Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Hidden Guilt and Shame of Parents

The Hidden Guilt and Shame of Parents
By Julie Jenkins Sathe
Author of Enlightened Discipline ©

No, I’m not talking about the mass murderer’s mom or the serial killer’s dad, I’m talking about all of the normal parents with normal children whose child occasionally does something to another person (usually another child) and we, the parents feel so BAD. Awful, horrible, ashamed, guilty, wretched, distraught……….

….Your child has hit someone, they’ve scratched, spit, yelled, and screamed, they've lied, they knocked over the nice, little girl in the sandbox, they kicked the little toddler who took their favorite shovel……and YOU, the parent feel horrible.

The worst example I’ve seen in my 30 years in the early childhood field is parents of (drum roll, here) the dreaded....BITER. I’m not sure who is more emotional, the parents of the child who was bitten, or the parents of the BITER! (Certainly most parents are way more emotional than either of the children).

So, of course if you are the parent of a child who is hurt in any way it is easy to become overly emotional and want immediate revenge and retaliation to whomever has harmed your little one. But, all that being said it is not and never will be appropriate for a parent to confront a child (or the parent of the child) over childlike behavior. The child who has hurt your young one should be treated as unemotionally as possible. You may not be able to do it. You are simply too emotional. The teacher or playground aide or parent of that child must be the one to intervene. It is unlikely that you, the parent of the injured toddler will be able to remain as detached as is appropriate.

Even the parent of the child who has caused harm, must make sure they separate their own emotions from the way they respond to their child’s actions. As a parent, you are to a degree responsible for the behavior, lessons and manners of your child; but as more time passes you must begin to separate from him/her. We hear a lot about young children needing to learn to separate from their parents, but indeed the reverse is also true. Parents must learn to separate themselves, emotionally from the behavior of their children. It continues to be your role as parent to teach and re-teach what you expect and depend on your child to DO or NOT to do. But your job as a person is to separate what your child does from your own actions and teach without guilt, shame or emotion.

If, as parents we remain too emotionally involved in our own child’s behavior it is difficult to keep a perspective that supports us to be good teachers of our children. Instead, in a state of emotion, we are likely to walk a dangerous road of influencing them with our own strong emotions of guilt, shame and embarrassment. As parents, we must do our best to discipline without strong emotions. Strong emotions mixed with discipline lead to actions that are either too severe or too passive. Parents may go over the top with their own humiliation and resort to discipline that piles up all the frustration they have ever felt and exert that punishment now, in this moment. Or, alternatively, parents may feel like such a personal failure that they don’t hold their child accountable for their own behavior.

Balance is key. Your child is responsible for their own behavior, good or bad. They must know what it is, see the consequences and do what is developmentally appropriate to correct, heal or help the one they hurt. Creating an avenue for success for the offender and healing for the victim is the best way to move through this type of experience to the other side and move on. Teaching these skills without emotion is the way you can be the best parent for your child.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


By Julie Jenkins Sathe
Author of Enlightened Discipline ©

Yes, heard me. So many times, as parents, we get stuck in: what can I do? What methods can I learn? What techniques can I employ? I want to begin this article by beckoning to parents who want to improve the results of their young child’s behavior by STOPPING some of their own behaviors.
(Don’t ya’ just hate that!)

Asking a question, when it’s not really a request…….

Asking a child to do something when you really are not ASKING at all is a real problem for you both and a habit worth breaking. I hear this style of speech from frustrated parents all the time. Parents don’t need to sound mean, belittling or even demanding when they need a specific response. They just need to make clear statements.

For instance, “I need you to put your toys away before we watch the video you picked out. Not later, right now.”

“In five minutes it will be time to pick up for dinner. I’ll remind you one more time.”

These statements are much clearer and more honest than, “Can you pick up the toys, please?”

Doing it for them…..

Logical and Natural Consequences are THE WAY to teach children. In your past you may have known parents (perhaps your own) that punished with an action that was completely unrelated to the offense. “No sweets for a week because you didn’t clean your room.” (Huh?)

