There is not a parent that I know of who loves their child so much that they would intentionally bully them. Every parent wants the best for their child and means well. What if by chance, you were actually unintentionally bullying your child? Is that actually possible, because after all, you are your child’s protector, comforter… supreme adorer? You bet it is!
When most people hear the word “bullying” in relation to their child, they instantly cringe and tell you, “I don’t bully my child, no way would I ever lay a hand on them!” I am sure that is true for many! Did you know that bullying comes is all shapes, sizes and packages?
Bullying can come in the form of mental, emotional and verbal abuse, oh yes, the power of the word! As we mature, we are equipped to adequately discern statements, and get underlying messages and intentions. This is however not true for children as they are still ‘wet behind the ears’ in their interpretations and perceptions. Basically, what you say is what they get! So parents, this is where you come in…
Are you unintentionally shaming or blaming your child, or are you taking a ‘taming’ approach as I like to call it? Before you want to shoot me for using the term ‘taming’ because you may think that I am referring to your kids as animals, ‘taming’ in this context means to train, discipline and control your children (Besides, I am sure some of you have affectionately called your kids, “rug rats”, “little kitten”, “tiger”, etc., in the past!). After all, these three attributes of ‘taming’ definitely present a more stable, psychologically and emotionally healthy environment, and rearing for your child.
Conversely, shaming or blaming are non-intentional bullying approaches that could potentially harm your child’s self-esteem, ability to master tasks, and this could lead to anxiety, behavioral problems or even depression. The shaming and blaming mentality is very old school and outdated, but still used today by parents because that was something they were conditioned to as children, as were their parents, and generations prior most likely. Just like priceless heirlooms being passed down and accepted, these intangible, negative parenting behaviors are unconsciously engrained, accepted and unchallenged, because after all they must work because you turned out okay… correct?
Communication is paramount in any relationship, even more important in parent/child relationships. Did you know that back in the 1990’s some research found that on average parents spent roughly 2 1/2 to 6 1/2 minutes per day engaging their children in meaningful communication? WOW! Furthermore, that meaningful communication revolved around these similar themes; “Why is your bedroom always messy, do you like living like a pig?” “Why don’t you have all ‘A’s’ on your report card, come on, your smarter than that!” “Why can’t you be more like so and so?” “Stand straight, shoulders back, look presentable!” etc., the list goes on. These are ‘shaming’ and ‘blaming’ motivators.
Parents mean well, they want what is best for their kids, but sometimes using the iron fist, ‘good cop, bad cop’ approach is the reason that kids are doing what they are doing in the first place, and that you feel the need to blame/shame them in your communication.
When you ‘tame’ you are taking the time to explain and truly understand why your kids are doing what they are doing. Furthermore, you correct them when they make mistakes, and praise them for doing well. Taming truly is all for discussing and communicating consciously, rationally and most importantly, listening to what your kids are saying rather than just hearing them. Guess what? When you blame/shame, your kids are most likely tuning you out–hearing you, but not listening to what you are saying because it is the same ole, same ole.
If you wish to “tame” instead of shame consider these tips:
- Be reflective, not aggressive. “I hear by your tone that you are frustrated.” “How can I help you, so that you can use a kinder tone?”
- Focus on what you would like your child TO DO rather than NOT DO. “It’s hard to sit in your car seat so long, that makes you feel angry.” “You feel stuck like you can’t move around.” “We have a bit more time in the car, shall we sing a song together?” “Would you like to wear your headphones and listen to music?” “Sometimes we have to cope with feeling stuck in a car seat by making our brain busy with music or songs.”
- Refrain from contempt and sarcasm. Angry kids push our buttons and then we call them names or label them. “You are so impatient Sara!” “Just do as Mommy says.” “You’re like a worm, always wiggling.” Instead empathize with your child’s feelings, understand and listen to her frustration and provide her a novel activity, thought or feeling. “I see how uncomfortable you are, I am sorry, we will be at Grandma’s after three more songs on the radio.”
Let us know how you handle these tough moments. Share your insights and ideas. Together we can improve the lives of families.
Contributed by Guest Author, Peter Andrew Sacco. Dr. Sacco is the author of many popular international selling books and more than 800 articles. He currently hosts a weekly radio show, “Matters of the Mind” which features celebrities with whom he discusses mental health, relationship and addiction issues. He is an award-winning executive producer and award-winning lecturer, and host of documentaries on relationships, psychological issues and children’s issues.