You cannot claim to care about children and shame mothers for the choices they’re making. Period. – Brené Brown
I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage and posted the quote above on Tuesday. I am glad it stirred up a conversation. What about parents who are willfully doing something wrong with parenting their children? What about how hard it is to simply watch someone make an unhealthy choice? I care about children and I need to stand up for the right choices.
The key word here is shame. Brené Brown defines shame as the feeling of not being worthy of love and belonging. To contrast it with guilt, shame is the feeling of “I am bad” while guilt is the feeling of “I did something bad.” It makes a huge difference. In fact, in her many years of research Brené found that guilt was a feeling that led to outcomes of change and shame was linked to terrible outcomes of addiction, depression, eating disorders and more.
Parenting and Shame
When we discuss parenting, are we shaming others who aren’t making the choices we are? Or are we starting a conversation and guiding them in the right direction? Are modeling and leading others down a healthy path or are we putting them down? Perhaps a person grew up in a troubling home and was never shown the healthy way to parent. Maybe a parent doesn’t have the education or knowledge to know what he or she is doing is harmful. We shouldn’t excuse unhealthy choices or the worst case scenarios in which children are mistreated. What we should do is approach these situations in a way that has been proven effective, productive, and a catalyst for change.
We all go through difficult times in which we are not our best selves and we don’t make the best choices. We’ve all been there in one way or another. What’s your story of coming into being the person you are?
Children and Shame
More importantly, as a society, are we inadvertently shaming our children? Do we allow children to shame each other? Why is bullying escalating? Are we sending the message of “you are bad” versus “the decision you made was unhealthy?” Are our expectations too high? Are we using empathy? Or are we understanding, as Brené puts it, “you are imperfect and wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Are we teaching our children self-love? Are we showing children that we love ourselves?
The third piece of this is, how many of us shame ourselves? When we make a wrong decision how many of us automatically think, “I am so stupid” or look in the mirror and say “I am too (insert adjective here).”
Shame gets in the way of growth and healthy self-esteem. This is just as crucial for us as it is for our children or the children we work with. We can’t show and tell our children that they are “worthy of love and belonging” if we don’t believe we are. Similarly, we can’t fully love another person if we don’t first love ourselves.
Empathy, the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another and being understanding with yourself, is key here.
I love Brené’s definition of social work:
It’s not about fixing people. It’s about being with people where they are and holding an empathic space for people to do their own work.
How would the world be different if we shifted to thinking in this way? What change can you make today?
Find this helpful? You may be interested in our Parenting from the Inside Out Workshop!