The more connected you make the reaction to the offense, the better learning opportunity you have created. For instance, “You spilled juice all over the floor. You will need to clean that juice up, Johnny. Here are the rags. I will spray the cleanser, it’s not safe for you to use. But you spilled it. You must clean it up.” (Depending on the child’s age, of course.)

“Oh Johnny, it is still sticky from the juice. You’ll need to do the floor one more time. Yes, I know it’s hard work. That’s why Mom and Dad have a rule that you only drink juice at the table. Try to remember it so you don’t have to clean up these messes.”

The biggest struggle many parents have is around food. Please find a way in your household to let little Suzie or Johnny serve their own food at meal times. Make up a friendly term like “try-it-taste” so that all foods gets a shot and yet no one is forced to choke down tastes and textures that make them sick. But allow your child to learn the judgment of their own food, with your assistance and how to operate spoons, ladles and salad tongs. Let them learn by always knowing they can have seconds, but too much is a waste. Sometimes children who repeatedly overfill their plate (of course, were you watching?) can save that for the next meal or snack. But follow through with it, if you say it.

In any case, keep the consequences as directly related to the offense as possible. And for heavens sake, let your child struggle over the work a little. Don’t do it for him!

Being stuck in your own right-ness!

So, you think Suzie broke it, but ….Bobby did it. Admit that you were wrong. “Oh, wow. I got very upset at Suzie. I apologize Suzie. I was making you clean up the mess that wasn’t your responsibility.” (You will may make this a great opportunity for Suzie to speak up for herself, if she didn’t.) Seeing that an adult can show a child that they have made a mistake, admit they were wrong and move on will help children trust that they can do the same.

(I always think, what a better spouse they will be. What a better employee they will be…)

Talking to your children like dogs (and your dogs like precious children.)

How many times have you heard (or said), “Get down.” “Stop it.” “Knock it off.” “Quit it.”
Of course it gets worse as kids get older. “Shush up.” “Shut up.” “Shut it.” And of course, even worse. We won’t even go there!

DOG TALK is telling children what NOT to do. (Not to mention saying it in a very belittling and intimidating way.) Your tone says, “You are nothing”, “I don’t have time for you” and “You don’t matter”. Ouch!

An Enlightened Parent will tell children what TO do and WHY. “Susie, your singing is too loud right now, the baby is sleeping. Wait until later.” “Johnny, it is never safe to walk on the couch. Not even at Grandma’s house. Put your feet on the floor.”

Sneaking up the rules on kids without giving fair expectations.

Adults tend to think children just innately know rules and the reasons why. They don’t. It’s our job to teach them, prepare them. We all are more successful if we are prepared.

“In one half hour it will be bed time. Turn down the music and read for awhile so you are more ready to sleep.”

“When I’m done with the dishes we will put our coats on and go to the store. Be ready to sit in the car seat.”

“As soon as I’m done with my shower we can read a book before bedtime. Put your pajamas on so you are ready, too.”

Giving your kids a little heads-up will go far to give them a “clock” to run with. They may not know how to actually tell time, but they will mentally prepare for change. (Some of us do better with change than others.)You know your schedule but your children don’t. Give them the advantage. Set them up for successful cooperation. The same thing goes for leaving a fun event.

“Three more turns down the slide, and then we have to leave the park. I’ll count with you. One….Two….Three! Let’s Go!!” (Make it fun, not sad.)

“As soon as the movie is over, we have to leave Lindsey’s house. Finish your hot chocolate, too. Then off we go!”

Start by stopping yourself from these habits. Start by creating a new positive way of explaining what you want for your child and why it benefits you all. Start by stopping the complaining, the whining and the tantrums by setting your child up for success, preparation and a mental clock of your plans. Start by giving yourself time to be wrong and be okay with correcting your mistakes. Start by making this role as parent filled with joy and love. Stop the stress and start having fun!