According to Brene Brown, shame is trauma. The brain processes social rejection or shame the same exact way it processes physical pain. “…childhood experiences of shame change who we are, how we think about ourselves, and our sense of self-worth.”
I’m going to preface this email by saying, I have been a parent for three years and by no means am I an expert. However, I will say that when I speak in a way that may carry some shame or hear someone speaking to a child in a way that may lead to feelings of shamefulness, I see it. I see it in the child’s eyes, demeanor and overall response.
That awareness and observation of the sudden shift in the child is why I practice mindful communication as much as possible. Some days are certainly easier than others, but as a Mama, it’s important to me to foster confidence and self-worth for my children as much as possible.
When I hear communication directed at my kids or other kids that may lead to feelings of shame or limiting beliefs, I do my best to shift the statement.
Here are a few statements that I have heard spoken to my children and other children.
- You’re a mess!
- You’re such a good girl for cleaning up your toys.
- See, this is the side of you that I love.
I do my best to correct the phrasing when I hear it, which will intermittently lead to negative feedback from the person speaking the statement or positive feedback from the person speaking the statement.
Statement: “Oh man, you’re covered in food, you’re a mess!” My response: “No, she’s not a mess, her shirt has food on it, her shirt is a mess.” OR “No, she’s not a mess, she made a mess.”
Statement: “You’re such a good girl for cleaning up the toys.” My response: “She is always a good girl. By picking up her toys, she’s demonstrating good behavior.”
Statement: “See, this is the side of you I love.” This one took me by surprise. I heard it spoken quietly as I was passing by and I was not in a place to throw out a response. However, for continuity sake, my response to this statement: “We love every side of you, I’m glad you’re feeling better.” My thought around this statement of, ‘see, this is the side of you I love,’ in regard to the little person that heard this from someone they love is: does this mean when this little person was acting out and misbehaving, they weren’t loved? Or when they were expressing themselves, that side of them is unlovable? And now that they are behaving in a way that is deemed ‘acceptable,’ they are loved? A thought process or limiting belief that could materialize throughout this little person’s life as: “when I act this way, I am unloved. When I act this way, I am loved.” All of which could lead to acting in a way that is socially appropriate while abandoning what is true to them, their feelings and their needs.
I am not offering up parenting advice and certainly NOT perfect. I will be the first to admit that my anger, frustration and irritability can get in the way of clear and therapeutic communication. However, I am extremely aware that the way in which we speak to our children, will have a lasting impact.
TIPS and TRICKS:
- Watch your words.
- Apologize when needed.
- Acknowledge their feelings and try to understand them.
- Show compassion, vulnerability and acceptance to all sides and behaviors of our little humans.
- Acknowledge and be mindful of this idea of shame.
Our little humans seek our attention, guidance and knowledge on how to embrace this world and life. Show them that no matter what they do or how they act, good OR bad, they are inherently good and are loved.