“Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” – Brené Brown
Sometimes I still catch myself making remarks to my child that are shaming – it’s so easy. After all, it’s what most of us grew up hearing, so it rolls naturally off the tongue;
“Why did you do that?”
“What is wrong with you?”
“We don’t say things like that.”
“There is nothing to worry about.”
“Don’t embarrass me.”
“You’re not making me very happy.”
“Talk to me like that again and we’ll go home right now.”
“You’re not listening to me – again!”
“How would you like it if I did that to you?!”
The problem with speaking like this, is that the goal is to shame the person into feeling guilty for their behavior, instead of constructively guiding them to the acceptable behavior. Rather than encourage the child to love themselves and let that love spill out into their interactions with others, it turns them inward, making them think THEY are somehow flawed or not good enough.
EVERYONE is good enough. Everyone is divine. Especially children. They are as close to perfect energy as it gets, before we come along and muck them up.
The truth is, they may have made a poor choice. Or WE may have held them to impossible or developmentally inappropriate standards!
And often, we may just be angry because OUR cup is running on empty.
See, a lot of parents think that the way to be a good parent is to provide children with ourselves at their every waking moment, work hard so they have lots of activities to attend; sports, ballet, camp, arts, etc. We stay home or alternate schedules so we can always be there. God forbid they have to push through anything hard that serves their highest self. God forbid we take any time for ourselves to recharge!
The problem with that way of thinking is we fail to consider what ultimately is in our child’s best interest: what serves the highest version of themselves, both now and in the future?
In 940 Saturdays, they’ll be off to college. That’s it. It is our job to build them up so they walk through life as adults willing and able to make the choices that best serve them.
As a parent, we have to meet their three vital needs with our full-on presence:
1. See them
2. Hear them
3. Make them feel worthy
Turning their focus inward (rather than towards the behavior) gives them a shaming voice they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had that carry this voice well into their adult lives and let it hold them back from making the decisions that best serve themselves. Poor relationships (even abusive relationships), job choices, food choices, etc.
One angry outburst when a kid accidentally hurts their little brother, because they wanted to hold them can lead to a lifetime of them being unable to trust or be vulnerable. ONE! That’s all it takes!
So, here are my tips of what to do instead of reacting by shaming:
1. Fill your cup
Make sure that you are taking adequate time for self-care so that your cup is spilling over with love instead of completely depleted day after day. Self-care includes eating live (natural, whole) foods, moving your body, doing hobbies and activities you love, and, most importantly, meditating. Self-care may mean that you work instead of be a stay-at-home mom, because you need the time to recharge. There is no guilt in finding childcare. It is beneficial for your child to experience new people, environments, and learning opportunities you may not be as equipped to provide. There is no guilt in finding quality care so that YOU are the mom you want to be when you are with them. I can speak from personal experience that I would rather have had a happy mom than have spent every waking moment with an unhappy one.
Stay present in the moment when something happens with your kids (instead of entering your STORY about what’s happening). Pretend they aren’t your kids! Release any thorns they may brush for you (reminders of things that happened to YOU) and deal with them moment by moment. Don’t let Ego pop in and say things like “How dare they!”
3. Be factual when you speak
Observe their behavior, validate their feelings (repeat back anything they say to you), then explain the problem. “The problem is…” = this is our agenda, and should be related to their highest good. In other words, it should be a REAL problem and not a problem you made up because what they’re doing is inconvenient for you. Ask them to come up with a solution that is a win-win for both of you. Be flexible, remember you’re developing a thinking mind, not a conditioned one.
4. Never try to have them hold your emotional blueprint
Your feelings are YOUR feelings. No one causes them but you. Truly. Never try to blame another for your feelings, ESPECIALLY your child. If something your child did triggers something in you that causes sadness or anger, walk away, let the feeling move through, remember to deconstruct it when you have time, then come back and respond with love. That emotional blueprint is yours and yours alone to uncover, release, and re-draw.
Walk away and deconstruct the feeling so it can pass. Identify the thought you are thinking over and over that is holding you back and replace it with a thought that serves you.
Just this weekend, something extremely minor that my husband did triggered something deep inside me. I felt the sadness arise. My daughter wanted to play at the same time, but I knew I couldn’t. I excused myself to my room to journal it out. She followed, so I gave her a journal and pen, and by the time she was bored with drawing, that charged energy in me had passed and I was able to return to a state of abundance and gratitude.
I serve no one when trying to love my children from an empty cup, and it’s often old voices of shame that cause it to get that way, from the way I was parented, passed down through the generations.
You have this amazing opportunity to raise a child that isn’t limited by that voice. We all want our kids to be happy and successful, right? We all want them to be confident, and resilient, and grateful. This is how we do it, by not filling them with limiting beliefs that hold them back!
How are you responding to your children? How are you filling your cup?
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