Monday, May 9, 2011

Parenting with Shame and Guilt: Low self-esteem, Self-confidence, and Inadequacy

When it comes to raising kids, parents tend to use methods their parents used to raise them. Many parents remember saying, “When I am a parent, I will never do that to my kids.” Fast forward to several years later and you may find yourself raising your kids the way your parents raised you.

Parenting techniques are different from the family values and traditions that were passed on to you. Parenting technique refers to how you handle (congratulate or discipline) your kids in good and unpleasant situations.

In unpleasant situations, shame and guilt are often used as a form of discipline by parents, family members, teachers, and sports coaches. Shame is typically used as a tool for gaining control over a child with the threat that certain behaviours, attitude, or beliefs will lead to failure, family shame, or community judgement and exclusion.

Guilt on the other hand is used to make kids feel bad when acting against parents’ wishes. Further still, parents will continue to make kids feel bad about themselves until they do as is expected of them.

In time, kids learn that when things go wrong or when they do not behave according to standards they should feel ashamed of themselves. Eventually, these feelings are experienced automatically whenever things are less than perfect.

Consequences of Using Shame and Guilt as a Parenting Technique

Children who are frequently made to feel ashamed and guilty as they are growing up, often times develop the following problems:

1. ‘I am bad’ belief: Many times kids equate the ‘bad’ action they committed to who they are. When kids identify with the behaviour that is punished they start believing they are bad.

2. I am not good enough and am undeserving: Kids who feel ashamed have the underlying belief that there is something wrong with them. Because they feel there is something wrong with them they often feel they are undeserving of good things.

3. Avoiding others and social situations: Because kids with feelings of shame are uncomfortable with who they are, they avoid situations where they think others will see the real them.

4. Low self-esteem: Kids who believe they are bad, inadequate and unworthy also develop a low sense of self-worth or self-esteem. Since they feel there is very little that is good about them, they have a hard time feeling good about themselves.

5. Low self-confidence and self-reliance: Because they feel they are inadequate, undeserving, and unskilled, kids with a high sense of shame are often afraid to go after what they want and have a difficult time achieving their goals and dreams.

Shame is an unproductive and debilitating feeling that will keep kids from opening up to grow as human beings. As such, it is essential for parents to be aware of how their parenting techniques will affect their children.

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

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