Tag Archives: Shame

Your child’s survival IQ

Parents push education because education seems to equate with success.  Not necessarily true.  High IQ and Street Smarts help, but more is needed.

Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart, all I hear is  I'm not real smart, but I am imaginary smart.

IQ, EQ, EI, and now F = T tau St.  What’s that? “Intelligence is a force that acts to maximize future freedom of action.”  Here’s a research based Ted talk on this newest definition of intelligence. 


If one surveys the world of today and the advancement of various civilizations freedom of action seems part of the mix determining forward progress.  Rigid holding to sacred texts or past beliefs limits learning, particularly future based  learning.

Two other factors play a part. The first is age and stage. The infant reacts on instinct. As the toddler moves toward school readiness, she has developed what  some call a theory of mind. Theory of mind refers to our understanding that other people’s thoughts and wants are not the same as outs. However, much of a child’s thinking at this point is controlled by her wants and desires.  This stage  has been dubbed “Magical thinking by many.  This is the age of the tooth fairy, toys that are alive, ghosts and monsters lurking here and there.

As school is entered upon the child’s thinking becomes reality based, but only as related to what he  can see or touch or actually manipulate.   Concrete thinkers do not think about many options and mostly are “Either/Or” thinkers;  Critical thinkers think “Yes/And” which is  the heart of  critical thinking.

Parenting tips and critical thinking

Tip one: Encourage free play. Lots of free play. Join your children in their free play games.

Tip two: Broaden the preschooler’s theory of mind by teaching good manners based on consideration of others.

Tip three: Push a bit beyond age and stage.  During the years of magical thinking this can be done quite easily. How? Just name make believe as make believe or play.  Don’t worry about destroying the magic of this age,  you cannot. Don’t agree, label what is according to reality and you are  preparing the child for the next stage.

When the child gives up magical thinking, acknowledge the new skill and beginning pushing thinking more broadly.  The easiest way is to every once in a while add the word “and” followed by a question mark to sentences that seem to take an “either/or” position.  If the child cannot come up with something, add one for him.  

When the teen starts challenging your thoughts and  beliefs,  that is a sign she is thinking critically.   That’s when the use of the “And?” comes into its own.

Tip Four: Today’s  Word Press  can help parents promote critical thinking. That Daily Prompt?  I Did it My Way  Describe the one decision in your life where you wish you could get a “do-over.”

Suggesting “do-overs” forces thinking more critically about what was done and what could be.

Tip Five:  Use the media to reinforce all of the above.

Stay strong

Today’s parents are beset with too much pressure and too much advice. It helps to remember what matters, to practice kindness, but also to laugh and play. Laugh and play with your kids, but always have some just for you fun time. Even a half an hour a day improves the quality of  any parent’s life.

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.

Here is how to create your 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. 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.




Shame is good, sometimes

All shame is considered toxic by most parent advisers.  Moreover, when an adult is dealing with shame,  parents are blamed. Not true.

Shamed by dropping a lunch box.

You or a child doing something really bad? Shame is designed to get you back in line.


“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!”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Most advice gurus blame parents for creating shame.   However, leading Harvard researcher Jerome Kagan, views shame as nature’s way of keeping us from doing the unthinkable.

Kagan 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.

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.


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

Tip two:  Come down hard enough so the child gets the point this is not acceptable. A loud “No hurting” or “No hitting.” 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, repeat with a soft voice “Hurting others is bad. I know you want to be good, and it is my job to help you.” End that little lecture with a hug.

Tip four:  Teach the child to rate hurtful behaviors.  Doing so A five point rating scale is a useful tool teaching this.  Physical hurt = five;  bullying and emotional hurt = four;  accidental hurts =  three;  teasing that goes a bit to far = two; and one = a tiny, tiny hurt.

A similar scale helps children  cope with all  hurts.  Five = life threatening; four = needing medical attention; three = a crying hurt;  two = a big ouch; and one =  a “Suck it up buttercup ” hurt.

Tip five:  Teach the child self defense skills.  Just as I think all children should be taught to swim; I think all children should 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.

