“Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.”
I want to follow up on my last posting on Generational Shame…How do we engage with our child in a non-shaming way? One way is to slow our reactions down in general. Take a moment to reflect about what is really going on with your child and yourself.
For example, your children are watching television and you ask if they have washed their hands after being outside. They ignore you, or you think they are ignoring you. Actually, if you think about it, they truly do not hear you as they are engrossed in iCarly. You have a choice in how you proceed:
1)you could yell louder,
2) you could stand in front of the tv and ask again,
3) you could turn the tv off and ask again,
4)you could have an extreme knee jerk reaction and yell at them for being disrespectful and ignoring you therefore they have no more tv for a week!
5)You could say, “You never listen, you are lazy and insensitive – I’m sick of you all! – I am dramatizing to make a point…
#1’s reaction, in my humble opinion, is not the answer.
#2’s reaction may work, or it may not…
#3’s reaction, kind of dramatic and angry…
#4’s reaction is all about you and your stuff, I would suggest figuring out why you have such a reaction to feeling ignored, reflect on your history and how your parents would respond when they thought they were being disrespected. Are you unconsciously reacting the same way?
#5’s reaction is a very good example of shaming – you are attacking the child’s sense of self and not addressing the behavior. This sets the child up to become a pleaser in order not to feel your abandonment. Or, a child who gets your attention by acting out.
To continue with this example, how can we reflect on this? First, what do you need? How could you ask differently? Put yourself in your child’s shoes, they are watching a show they really like and are not paying attention to you, they are paying attention to iCarly. If you were them how would you want your mom to ask you to wash your hands? Perhaps, touching them on the shoulder and asking to pause the show for a moment so you can ask a question would be effective. This is reflecting instead of spiraling emotionally to places one does not need to go verbally.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all child’s behavior is communication. They are still developing their skills of communication and you are their model. If they see you out of control, they will be scared of you. If they experience a conversation and know they are being heard they will gain better social skills and self confidence. This gives them a sense of inherent value. They learn that they can trust their feelings and their thinking. They will be able to look inside themselves for answers, not look to others on how they should think or feel.
The good news is shame can be healed in you and repaired in your child. If you realize your words have shamed your child, you can revisit the circumstances, your behavior and apologize. This is a chance for you to reflect about what happened and what could be done differently next time.