How to Use Shame as a Parenting Tool – Six Tips

You or a child doing something really bad? Shamed? Shame is designed to get you back on track. Sadly, it doesn’t rate what is  worthy of shame.

Shamed by dropping a lunch box.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry tells this story about shame in his book The Little Prince:

“Why are you drinking? demanded the little prince.”

“So that I may forget,” replied the tippler.

“Forget what?” inquired the little prince, who was already sorry for him.
“Forget that I am ashamed,” the tippler confessed, hanging his head.

“Ashamed of what?” insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.

“Ashamed of drinking!”

If drinking is leading to self harm or violence toward others, it is worthy of shame. But the shame is useless if it does not lead to a change in harmful behavior. Like most feelings shame is a signal that needs decoding. The stronger the feeling, the more decoding is necessary.

Leading Harvard researcher Jerome Kagan, views shame as nature’s way of keeping us from doing the unthinkable. He points out that shame develops when a child has become powerful enough to kill a troublesome younger sibling.  For the very young child,  a strong painful emotion needs to come into play to prevent the Sin of Cain. Shame develops naturally and is nature’s teaching tool.

Shame is considered toxic by most parent advisers. Not true.  Parents are also seen as the major reason shame becomes troubling to someone. Also not true, as Kagan points out. 

Parents need to spend less time trying to avoid a child’s feeling ashamed and more time teaching the value of shame as a warning to think about what matters. Moments of shame should be teachable moments.


Shame is only a useful  emotion only when it  keeps a child  from doing the unthinkable.  Part of every parent’s job is to teach right from wrong. Shame opens the door on teaching what is unacceptable behaviors. Here are some tips for how to shame in ways that help your child.

Tip one:  Be alert to unthinkable behavior in your pre-schooler. Doing so is easy –  no hurting people, including yourself,  or animals,   That is what nature intended shame to stop.

Tip two:  Come down hard enough so the child gets the point  what s/he is doing  is not acceptable. A loud “No hurting” or “No hitting” works. If the unacceptable behavior continues a time out is in order.   

Tip three:  When the behavior has stopped and the child has served his time out, if that was necessary, use the CARE Plan to make it clear the behavior was wrong, but the child is loved.

The CARE Plan

Making amends after losing control.

Tip four:  Teach the child to rate hurtful behaviors.  Why a rating scale? It jump starts critical thinking. Critical thinking is essential for dealing properly with life’s hurts. Critical thinking also reduces the power of lashing out at others when you are hurt.

A five point rating scale for physical hurts can start the toddler off.

  1. Five = life threatening
  2. Four = needing medical attention
  3. Three = a crying hurt
  4. Two = a big ouch
  5. One =  a “Suck it up buttercup ” hurt.

Most physical hurts are a three or less.

Starting when the child is four or five, emotional hurts can be rated on a three point scale”

  1. Three: Crying hurts mostly from being seriously bullied in one way or another,
  2. Two: Nastiness that leads to or comes from fighting and name calling,
  3. One: Suck it up stuff like not getting your own way, losing a game.

Tip five:  Teach the child self-defense skills.  

Just as I think all children should be taught to swim, I think all children need to learn basic self-defense skills.  I advocate for karate that emphasizes avoiding conflict when possible but know how to stay safe when trouble cannot be avoided.  Seek out a Peace Dojo and take lessons as a family.

Tip six: Defuse the hurt of shame.  Use the Care Plan. But also had  with self soothing skills which should be everyone’s armor against shame and hurt. For the younger child, this Breathing Buddy Video by Daniel Goleman  starts that process with a three or  four  year child.

The OMM found here works for both adults and school aged children.

Pre-teens and teens can be encouraged to think about what matters, another important Emotional Fitness Training Exercise.


Sharing is caring; so is liking, or commenting.

Thank you and work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult, but exercises like this one lets me find the good.


This post was not inspired by this WordPress Daily Prompt  Connect the DotsScour the news for an entirely uninteresting story. Consider how it connects to your life. Write about that. 

The stories that lead to this post are horrific ones: school shootings and terrorist attacks for I believe toxic shame plays a part in such behaviors. Most of those who shoot up schools struggled with learning or social relationships and ended up feeling shamed but also angry enough to want to kill those they blamed for shaming them. Terrorists share a cultural shame of one sort or another.


