Implications of Blame and Shame

Blaming and shaming our kids becomes something more than just punishing your child; your child feels bad. Actually, when we blame and shame our children, what we are doing is taking away their self-worth. I have a client I was working with, and his parents told him that he had to get all A’s. If he didn’t get all A’s, he was going to lose his cell phone for over a month until he could get his grades up. He was in eighth grade; he was 13 years old. If you can imagine how important those cell phones are to 13-year-olds, they’re pretty important.

I am talking to my client, and I’m asking my client some questions. I said, “What does it mean to you to get an A?” He says, “Well, it’s great.” I said, “Is it great for you or is it great for your parents?” He says, “Well I mean it feels good when you get that test back and there’s an A but it also feels great to know that I am doing what my parents want me to do.”  I said, “Have you ever asked your parents what it means to them for you to get an A?” He’s like, “Yeah, then I’m perfect.” I said, “Interesting, so in your mind, the only way to be perfect for your parents is to get straight A’s?” He says, “Yeah.” I said, “What happens if you don’t?””I’ll lose my phone.” Has it happened in the past?” He says, “Yeah.” I said, “What happened?” He says, “Well, I mean, I do whatever I can to get my grades up but sometimes it doesn’t work.” 

I said, “So, let me just ask you this: when you have a B in a class, what does that feel like to you?” He says, “Can I be honest with you, Miss V?” I said, “Yes, of course!” He says, “I have a B in math right now and I only have two weeks and the grading period is up. Honestly, I like it. It feels really good. This class is the hardest math class I’ve ever had. I raise my hand, but the teacher doesn’t call on me. I will ask my partner next to me about it and then the teacher’s like, ‘Be quiet,  no talking.’ I don’t know what to do. I come home and I’ll ask my mom or my dad for help and they’re busy. They say they’ll help me later after dinner. Then it’s after dinner and they have to go somewhere or there’s a meeting or something so I don’t get help so I kind of just google it, guess at it and turn my work in.” He’s like, “That’s the best I can do because i really don’t understand this” 

I said, “Well, what would happen if you talked to your parents about it? He said, “They don’t listen; they just don’t hear me, and so I just stopped going to them.” I said, “Okay, so what I’m hearing you say is that your B actually feels really good to you. It’s a tough class; you don’t feel you get support from your teachers; you don’t feel there’s a lot of support at home, and so for you, you’re pretty excited that you have that B.” He lit up with me. He was like, “Yes, it feels so good.” I said, “Great, so what if that just happened to be your grade? “His light suddenly went dim. I said, “Oh, not so happy about that?” He’s like, “No, they won’t understand. They’re going to take my phone.”  This is the shame kids feel when we put these expectations on them.

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