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I wanted to make him cry

guilt and shame Sep 23, 2020

I talked in last week’s blog about the guilt we feel as parents.

What I didn’t mention is the tactic we so often use which is to try to make our kids feel guilt or shame. Wanting to make our kids feel bad for what they’ve done. We even want to make them cry to ensure they've understood how 'bad' they've been.  I remember trying that when my kids were little.

We wind up saying things like:

‘You’ve made me cry’

‘No one will play with you if you act like that’

‘You’ve been so bad, I don’t want to be near to you’

‘No one else wears nappies in your class except you’

'Why can't you be nice like your brother'

We do this because we want our kids to take note and stop the behaviour. We want them to be mindful of others needs and feelings – especially ours.

But does it work?

I know that if I take action out of guilt or shame, it doesn’t feel good.

We want our children to KNOW how to make the best choices and to WANT to be kind, considerate, thoughtful …

We don’t want them to feel bad about themselves because when kids feel bad about themselves they will pick on others, they will boost themselves by trying to look superior or will act out or use aggression.

I saw this so often with my kids reacting to each other. I remember one particular supper time.

My eldest son Nico kept picking on his brother ‘You’re dumb’, ‘You smell’, ‘Don’t come near me’.  Instead of reacting to the jibes and nasty comments, I decided to dig deeper.

‘Hmm, I think something has happened that made you come home in a bad mood’

After quite a bit of digging it turned out that no-one would sit next to him on the school bus so he decided to vent his feelings of shame on his brother. Once we’d got to the bottom of it, he was able to make up to his brother and say sorry.

So here are 7 ways of changing behaviour without loading on guilt or shame.

  1. Use ‘When you… I’ statements. For example, ‘when you throw your food down and say it’s disgusting, I feel upset because I spent a long time making it’
  2. I feel really upset when you hit me. I DO NOT want to be hit
  3. When you refuse to let friends play with your toys, they might not want to play with you again’
  4. Soon you will be able to use the potty and not wear nappies like other kids in your class.
  5. When you run off when I say it is time to go for the bath, I feel frustrated.
  6. Auntie May so loves it when you give her a big hug, even if you don’t feel like it. You are so special to her.
  7. When you wait and let others take their turn, then the game is much more fun.

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