When Is It Okay To Shame A Child?

The single and absolute only time that it is proper to inject shame into your child is when he or she steals, lies, and refuses to own up accountability for her actions.  In general, all other public humiliations of a child are destructive and counter-productive.

Accountability is the antidote to stealing and lying.  In other words, a child must own up to their actions and behaviors in order for truth-telling to become their new norm.  The problem is that when a person begins lying and gets away with it, the lying can become a habit.  It is key to deal with the lying behavior immediately.  Don’t let time drag on.  Swift response does not mean harsh reaction.  If you react with anger or rage, your child’s lying will increase and go underground meaning become secretive.  As soon as you discover the lie or stealing, take your child face to face to the person he stole from and have him admit that he “took it (specifically say what “it” is), and that it was wrong and he will not do it again.  Have him apologize in his own words in a tone of voice that sounds genuine.  If your child sounds like he doesn’t mean it and just says “Sorry” to get you off his back, have him repeat his apology repeatedly until he sounds like it’s sincere.

The most important thing between two people is to feel trust and security.  Add that it makes a person feel safe when you know they will always tell you the truth. You can count on them and that’s a good feeling.  That’s why telling the truth ALL the time matters so very much. Your goal is to have open, honest communication. Whatever the truth is – you want to know it!

What is required is re-establishing a benign self-observing conscience, or self-judge.  The psychology clinical term is Superego. Some people are raised by a harshly critical mother, father, or both. When this occurs, the individual may take in, or Introject, a harsh Superego. This means the person may be extremely hard on themselves, self-judging, and self-critical.  It may be in the area of body image, intelligence, competence, attractiveness, or any area of self-functioning. Either way, it’s nearly impossible to go from harshly self-critical to super positive. In a case where a child needs a good injection or tablespoon of conscience, or Superego, the hope is for him to not become overly self-critical but rather to develop a filter that stops him from doing the wrong thing.

  • Commit to the belief that obstacles and disappointments in your life are opportunities to grow.
  • Do not try to sweep away, avoid, or protect yourself or your child from wrestling with a challenge.
  • Be brutally honest with yourself to own what your feelings are.
  • Define your boundaries.  Know where your comfort zone is and be prepared to clearly and kindly articulate this when someone crosses the line.
  • Work on expressing anger when you feel it in the moment.  Don’t be afraid to say it.  It’s much better to be a straight-shooter than a dishonest person.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  You can always come back and answer later but you can’t erase a lie told.
  • Always be curious and open enough to look within and become more self-aware.
  • Be kind and nice to others.
  • Do not strive for perfection.  Be “good enough.”
  • We cannot shield ourselves from hurdles.  The best we can do is give ourselves coping skills to deal with all that will come our way.
  • Praise every increment toward your independence and take pride, as you should, in growing outward into the world.



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