Tag Archives: Shame

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 (www.emotionalfitnesstraining.com
The five components of Emotional Intelligence (www.sonoma.edu)Emotional Intelligence (en.wikipedia.org)
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(amazon.com)


Good enough parents cringe at the thought their child might feel the soul searing heat of shame.  But shame cannot be stopped and serves useful purposes.

Most of us can laugh at this cartoon, but it probably also triggers memories of one or another shameful event from our childhood.  Shame is common.  Sadly, it often burns people and children beyond reason.

Jerome Kagan, top researcher into how children grow, claims shame keeps us from the sin of Cain. He notes that the scorching flames of shame develop in children around the age of two. That is when younger siblings begin messing with their older siblings’ toys and possessions, creating in older siblings the desire to maim and murder. Most parents do a fairly good job of helping all kids step back from this type of behavior.

Kagan also notes that shame also gets attached to feeling like a failure.  I have battled shame most of my life because of dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.  Both meant I endured hours of shame because I could not  easily spell correctly, punctuate, remember grammar rules, or do simple sums.  All of my classmates seemed to do so easily, or all in my class  did.

The shame of my hours at the black board trying to so what I could means  shame’s fire may dim for me, but is also always ready to reignite and turn my cheeks read.

How did I become a published author, particularly given my dysgraphia? Love of reading which lead to wanting to be a writer,  parents who encouraged learning,  not test scores; teachers who looked past the errors to the content;  an inborn stubbornness; and finally,  the  advent of word processing and the computer with it’s little red lines helping someone like me spot the majority of my errors.


Shame makes you want to sink through the floor or otherwise run and hide. The following tips consistently applied  work to defeat shame’s  fire and keep it from burning your children.

Tip one: Making  sure your child is not doing the unforgivable. This can start early which is why young children need to be supervised and stopped if hurting another child or animal.

Parents of physically strong or bold children need to be particularly alert to how their child treats other children. Bullying can become ingrained in a child who has the power to force his or her way on younger, weaker, or less assertive children. Parental correction moderates the inborn desire to get your own way.

Tip two: Check the values you teach and keep an eye on those of your family, your friends, your culture, and particularly your religion.  Most religions and particularly those that evolved when women were considered property and temptresses create shame about normal sexual behaviors. Three examples:

  1. Think of the big M and I do not mean menopause.
  2. Think of the women covering their bodies from head to toe so men will have less trouble controlling their sexual desires.
  3. Think of the shame attached to gay or homosexual identity which is not chosen.

Tip three: Emphasize trying over succeeding and in terms of sports and other competitive venues fun over winning. 

Tip four: Recognize that all people come with strengths, talents, as well as weaknesses. Support strengths and talents.  Accept weakness as part of life and something all people deal with.

Tip five: Encourage practice of the 12 Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises. Start by learning and practice them yourself.  Here’s a link to four easy ones.


Many of today’s parenting gurus suggest parental criticisms are the source of shame. Many of these see punishment as abuse. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Legally, physical abuse is defined as adult behavior that does tissue damage to a child.  Spanking that leaves marks or slaps that do the same can lead to abuse charges. Emotional abuse is a bit trickier, but essentially means unrelenting restriction, blame, and coldness.  Failing to punish when needed to correct unacceptable behavior is classified legally as neglect.

What to do? Worry about maintaining a caring relationship instead of fearing non abusive punishments.

John Gottman, a leading researcher into marriage and divorce, developed the Five to One Rule. Five positive interactions for every negative interactions  equals a good relationship.

See today’s Free Poster Coach for a disciplinary tool called The Caring Response. This tool ends all punishments on a positive note. It also restoresgood feelings when punishment or discipline creates painful feelings in a child – it always does.

I hope if you find my posts of value, you will  practice internet kindness  by liking, rating, commenting, or sharing.

Thank you for all you do and as always work to stay strong, not always easy, but definitely possible.


This post was inspired by this Word Press Daily Prompt      Unsafe Containers: Which emotion(s) — joy, envy, rage, pity, or something else — do you find to be the hardest to contain?  I think most people would agree: Shame is a big one.


