Everything Old Is New Again: Humiliating Your Child into Better Behavior
In the news lately, we’ve heard about kids standing on sidewalks with billboards saying they’re stupid, the Facebook Parenting Dad who posted a video on YouTube and then shot his daughter’s laptop with a handgun, and another dad who ranted about his daughter on Facebook in order to “shame” her into better behavior.
While there is a lot of frustration and fear surrounding kids who are out of control or who are “throwing it all away,” the truth is, shame isn’t a healthy parenting technique—and it doesn’t really work.
It’s important to talk about the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is being aware that you’ve done something wrong, and that you feel remorse for it. Guilt isn’t a bad thing, because it can lead to accountability. Shame, on the other hand, is about feelings of humiliation and worthlessness—these feelings can be lifelong (as we all know) and will ultimately cause your child to withdraw or act out. Shame does not lead to accountability—and may lead to a decrease in effective problem-solving skills. It does not lead to accountability or responsibility.
According to James Lehman, behavioral change in kids comes from learning problem solving skills. James states that “you can’t feel your way to better behavior, but you can behave your way to better feelings.“ It’s not likely that the kids in these recent news stories will remember change because of feelings of shame and worthlessness. What will help them improve is to think through what happened and what they can do differently to make sure it doesn’t happen again