Do you remember being scolded with “Shame on you!” growing up? Perhaps it was followed with “You should know better than that!” How did it make you feel? Probably pretty bad.
For many generations shame has been a primary parenting tool. Brené Brown explains the power of using shame in The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting. "The truth is you can change a child's behavior on a dime with shame. For this simple reason - children experience shame as the threat of being unlovable. And so it's not very difficult to use shame to turn their behaviors around."
So if it’s effective why not use it? Because it damages your children’s feelings of self-worth.
Understanding Shame and Guilt
Before diving deeper into the problems with shaming, it’s helpful to define shame and how it’s different than guilt. Dr. Brené Brown researches shame. By her definition “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
A fundamental need of all people is to feel a sense of love and belonging. Shame is powerful because it threatens this essential requirement. Using shame pressures your kids to change their behavior – not because they want to behave differently but rather they want to avoid your withdrawal of love.
Guilt is a feeling of remorse or regret for your actions. When you feel guilty, you are comparing something you’ve done or failed to do against your own ideals. Guilt can motivate you to make amends for a mistake or take responsibility for your actions. Guilt is felt more in your gut and shame in your heart.
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