Nov 192013 1 Response

Shame On Me For Shaming Them

It is never my job as a parent to shame my children. It is often my desire to shame them, but never my job to do so.

Shame is powerful. It’s a tool often used to get the outcome we desire. Nothing is more effective for the manipulator than the use of shame.

Yet shame never gives us what we actually desire. It results in a mirage. It might change the outward appearance, but it does not change the heart. It might coerce temporary compliance but it doesn’t create long-lasting obedience.

Shame is useful in the moment but destructive in the long-haul. Parents are about the long-haul. They are about the heart over the immediate action. They are about the development of a person over the compliance in the moment.

As tempting as it is, shame should never be a tool a parent uses against their children.

Instead of shame, parents use a different approach. Paul tells the church at Rome that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” (Romans 2.4) God the Father, uses kindness, not shame, to change our hearts.

He allows us to experience shame, but He never is the source of our shame.

This is my task as a parent.

I cannot take away the experience of shame from my child. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. Shame is a natural aspect of living as fallen people in a fallen world. It’s actually necessary. Shame is what gives us the understanding of our need for grace. Without shame, we would never turn to God for forgiveness (see Jeremiah 16.15).

While shame is necessary, it is also natural. With the exception of the narcissist, every person feels shame at some point. As a parent, there is no need to try to inflict shame on my children because they will naturally feel it.

It is my job as a parent to use the shame my children naturally feel and to point them to Jesus. I should never be the source of their shame, but should often be their guide through the pain which comes from shame. I guide them, in part, with kindness.

Kindness is a generous benevolence characterized by compassion, tenderness, and mercy. It’s not weakness. Kindness doesn’t enable bad behavior; it doesn’t prevent a child from ever experiencing negative consequences from their poor choices. But kindness does posses a nearly unquestionable grace. It continually exhibits mercy. It is known to be long-suffering.

There is no greater challenge for me as a parent than Romans 2.4. As God the Father is, so I want to be. As he treats me, so I’m charged to treat my children. Kindness, not shame, is the main object in the toolbox of a Christian parent.

Shame attempts to demean the person for what they have done; kindness rebukes the action but comforts the heart.

Shame tries to define the whole person by one wrong act; kindness does not excuse the action but refuses to allow one act to define the whole.

Shame distances me from the person who is wrong because they are wrong and I am right; kindness draws me toward the person who is wrong because I am often wrong as well.

Shame says, “How could you?”shame

Kindness says, “So have I.”

Shame says, “You are no good.”

Kindness says, “You can do better.”

Shame says, “I will punish you to hurt you.”

Kindness says, “These are the consequences and I hurt for you.”

Shame says, “You earn my love through doing what I think is right.”

Kindness says, “I have given you my love no matter what you do.”

Shame is a commonly used tool for parents and any figure in authority. It is used because it feels effective. Yet shame never truly works. Kindness is a far better way. It changes hearts far more than shame ever could.

What are some ways in which we use kindness to parent our children?

One Response to Shame On Me For Shaming Them
  1. glendakuhn Reply

    “Shame on you!” was a very common statement to hear from my mother. It was very effective. No matter how hard I tried, I always felt ashamed of myself, because I could not fully please. At nearly 65, I still feel those words when I fail. Thank you for the reminder to parents how hurtful it is to shame children.

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