Shame on you!

Shame is such a potent, powerful force….
Shame can stop us dead in our tracks. It can create divide.
When we feel we have failed, it can be so excruciating to even ‘think it.’ And so, we try not to. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it go away.
Shame causes us to feel so bad, so alienated, so undeserving of kindness and forgiveness. What gets lost in the enormity of shame, is that ‘all’ people feel shame – and this is what gives shame its power.
It’s no small wonder why – for a child – it is difficult to say “I’m sorry.” Instead, we can hear, “it’s not my fault.” Or what follows is desperate plea for understanding, something to the effect of, ‘this is why I ‘had’ to do what I did, and I had no choice in the matter.’
In some instances, shame is so potent, that a child uses anger and aggression to ‘fight off’ such an awful feeling. In other instances, the experience of shame is experienced internally, and a child shuts down, and feels shame so powerfully that they struggle to re-engage in positive experiences around them.
Shame is a human experience we carry with us our entire lives. At its best, it is a helpful guide when navigating relationships and goals – informing us of when things are going awry, so that we can make needed adjustments and corrections to the path we are taking. At its worst, it can generate so much pain that we back away from connections and potential successes.
In ourselves and as parents, we have the ability to transform shame. When we can tolerate it, repair and learning are possible:
As adults and parents, we can support each other, such that we can share our shortcomings, without judgement, and attain needed reassurance in our goodness and ability to make better.
We can be open to forgive others and ourselves.
We can help children to develop ways to ‘make better’ and repair hurt and wrongdoing they have caused.

You Are Your Child’s Favorite Toy

I attended a training a few months ago at which the presenter made a statement that has really stuck with me. He said, “Adults (specifically parents) are a child’s favorite toy.” I really like this analogy and find it to be a helpful reminder of the importance of praise versus punishment. Think of yourself as a toy for a moment. If your child pushes one button, she gets a loud siren (yelling and/or punishment), but if she pushes another button, she gets a fun song (your praise). It may seem as though your child would prefer the fun song, but what if I told you she prefers the siren because it lasts longer? I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is the truth.


Typically, we spend more time and energy focusing on bad behavior than we do on good behavior. Let’s say you give your child a direction and he ignores you. Think about how much time and energy you spend addressing and correcting this. Now, let’s say your child has spent the morning doing exactly what you want and expect him to do. Do you simply tell him he did a good job and move on? Do you say nothing at all? Think about how much time and energy you spent on that. Is there a difference? It’s easy to see, when we think of expending our energy in these ways, that the extra energy given when the child misbehaves reinforces that misbehavior; it teaches the child that he can get more of your attention and energy when he is bad than when he is good.


The moral of this story? Expend more energy on good behavior. Catch your child doing well and praise him or her when you do. Remember, your praise cannot be too enthusiastic and doing well can be something small and simple, such as your child getting dressed when he gets up in the morning. Let your child know ahead of time the consequences of misbehavior and consistently enforce this consequence. Time out can be a really effective consequence when you think of it in terms of your child losing your energy. Set the expectation that your child needs to use the time out opportunity to calm down or “reset.” When your child is in time out, ignore his cries and pleas until time out is up. Once time is up and he is quiet (even if it’s just for the last 10 seconds), praise him for staying in time out for the amount of time he should have and for quietly accepting his consequence. This may feel awkward at first and will definitely require practice, but if you are consistent, your child will get the message and you will see results.

The Secret to Back to School Survival

In my house, the last three weeks have been a blur. This happens every fall at the beginning of the new school year. New schedules. New activities. A return to routine after several months of lazy summer days. Suddenly those warm summer evenings that, just three weeks ago, seemed to stretch on forever are now jammed pack with homework and after school activities. The number of balls in the air that any given parent attempts to juggle grows exponentially after Labor Day.


Despite all of chaos of the first few weeks of school, the structure that the school year demands is appreciated by many parents. Kids crave structure and predictability. Routine provides children with the security to succeed in their environment.


Here are a few tips to maintaining sanity during this time of transition:


  1. Decide a time to get up. It is important to be organized and planful at the beginning of each day. This will set the stage for completion of all the mornings tasks. There is nothing worse than beginning the day in a frenzy.


  1. A good night’s sleep is key. Times of transition can be difficult for children and they may require more sleep than usual. A consistent bedtime will help children develop a healthy sleep pattern, allowing them to be well rested by morning.


  1. Easy health meals. There is no need to be Chef Gordon Ramsey, but having a healthy meal at the end of the day is important. Don’t let the busy-ness of the day interrupt a normal meal schedule. Even though fast food is fast, it’s not always the healthy choice.


  1. Be gentle. Remember, children are feeling just as much chaos in the transition as their parents are. Emotions may be running high for everyone. Give your children lots of hugs and remember to find time to connect with them. Also, be gentle on yourself.


Three weeks into this school year, we are just hitting our stride in my home. I hope the same for your home too.

Stop me if you've heard this one 

A joke usually isn't as funny the second, third, or tenth time you hear it. After a while you tend to say to yourself, "I've heard this before. I know how it is going to turn out."

Funny, your kid says the same thing when you repeat yourself when making a request or enforcing a rule. While some repetition is necessary to help in learning, most parents make the mistake of repeating themselves trying to get a point across to their kid.

Therein lies the problem. Repeated reminders in the same conversation are not helpful. Repeated reminders over a period of time in different circumstances is helpful. The first instance is nagging. The second is teaching.

Are you nagging or teaching your kid?

The limits of parenting

It is frustrating at times when our children do not listen or follow our "wisdom".

Pastor Tony Scheving wrote the following excerpt which summarizes nicely our limits as parents:

Read more: The limits of parenting