Sometimes, our approach to guiding a child towards appropriate behavior is based on our perception of what that child should or should not do rather than on what would authentically empower the child. A should-based message is a shame-based message. We use these messages with ourselves as well. How many times a day do you think, “I should be doing this” or “I should feel…” Shoulding your child is shaming your child. Shoulding yourself is shaming yourself. Even more, every time you should yourself or a child you are creating dysregulation. Since you are shoulding yourself, you are challenging yourself. This stimulates your nervous system to respond to a perceived affront. You send your nervous system into a fight, flight, or freeze (fall asleep) response. It is important to look at how you talk with and discipline your child to see if the messages you are sending include shame based messages. Shaming children is not an effective discipline strategy and has negative affects on child development. This article will provide strategies on how to stop shaming your child and yourself.
A should message is not in alignment with an individual’s authentic self. A should message is a comparison between who you are and a fantasy version of who you think you should be. For children, a should message from a caregiver is a comparison between the authentic self and who someone else expects them to be.
You are who you are, own your space and live in congruence with your authentic self. Nurture your child’s developing self and empower his or her authenticity. Nurture your abilities as a parent to stop shaming your child and offer discipline that will empower child development.
Neurosicence of Shame
Neuroscience shows us that shame stems from the brain. Shame is felt from the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain where our emotional responses arise.
Shame has its roots in evolutionary biology and is an aspect of our ability to maintain social relationships. Mild feelings of shame are universal and have developed as an evolutionary mechanism for regulating behaviors to live in a social context. However, these shame messages only serve to further child development in a positive way if they are paired with reassurances or repairs rather than punishment. Instinctive internal feelings of shame when followed by punishment, can lead to toxic shame.
Should messages are not inherently bad but rather provide internal feedback that you can be conscious of as a way to aspire towards authenticity.
Shifting Away From Shame
Shame messages are often aimed at guiding children towards appropriate behavior. This goal can be achieved without the use of shame. The following are simple strategies on how to stop shaming your child.
Children are inherently interested in learning what behaviors are appropriate for social settings. Rather than shaming the behavior you can explain how the behavior affects others and offer redirection or guidance. This allows children to build empathy and a strong foundation for how to act in the future.
Take the shoulds out! This is simpler than you think.
Strive to understand the communication that is happening in the behavior before you should or shame your child. Challenging behavior can be difficult to deal with. It is spontaneous in nature which can lead to an automatic reaction from a caregiver. T...
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