The CARE Plan



TX Children Like Dogs

 I  only half believe in quick fix promises.  However,  one “universal law” many preach often  holds true: The Law of Expectation. But first, how it doesn’t work: 
Texting through Thanksgiving Dinner.
How does this related to TX Children Like Dogs?   Okay, I haven’t put this into words until now,  but the truth remains:  I believe children would benefit if treated a bit like a dog needing training rather than  a precious piece of china needing protection. The world would also benefit, and parents would face less stress if kids had the same kind of basic training dogs get from their mothers or from a dog trainer.


The following is from Adam G Katz’s newsletter, a must read for all new parents. and a bit better than either of my books. Also on a par with The One Minute Manager, another of my must read books not found in the Parent Section of Your Book Store. 
“Dog Obedience – Your Dog And The Law Of Expectation”
Okay–I just made that up.  I don’t even know if there actually is a
Law of Expectation: your dog will respond to commands and his environment in a manner that is consistent with how you expect him to respond.
I’ve seen this time and time again, when working with clients.
For example, an owner’s dog shows possessive behavior over a bone
or a toy.  The owner apprehensively tries to take the bone away,
but their dog responds by possessively guarding the toy and may
even run off with it.
Game over.
Then, I approach the dog and calmly just take the toy.  The dog
gives it up without even thinking about responding in a possessive
manner.  And the owner is left with their mouth gaping open,
followed by the often-heard surprise remark (so well-known to
professional dog trainers) “Why doesn’t he do that for me?”
He doesn’t, because dogs are experts in reading body language.
Even better than humans are.  And they will react in a manner that
is consistent with how you expect them to act.  Thus: Adam’s Law of
If you act confident when you give commands and EXPECT that your
dog will react accordingly–then he will.  (Assuming you’re using
the right techniques).
If you act without confidence–forget about it!  Your dog will
instantly know you’re not someone to be respected.  And if you’re
not someone to be respected, then your dog will not bond with you,
listen to you or want to please you.

If you find the idea of treating your children like a dog, think about this: Dogs are estimated to have the same IQ as a three-year old child.  In my book, a dog’s  #Emotionalintelligence far exceeds that of most adults.

parent advice

How to put this into play with your children? A few tips.

Tip one: Do stop thinking your children are fragile. Honor their strengths. Expect them to deal with life’s rougher stuff.  Abuse not, but coddle not.

Tip two: Squash your fears and anxiety.  Start by practicing this Emotional Fitness Exercise.  When treating your child like a loving mother or father dog, make Strong Body and Soft Face.

#emotionalintelligence poster coach teaching soft face/strong body. #parent advice

                The above is available as a free digital download at the EFTIStore.

Tip Three: As mother and father dogs know, play is as important as discipline. For dogs and children, playing is learning.  For human kids, playing with Mom and Dad both bonds and teaches. Play lots.

This post relates a bit to today’s WordPress Daily Prompt: Never Gonna Give You Up  You. We know *you* are vice-free, dear Daily Post reader. But, or perhaps we should say, “butt,” others around you and in your life are riddled with vices: they smoke; they eat too much celery; they hog the covers; they can’t keep their hands out of the office candy bowl. Which vice or bad habit can you simply not abide in others?

What  can’t I  abide in others?  Cigar smoking comes to mind for it gives me a headache. But my newest angst comes from bicyclists addicted to speeding without regard to others on shared hiking paths.

As I am totally deaf in one ear, and partially in the other ear, I never hear a speeding bicyclist approaching until they are right behind me.  I am waiting for the day I get knocked down and out.  No, I don’t want that to happen, so I stay mostly on hiking trails were bikes are not allowed and often end up walking on the grass, not the path.

Just decided, I am going to ask for a safety vest like the construction guys and gals wear, but  with the words DEAF printed in large letters on the back.

Stay strong

Parenting remains one of life’s hardest jobs. Moreover, the rewards are often long-delayed.  Keeping calm when all about you including your kids are stepping on your last nerve is often impossible. However, learning and practicing j”Soft Face and Strong Body will make the impossible nearly possible some of the time.

Finally, Thank you for all you do. I am particularly grateful to those who practice internet kindness by liking, rating, commenting, or sharing my posts.




How hard it is

A solid discussion of the down side of technology.  Borrowed from Ideassortment  Blogspot  so this is a guest blog, but first a cartoon.