This post was inspired by both a  Word Press  Daily Prompt: Daily Prompt: Isn’t Your Face Red  When was the last time you were embarrassed? How do you react to embarrassment? 

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.


This week’s FREE Poster Coach

Self-soothing skills are important tools for combatting shame. The OMM or One Meditate Mediation is easy to learn and once learned effective in calming stress and that includes the stress of unwanted shame.  Learn it for yourself, but start teaching it to your children as soon as they can blow bubbles and sip water through a straw.

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

Following the Golden Rule matters most.




One of my top ten parenting experts and gurus – Jean Tracy – reworked my thoughts on shame and made them even more valuable.  She is a star.

Shame Can Hurt Your Child

If shame has hurt your child, keep  reading. Our parenting skills expert, Katherine Gordy Levine, and author of the book, Parents Are People Too, is here to help. First, we’ll check out Katherine’s own story. Second, well look at some shameful  words you may have experienced as a child. Then we’ll share what you can do to lessen the resulting feelings in yourself and in your child.

Katherine’s Story of Shame:

Today’s author was six-years-old when she was in a near car accident with her family. She heard her brother yell out, “We’re going to crash!” Katherine sprawled out in a relaxed position because she had heard this was the best thing to do. When the car stopped, her family saw her and laughed. One brother shamed her by calling her “Stupid.”  She never forgot.

The point is, Katherine carried that shaming event throughout a large portion of her life. It even influenced her explosion at her son’s teacher when the teacher implied he was “stupid.”

Your Past Shameful Events

Perhaps you have stories from your childhood that are still powerfully raw. Naming calling words may still affect you like:

  1. You’re ugly.
  2. You’re a dummy.
  3. You’re such a turkey.
  4. You knucklehead!
  5. Why are you such an Idiot?

Remembering those names can bring back sense memories. Like Katherine, you might find yourself reacting in anger. If you take your hurt feelings back through your life on the wings of time, you might find the exact situation where they started. You  might say, “Aha, that’s where they came from.” If you understand the old situation better, you might release the feelings and feel better.

How to Change Shaming Beliefs in Yourself to Help Your Child

Hurtful thoughts must be challenged. As you practice helping yourself, teach your son or daughter to do the same.

Say to your son, “You’re looking a little sad, today. What happened?”

Be gentle in your approach. If he tells you his sister yelled, “You stink!” and he believes it, help him debate the truth of it.

  1. Who said so?
  2. What makes her the authority?
  3. Was she mad?
  4. Why do you think she said it?
  5. Do you really think you stink?

Perhaps your son will realize she was trying to upset him because he played with her toys without asking.

Tell him that you’re using your brain to overcome your own hurt feelings. Share self-statements you’ve been using and encourage him to say them too:

1. Nothing is awful and terrible.

2. It’s just inconvenient.

3. I can take it.

4. Things don’t have to go my way.

5. Life isn’t fair.

You might even post these statements on the fridge. Every time your son uses one of the sentences to soothe his pain, give him a high five with a true compliment like, “You used your brain and overcame!”

staying strong

Jean stays strong by sharing and caring.  I am grateful to her and hope you will support her efforts by visiting her web page, and signing up for her newsletter. You will not be disappointed.

For all you do to share and care with others, thank you. You make a difference.



Intellectual Disability

IMAGE FROM: Belifenet.com  Link goes to a post defusing false beliefs about developmental disabilities.  One is that all so disabled are “sweet and happy.”

IMAGE FROM: Press of Atlantic City  This link also takes you to an article about growing old when intellectually disabled. This many is luckier than most for his sister assumed responsibility for him. 

Why this parent advice topic

For a while, I am devoting a great many parent advice posts to getting along in school.  Having talked about the three main learning disabilities, I want to talk a bit about intellectual disabilities and the difference between those and a learning disability.

Intellectual disability: once called idiocy, then retardation, then developmental delay,  and most recently developmental disability, is now called intellectual disability as the result of a bill recently signed by President Obama.

Here is the definition of From the Center for Disease Control–note the new name has not yet been replaced by the CDC:

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.

