THE BLOG

Why Shaming Your Children Is a Bad Idea and What You Can Do Instead

06/17/2015 11:51 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

As a therapist in New York and author of the Oprah-acclaimed The Conscious Parent, I have seen countless examples firsthand of how parental shaming is always destructive of a child's self-esteem.

Self-esteem, which is born of feeling loved, worthy, listened to, and connected, is the driving force of good behavior -- not fear of punishment. Shaming to make a kid who already feels bad feel even worse is nothing short of a recipe for disaster.

As parents, we mostly operate out of a desire to do what's best for our children. But this desire gets distorted by our need to control, which is of course born of our fears for our children and how they will turn out.

The consequence is that, in our desire to protect our children from making poor choices, we end up becoming the main reason they feel so bad about themselves -- and this causes them to act out all the more.

When we scold and shame, we become a major contributor to them making even worse choices for their lives.

Why is it we can't see that children act bad when they feel bad about themselves?

It's crucial for us to understand how, when we shame a child, we end up causing the child to feel far worse than they would ever feel from making the usual mistakes young people make, which are simply the result of their youth, immaturity, peer pressure, and low self-worth -- not because they are "bad."

Our children don't need straightening out, only to be allowed with our support to grow out of their immature behavior.

As parents, we need to step off our pedestal, stop dominating our kids, and instead treat them as we like to be treated. After all, do you like being shamed? Does it bring out the best in you? Would having your hair chopped off on video make you want to be a great citizen? Then why do it to your children?

The issue is how we connect to our children -- not just when things are going well, but more importantly when things aren't. It's when they display their most immature behavior that we need above all to respond with caring and connection, seeking to understand their humanity and essence.

Children act out in negative ways because they are feeling negatively about themselves. A child who stands strong in their own inner being will not feel the need to engage in negative behaviors. For a child who is acting out, degradation by the parent only serves to strip away the last of their dignity -- and the feeling they are left with is what they will act out even more.

What parents fail to understand is that their connectivity to their children is the greatest immunity against their acting out. This means, of course, that the parent create the space in their own lives to engage with their children with full-on presence and emotional attunement. The parent needs to be vigilant of maintaining this connection, moment after moment. This is not a one-off attempt, it is a daily commitment to nurture this bond, making it one of the highest priorities of our lives. Our ability to connect with our children is a direct reflection of our own ability to connect with ourselves.

Our children's sense of self depends on our ability to be handle their humanity with the utmost care. This is what separates a conscious parent from the pack.