Texting through Thanksgiving Dinner.

Sad but true and what the guest blog addresses.

Guest  blog by

Aparna K.S. who lives in Bangalore
Parenting – How Difficult has it become…
 Parenting has become the toughest role for humans inhabiting the vast surface of this only green planet (?) known to mankind so far. The current era in which every awesome technological inventions stays so for a few minutes, only to be replaced or outdated by a newer, more awesome, technology!
Before the advent of the digital entertainment era, children engaged themselves in benign (I shall pardon you if you read it as ‘dumb’ and if you belong to the technologically marinated species, you will!) activities like sand play (not the sand castle building which has become a more serious profession), drawing, scribbling on the sand, throwing stones in the pond and other water bodies, rolling a waste tyre along the roadside or even kicking stones on the pavement till they reach home walking from your destination.
I am sure for many of us it would bring back some nostalgic moments. To me, it did!With the mushrooming of cable operators and meteoric rise in number of TV channels, all the idyllic pastimes were stolen by the fluorescent dots that adorned the TV screens.These activities were dying a slow death. But mankind decided to give them a quicker funeral than they deserved. In came the internet cafes. They ensured two things to begin with.

First, people could get all information that they needed and that they did not at all need, very rapidly.
Secondly, if your children are not engaged in positive or creative pastimes, then they are engaged otherwise as benign pastimes no longer exist!
The latter, predictably, has put immense pressure on parents. While parents were engaged in the business of money making that marked the very basic of worldly survival, the children were engaged in collecting information that they needed and that they absolutely did not need too!
As a result the gap between the parents and their offspring widened, further and further, with the older generation absolutely unequipped to face the information overload that their children possessed.
Children assumed themselves to be far smarter even in the by gone era. But in those eras they truly were not as smart as they assumed themselves to be and that defined innocence and was, in a way beautiful.
But now the complication seems to arise because parents are under prepared to face the truly smart children with the limited knowledge offered by the archaic technology (or maybe, even the lack of it)  of the bygone era.
The challenge that looms large before every parent of this digital era is, therefore, to curtail the use of the plethora of entertainment avenues and engage their children productively.
Here again, there are two hurdles – parents are unable to match up to the intellectual capacity of the children or, in trying to do so are hopelessly addicted to it themselves!
As always, allowing your children to ahead in their path towards future, while staying firmly grounded to the core values, is the way forward. Maybe when you feel the need to push your child, nudge them gently as the eagle does and be sure to steer them in the right direction.
Again, as always, easier said than done…

my Parenting tip

Encourage free play  as often and whenever you can. The more free play the better. Moreover, join your children in their free play. Free play need not be games, it can be a walk in the woods where the kids can run ahead or lag behind. It can be creating something alone or together and then sharing. It can be time alone without electronic distractions.  .

You and your children will benefit from such times. Both of you will also benefit from learning to create a safe place in your mind. That is what today’s Free Poster Coach is all about.

FREE Poster Coach

Today’s Free poster coach details how to create a safe place.  Safe places combine with the OMM provide a brief get away from stress, a mini-vacation.  Creating and using a safe place is a self-soothing exercise, but also a way a child or parent can use his or her imagination and creativity. Here is how to create a safe place.

How to create a safe place.

Go to the EFTI store to claim free copy of this or any of our other free Poster Coach.  The posters should be printed up in color on card stock and posted where they will remind you what matters or to practice an Emotional fitness skill. 


Today’s Word Press Daily Prompt: Lucky Star asked this: Today is your lucky day. You get three wishes, granted to you by The Daily Post. What are your three wishes and why?

Note the wishes are to be granted by The Daily Post so the usual wishes for peace for all are beyond the scope of Word Press. However, not totally.  So my personal first wish would be to make it to become Freshly Pressed.  But two things keep me in the wings on that one. My struggle with dysgrapia and the fact that I promote a business.

My more possible wish is that Word Press would promote some technology withdrawal time. How about shutting down on the week ends?

Cannot think of a third. Except to wish all fellow bloggers an ever expanding readership.

Finally, Thank you for all you do. I am particularly grateful to those who practice internet kindness by liking, rating, commenting, or sharing my posts.