Is it wise to tell a child that s/he should be ashamed? Is guilt a useful parenting tool, especially when seen against the backdrop of Christianity? Do you shame your children rather than discipline them? Read on for some answers that might astound you.
How to Shame a Child
The means by which the parent -- Christian or otherwise - shames a child are numerous. Christine Vander Wielen, MSW CAPSW enumerates some of them:
- Eye rolling
- That deep parental sigh when beholding the youngster's latest escapade
- Sarcastic commentary in response to a child's behavior
- Embarrassing the child in front of company
The results of these actions include childhood depression and relationship problems that may manifest early and continue on into adulthood.
Discipline versus the Absence of Shame
The book of Genesis explains the initial relationship between Adam and Eve; in a curious bit of what appears to be ancillary trivia, the book reveals that both felt no shame. (Genesis 2:25) It is fair to assume that this lack of shame goes hand in hand with the perfect Garden of Eden setup.
Fast forward to Habakkuk 2:4-5, and consider the arrogance of the person that would lead to a consistent hunger for bigger and better things - by hook or by crook. One of the accepted interpretations of this verse stipulates that arrogance in this case is a sign of personal shame. Its bearer feels bad about himself and tries to elevate his sense of "self" through substance abuse and unjust enrichment.
God reveals that His plan contains the antidote to shame, humiliation and disgrace. Isaiah 54:4a-b specifies that with Him there is no more need to feel bad about oneself. This then begs the question: why do Christian parents shame their children?
How to Discipline Without Shaming a Child
All discipline must take place in private. Just like the parent would dread a public dressing down by the boss, the child fears a public reprimand. It is interesting to note that "private" should be a one on one setting, thus precluding any discipline in front of a sibling, friend, family member or anyone else.
Discipline needs to have the goal of addressing error and finding ways of correcting it. Introducing shame into the equation is little more than mom or dad venting personal frustration or passing on some of the shame they feel in response to the child's misbehavior. It lacks constructive qualities.
As a general rule of thumb, a parent struggling with shaming a child during discipline will do well to cool off prior to administering any form of discipline. Enlisting the help of a trusted Christian friend or parenting mentor to walk through a discipline -- before talking with the child -- has the added benefit of forcing the parent to think through a) what s/he is trying to accomplish and b) what potential outcomes the discipline might have.
Practical Family Living: http://pfl.org/mediafiles/for-shame-for-shame-how-to-end-shaming-when-discplining.pdf (accessed January 21, 2010)