According to Merriam-Webster, shame is “a painful emotion caused by the consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.”

And to children and teens who are consistently shamed, the consequences can be especially damaging. A disciplinary technique often used by parents, shaming can greatly harm a child’s self-concept, making them feel that they are “bad” instead of teaching them that a particular action or behavior was incorrect.  Over the years, Greenbrier Academy has helped many girls cope with their feelings of shame, but to really dig into the heart of the matter, we need to understand what shame actually is.

What is Shaming?

Shaming often occurs when parents are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed and include a wide range of phrases, from put-downs to comparisons and expectations. The following are a few common phrases associated with shaming:

  • You’ve been a bad child.
  • You’re hopeless.
  • Why can’t you act more like your sister?

Kids of all ages can be affected by shaming, but it can be especially difficult for teens to cope with feelings of guilt and shortcoming, which is why we focus on building strong, positive relationships in our girls.

Shaming and Self-Concept

The more a message is shared throughout childhood, the more it is internalized, leading to the development of a negative self-concept. Our self-concept describes how we view ourselves, and if we feel that we are “bad” it is more likely that we will make decisions that reflect this feeling. While many parents believe that shaming a child will make them stop repeating a particular behavior, it actually has a much deeper effect.

In the book “Good Children – At What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame”, Robin Grille and Beth McGregor discuss studies that have been shown to link feelings of shame with aggressive behavior, isolation and more. Severe shaming throughout childhood can contribute to mental illness, bullying and self-destructive behavior as well, making it important for parents to choose a different disciplinary technique.

Alternatives to Shaming

Instead of shaming your child when they misbehave or make a mistake, consider building them up by teaching them empathy and understanding. Shaming a child only teaches them what you don’t want them to do, causing them to focus on their shortcomings. Instead of shaming a child who has misbehaved or made a mistake, talk to them about their actions, teaching and displaying the importance of considering others feelings before acting. For more advice on positive, effective parenting techniques, visit Creative Child. The techniques they recommend – staying calm, being confident and being consistent – are all used by our staff to help our girls develop quality relationships with peers, family and most importantly themselves.

At Greenbrier Academy we work to build confidence and create positive relationships in girls, helping our students to change the way they view themselves and others. To learn more about our therapeutic model and to schedule a visit to our campus, contact us at 877-788-8422 today.