Name the Shame

When I was growing up, I am pretty sure my parents read some kind of
parenting book entitled, Shame Your Way to Perfect Children.  Or
maybe topping The New York Times best seller list for non-fiction
during those years was a blockbuster book called, Best Kept Secret
For Good Behavior: Shame Works.  Sorry Mom and Dad.  The secret is

My parents weren’t bad people.  They were just doing what their
parents did. It did work pretty well. I didn’t do a whole lot of bad
stuff when I was a kid. I waited until I was away at college.  Ha.

So, shame can work with normally attached children.  However, there
is a side-effect even for attached children–lingering into adulthood
a negative core belief about self worth that often takes a lifetime
to repair. That’s me.

Shame doesn’t work at all to manage the behavior of  attachment
challenged children who have a primal wound from adoption, abuse and
neglect in the early years, or birth trauma in the early years that
gets confused with a poorly formed identity.

You know that blank look, those frozen wide-open doll eyes YOU get
from your children when you confront them on their negative
behavior–that look that implies no feeling, no care, no conscience?
You know that incredible head of steam, that incensed, indignant,
“How dare YOU” bluster they can muster to deny they had any part in
misdeeds. Those two responses are a sure fire indicator that shame is
at work just under the surface and your child is calling upon every
imaginable survival skill to push away the overwhelming experience of
shame, even if that means nonsensical lying, nonsensical denying, or
nonsensical self-silencing.

Here is the real secret.  Remove the blame, address the shame, and
attend to what lies beneath–your child’s fear of being bad, wrong,
unwanted and unlovable.  Shame of being.  How sad it that? Our
children very often feel shame about who they are–and they don’t
even know it.  Every day poor decision-making adds evidence to their
internal unconscious argument that they are rotten at the core.

As parents we can work to heal this “bad” feeling in our children.
We just have to be sure that shame is not used in a misguided attempt
to make our children feel something about their negative
behavior–remorse, sorry, sad, bad, anything except nothing.

They already feel bad enough about who they are; extra is not

Love Matters,

Ce Eshelman, LMFT

Next Trust-based Parent Training Course in Sacramento, CA is
September 27, 2014 and October 4, 2014. Sign-up here – .

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Commit to withholding shame and in the face of negative behavior
affirm your child’s goodness at the core.

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