way to go. So Iâ€™ve spent time thinking about how I might make shame a parenting tool, and if I do so, how to make sure that I use it well â€“ because like any tool, the result has much more to do with how I use it than the tool itself.