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Think hard before shaming children

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As a parent, it’s easy to slip into shaming your child. It can happen so easily, as you blurt out what you are thinking:

“Do you really want to go out looking like that?”

“You let your teammates down during that game.”

“Why can’t you get good grades like your sister?”

“Why do you hang out at home all the time instead of going out like other kids?”

“Why are you crying? It’s not that bad.”

As we blurt out such things, we usually don’t think of them as shaming. We think of them as something that might help our child recognize a problem — and perhaps motivate them to change. We think of them as constructive criticism.

The line between criticism and shaming

The problem is that there is a fine line between criticism and shaming — and shaming is a bad idea. Here’s why:

  • Sometimes children truly cannot change what is being shamed. Not everyone is a star student or athlete, we all make mistakes despite our best efforts, and some children are more sensitive or introverted than others, for example. We also can’t always change how we look, which is why fat-shaming is a terrible idea.
  • Sometimes what is being shamed is part of a child’s identity. Clothing choices are a good example, especially for teens. So is how and with whom a child chooses to spend their time.
  • Shaming may make children feel like they cannot change. Rather than motivating them, it may make them feel like they aren’t capable. And as a corollary and consequence…
  • Shaming may make children feel bad about themselves. When the people you love the most, and whose opinion matters most, say bad things about you, it can be more than hurtful — it can affect your self-esteem in ways that can become ingrained and permanent.

How to put a stop to shaming

To prevent shaming, we need to stop and think before we speak. There are two things you should always ask yourself if you are about to criticize your child:

  • Is this something they can change?
  • Is it important that they change it?

Be really honest with yourself

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Written by Shobha

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