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (
The five components of Emotional Intelligence ( Intelligence (
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(

Ten Tips to Solve School Struggles.

Did your beloved child start off the school full of excitement but now grumbles and groans at the thought; or worse cuts totally out? Read on.

Cartoon "Child hates school."

I love to watch the line of first graders on the first day of school. All except a few shy ones wear  happy faces and are eager to enter the halls of learning.

Contrast that to drop out rates  of teens. Two problems dominate  the path to hating school: bullying and failure to learn.

I loved school, and am what is called a life long learning, this despite several struggles that often lead to hating school. Those struggles?  Bullying, and having two learning disabilities (LD). All living creatures are programmed to avoid hurt.  If something about school hurts and is not counted balanced by pleasure, resistance to school grows.

I was not physically bullied but was shunned and friendless during elementary school. Shunning is a subtle form of bullying. Why was I shunned? I changed schools in the second grade and was the first newcomer to my class. Friendship groups were already established and I was not included.  Exclusion from the in groups hurts, hurts more when it is accompanied by more obvious bullying.

As for my LD struggles, these were not formally diagnosed. LDs were not recognized as impeding learning until after I had graduated high school. My sons were dx with them in the late 79s; that was when I realized mine were part of my families genetic mix.

Here are some thoughts about what kept me a lifelong learner.

1. My parents emphasized trying over outcomes.

2. My mother branded my brain with the words “Nothing ventured nothing gained.

3. I am a bit brighter than the average bear as the saying goes. Not politically correct, but a fact of life that promotes school success and love of learning in some. Note the words “in some” and think about this. There are many types of brightness.

Howard Gardner, the guru of multiple intelligence, notes these types of  intelligence:

  1. Linguistic or word smart.

2. Logical or mathematical smart.

3. Music smart.

 4. Spatial or picture smart.

 5. kKnesthetic or body smart.

 6. Interpersonal or people smart.

7. intrapersonal or self-awareness  smart.

8. Naturalistic or nature smart.

9. Existential smart: the capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

10. Pedagogical intelligence, the ability to teach.

Gardener recently claimed he was no longer in the business of naming more intelligences and was leaving that up to the next generation of researchers.

We all have more or less of each type of intelligence.. Some of us can do math; some cannot. I cannot. One of my learning disabilities is Dyscalculia or Math Dsylexia. I cannot do the simplest addition or subtraction because the numbers jump off the page or reverse; moreover, I cannot remember number facts. But I can do logic. Probably explains why I got A;s in Algebra, but Cs and Ds in all other math courses.

My other learning disability is dysgraphia which involves problems with writing, grammar and spelling) kept me uncertain and also humble.Also explains why no matter how much I edit, small mistakes are always there. Drives many readers away, but not all.

  4. I was blessed with teachers who saw my intelligence and built on it while down playing my weaknesses.

5.  My two learning disabilities  brought mega uncertainty into my life. Why was dealing with the  uncertainty a good thing?

Jerome Kagan, guru for understanding people,  notes that the  desire to overcome uncertainty motivates us almost as much as the need for food or the desire to have sex.  He also notes  uncertainty can push us to keep going or to get rid of it by blaming others or ourselves or just not trying.

I was bright enough to have success in many areas, but despair overcame me in terms of math.

Why is humbleness good? For me it meant knowing, I did not know all the answers and had to look to others instead of relying only on my own knowledge or beliefs.

So what Emotional Fitness Training Tips to I have to improve your child’s lifelong ability to keep learning. They are summed up in this poster coach.

let learn

More parenting tips

In addition to the  above, the Following tips help parent’s keep love of learning in their children.

Parenting Tip One: Find your child’s strengths and support them. 

Parenting Tip Two: Make it clear every one has both strengths and weakness.

Parenting Tip Three: Allow as much free play time as you can manage particularly for the pre-schooler. 

Parenting Tip Four: Be alert to your child’s learning style. I learn with a gentle distraction in the background; I learn best by reading. If I am listening to a lecture, I most take notes. One of my sons learns best by listening without taking notes. This link takes you to a good article about learning styles. 

Parenting Tip Five: If your child starts resisting school, get serious about seeig if  bullying or a learning disability are lurking and doing damage to your child’s life. 

Go here for information and links about about bullying. 

Go here for help with Learning Disabilities. 

Parenting Tip Six: Related to LD’s fear of failure can also lead to  problems taking test. My ebook Tame the Test Anxiety Monster help when performance anxiety is a problem. 

