Welcome back. As always, thank you for your time and support!
Last time, we ended on how children might learn from shaming and belittling them (in public or otherwise–catch up with Part One here.).
Like everything else—in terms of action and reaction—shaming and belittling don’t lack for consequences.
What shaming and belittling do, IMHO, is:
• hurt a child’s sense of self-worth. Self-esteem drops. The child is put in a position to question his/her capability and/or intelligence.
• plant seeds of resentment (toward the parent and/or other authority figures, present and/or future): If treating him/her like that is the norm, what are the chances those seeds won’t wind up taking root and flourishing under a consistent diet of negativity and being put down?
• lay the groundwork for negative patterns: What are the chances that child will grow up to shame his/her children?
Reacting to what kids do is easy. Our impulses take over, our brains go on break and we want to say or do whatever responses—verbal and/or physical—the child’s action evokes.
Responding, on the other hand, takes practice. That means making a conscious effort to do any—and probably ALL of the following:
- Take a step back.
- Think about NOT saying or doing that reflex action, and…
- Carefully choose our verbal and/or physical answers to our kids.
Responding is a SKILL that can be cultivated. It takes awareness of one’s tendency to react, a conscious desire to change that tendency to react and practice.
Empathy (i.e., identifying with how someone else feels) can be key to responding vs. reacting. Putting ourselves on the receiving end of our actions, (i.e., imagining our kids’ feelings and possible reactions to what we say and do), can go a long way to helping us be more positive in our responses.
Finally: It’s easy to assume kids understand the direction(s) we give. (Asking them to repeat the direction is a great way to be sure.)
Here is how I might have handled the boy at the supermarket:
Assuming he was of average or better intelligence, restating what I wanted him to do—in simple, concrete words and a calm voice—would have sufficed. “Henry, I asked you to stand in line until I got back.”
With specific words—and a normal voice—I also would have shown the “consequence” of not having followed the direction. “Now we’ll have to wait at the end of the line.”
Henry probably would have understood his error—that he hadn’t fully comprehended his parent’s directive—and the natural consequence of his action (or lack of it).
One more thing to consider: Henry wouldn’t have been publicly shamed. Chances are, he will most likely remember to stand in line next time and won’t resent the person admonishing him.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
―William James (Psst! Waiting in line isn’t a catastrophe. It’s an inconvenience. Just MHO. 😉 )
Another thought: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29
So how might you have handled “Henry’s” situation? Have you found yourself in a similar one with your child, or someone else’s child? Do you throw in your two cents if you’re within earshot of someone dealing with a child in a negative manner? All comments and thoughts are welcome! (And if you’re shy, you can always email me via my CONTACT page.)
I’ll dedicate a future post or two to specific examples of how a parent or authority figure can respond vs. react, i.e., deal with a child in a more positive way.
Have a great day, everyone!
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