Learning disability: The regulations for the United States Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),  define a learning disability as a

…disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.

This  definition further states that:

…learning disabilities include such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

… learning disabilities do not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; mental retardation; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.


Read the previous posts if you have not done so yet.  The changing names represent two current trends.  The desire to dwell on strengths, but mostly the name changes are an effort to do away with stigma.  So my tips today are about reducing stigma.

Parent tip one: Understand the roots of stigma. Stigma stems from fear of the unknown what my guru Jerome Kagan calls one of the major sources of uncertainty.  It is build deep into our beings as a primal instinct and probably served as a survival skill during times when survival was difficult.  Temperment plays a part.  Some are very shy and hate all new and different experiences. Others are what the experts call “Slow to warm up;” these like to be cautious about exploring the new or different. Finally, some are bold and often might rush into where others fear to tread.

Parent tip two:  Understanding how we respond to uncertainty also helps.  What we do when faced with the new or different involves the following strategies;

If we can cast blame for our uncertainty on another person, “My teacher is stupid,” we feel anger and if we think we are stronger, we are likely to get aggressive in one way or another.  If we don’t feel stronger we simmer with anger, and in time may vent it when we feel safe to do so.  Sadly that often means venting in on an innocent.

If we blame ourselves for our uncertainty, “I’m stupid,” we get depressed and may shut down.

If we cannot find someone or something to blame, we get frightened and either run away or shut down – a form of running away.

Parenting tip three: Obviously, one way to end stigma is to share knowledge about differences both personal and professional. One of the reasons I talk about my problems it an attempt to share personal knowledge. I also share what I have learned professionally.

Parenting tip four:  Shame holds many back from acknowledging a stimatized difference.  Most shame is useless.  It develops in order to keep us from doing the unthinkable, meaning killing a family member.  Shame first appears in children just when needed to save the lives of smaller siblings who mess with your possessions including your parent’s attention.  To combat personal shame follow these steps:

  1. Check reality.  Are you killing someone, molesting someone, or trying to oppress someone? Are you betraying another and exposing them to danger?  Shame is warranted
  2. If shame is not warranted do the opposite of what shame says to do. What is that? Shames says hate yourself and disappear. Acting against shame means honoring your strength and making your shameful secrets public.

Parenting tip five:  Kagan also points out that a major source of uncertainty lies in what he calls conflicting beliefs.  Believe in a certain God?  Those who believe differently might make you uncertain about your beliefs or the other uncertain about theirs.  Tools some use to make war.  Applies also to stigmas attached to learning differences.  If you have any doubt about your intellectual ability both those who are seem smarter and those who seem less smart will create uncertainty in you.  Whenever you feel anger or shame growing ask yourself–what uncertainty is working on me.

Parenting tip six:  Kagen makes one other point about what leads us to hurting others.  His study of morality showed that across all cultures, all humans want to be caring and just. These are two universal imperatives.  Why then do we still make war on each other.  Because a third imperative works on us. That imperative–protect those like us from those who are different.


Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle. Parent a child who is different means more struggle.  Such struggles also afford us some of life’s best moments. Do all you can to fight shame, to protect your child and remember to be grateful for all you have been given.  Practice kindness every way you can, including liking, commenting, or sharing this post.


Disclaimer one: Advice is just advice.

Even the most learned researchers and theorists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; but don’t just think, listen to your heart.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you by others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.

Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors

Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability that is akin to dyslexia when one writes. It was the reason my high school English teacher thought I would fail out of college.  I didn’t.  Moreover,  with the help of some patient and good editors I became an author.  Still mistakes get by.  When I am in a rush,  posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense.

Sigh, if you need perfect posts, you will not find them  here;  I will understand if you don’t follow me.  If  you want to hang in with me, thank you; if a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, try reading it a few days later.  Often I catch the worse mistakes when I read the post after a few days.

Meanwhile, forgive me, it is an Emotional Fitness Training exercise and practicing it will strengthen your ability to deal with stress, frustration, and all the other negative emotions.