Parenting Tip Seven: Develop your and your  child’s self soothing skills.  Buy my eBook.  Self-Soothing to Create Calm in Your Life.   The exercises in the book will relax you more than a latte and cost less.

Parenting Tip Eight: Make sure your child knows what matters.  Most negative feelings are responses to things that really do not matter in the long run. Being cut off in traffic, breaking a fingernail, not being able to buy the newest gadget, someone else’s rudeness—these are just not worth getting upset about.

What really matters? Wise men across all ages have taught what matter is being kind, caring, and fair. Translated into advice for parents, this means teach your children to practice kindness by stressing that manners are all about kindness. The earlier you teach manners the better.

Parenting tip nine: Learn to hold Successful Family Meetings. Well run family meetings teach important life skills including manners, how to negotiate, and problem solve; promote positive togetherness; and ease the stress of parenting.

Another of my books teaches you the art of making family meetings successful. Here’s the link to that book. 

Parenting Tip Ten: Strengthen yours and your child’s self soothing skills.  And yes I have an eBook to help with that: Self-soothing to Create Calm in Your Life. All my books cost less than a movie ticket and last longer.


Sharing is caring; so is liking, or commenting.

Thank you and work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult, but exercises like this one lets me find the good.


This post was not inspired by this WordPress Daily Prompt  but pertains to it: Lazy Learners -Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t gotten around to? What is it and what’s stopping you from mastering the skill? Thanks for the prompt suggestion, BasicallyBeyondBasic!


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (
The five components of Emotional Intelligence ( Intelligence (
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(


Dealing With Nay-sayers of All Ages: Three Tips

Shrinks have a name for those who never say yes–Oppositional Defiant Disorder. It is a disorder because it rules the person’s life, they  rarely if ever say yes.


Praise an ODD and they will often start putting themselves down. As a parent, offering  to give a higher allowance will see the ODD child  refusing. Why?

Because it is winning the will struggle that matters.

Very few  deserve the ODD label. Power leaders, and that refers to most parents, however, can learn a great deal about handling negative behavior in general by understanding when disobedience becomes a disorder.

We all engage in ODD behaviors from time to time. Some more than others.

Think about it? Do you like always being told what to do? Some enjoy the comfort of not having to make decisions, but most do not want to be micro managed. That is why  disputes often arise when arises between drivers and riders in cars.  According to a poll  back seat driving lead to more fights between married couples than anything except sex and money.

Here is a quick symptom list describing ODD: Loses temper, argues with adults, refuses to do what is asked,  annoys others on purpose, is touchy and irritable, blames others, seems spiteful, seems to seek revenge. and to enjoy being disobedient; however, he or she does not break laws that are felonious or criminal.

Problem: As with so many labels, these symptoms are often a matter of  judgement. Almost everyone at one time or another shows such symptoms. Many of us beak the law. If you drive most likely you have exceeded the speed limit or failed to stop or yield when the law says you must.

Be warned, don’t practice medicine without a license. Don’t try to diagnosis self, family, friends, students, staff. The professionals have a hard enough time  agreeing on psychiatric labels. Instead learn how to help

Parenting tips

These tips will help not just parents but all dealing with major nay-saying.

Parenting tip one: Understand what makes someone ODD.  Disobeying feels powerful and often the person feels powerless, or felt so as a child.

Some who show this disorder grew up in violent homes, were beaten as children or saw fighting parents, or were victims of major emotional abuse. Many had major problems in school; some lived in lots of different homes.

Other reasons: As a child, the person only got attention when s/he was doing something wrong. This can happen in large families or in families suffering from a great deal of stress. Also happens because some families worry praise can spoil a child or youth, while other families take good behavior for granted. Finally, the youngest child in a family  is often  over bossed or feels over-bossed.

Parenting tip two:  The overall strategy is to avoid all power struggles and arguments. An ODD child or adult gets jazzed up and juiced by the fight. The longer s/he can keep from obeying, the more powerful s/he feels.

Teens often feel the need to assert their power and that can lead to minor Gotcha wars. Read about teens and Gotcha Wars in this post. 

Specific ways to cut down on negative behaviors include:

  • The child or adult must be able to do what is asked. Many children having problems in school have learning disabilities that make it impossible to do what is asked. We would never ask a blind person to read the printed page. Children are often asked to do what they cannot do. The same is true of employees. Know the other person’s abilities.
  • Rules must be clear, written down, and posted where every one can see.  See this post for rules that matter: safety, respect for self, others, property; and obeying reasonable laws. 
  • Punishments must be clear and not leave any room for arguing.
  • The authority figure must follow these rules.  If the adults don’t obey rules, lie, con, bully, fight or steal, so will those they are trying to lead.
  • Strengths must be acknowledged.
  • A reward system for good behavior is as important as punishments for unacceptable behaviors.
  • A culture of obedience matters. One of the difficulties currently facing many parents, teachers, and bosses is the general encouragement in all kinds of media to portray parents, teachers, and bosses as either stupid, mean, or dishonest.
  • All involved need to handle anger and resentment properly.
  • Self-soothing skills are also helpful. Buy my ebook: Self-soothing to Create Calm in Your Life. 
  • Consistency matters. All rules, rewards, and punishments must apply to all, all the time and every time.

Parenting tip three: There is a good side to ODD behavior. ODDs  are conveying important messages. Listening to dissenting voices is not always easy, but is usually more productive than only hearing those who always agree with you.

Minimally, a nay-sayer is announcing something about him or herself.  Also remember, humans would probably still be sitting in a tree, shivering from the cold, and getting rained or snowed on if mankind’s rebellious children did not show us how to climb down, use fire, take advantage of caves.


Remember sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness is to share this post if you found it helpful. Share it even if it doesn’t speak to you, it will speak to some. Didn’t like it? Comment and tell me why and how to improve.


This post was not inspired by this WordPress Daily Prompt. Out of Reach –  Write about the one X that got away — a person, an experience, a place you wanted to visit. How much would you change about your life to have it within reach again?

However, it sparked this response. Financial success for my writing efforts has been out of reach. Would have made my life more secure, improved my self-confidence, but would not have stopped me from writing for it is a passion . A passion is something you must do no matter what the outcome. Healthy passions give meaning to life and mine seems healthier than many.


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Improve Yours and Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence Now

Strong Emotional Intelligence (EQ) help you  get along with others. The earlier your child learns to apologize for hurtful behavior  the better.

How to apologize.

Children can start learning to apologize as soon as you start using time out for violation of the of The Rule of Respect. That rule? Respect all living creatures.

Jo Frost teaches ending time out by having the child apologize: “Once your child has completed the agreed set time on the Naughty Step, crouch down so you’re on the same level, use a low and authoritative tone of voice, and explain why you put her there. Ask her to apologize, and when she does, praise her warmly with a kiss and a cuddle. Say ‘thank you’, go back to what you were doing and forget about the incident. ”

Before the child can talk, the above assures s/he will begin learning the rules needed to get along in life.  Even if s/he does not fully understand the words,  stopping the behavior, punishing it and then giving a  hug and cuddle will end her hurt and your anger. The relationship pain caused by the punishment will be healed.

As the child grows into greater understanding, two things need to be taught. The first: what accidental means, but that it still needs an apology. Do this by not punishing accidents. Explain you know it was not planned behavior, but  also demand an apology.

The second: Apologies must be sincere. This is more difficult to teach, but having the child tell you when apologizing what s/he did that was wrong starts the process.

What if the child smiles when apologizing,  ask “Why are you smiling?”

Sometimes, the smile is happiness at being out of time out, but you need to make sure. Sometimes it is a nervous smile, because the child is not clear on what s/he did wrong. Repeat what was wrong, how it was hurtful, and then give the hug.

As always what you model is what your child learns best. So think about the last time you apologized. Also think about the last time someone felt your behavior was hurtful. Did you apologize or not?

Bonding grows between people when hurts are acknowledged. What about unavoidable hurts we inflict on each other? Think of a child needed a painful shot or more simply not getting what s/he wants for any number of reasons?

Then a quick apology is still in order. Here’s one: “I’m sorry we cannot stay at the playground longer, but I have to get home to make dinner.”

Another? “I know you hate time out. I am sorry about that, but my most important job is teaching you right from wrong.  What you did was wrong and you need to sit and think about how to do better.”


Remember sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness is to share this post if you found it helpful. Share it even if it doesn’t speak to you, it will speak to some. Didn’t like it? Comment and tell me why and how to improve.



These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Emotional Intelligence (
The five components of emotional Intelligence (
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(