A Brief Reflection on Shames Impact on Children

Shame is a feeling of being inferior, defective, flawed, or unworthy. It’s a painful emotion that causes us to feel guilty about something we did wrong. We may think that if someone else knows what we did, they will judge us harshly. We may even believe that others will reject us. Children who experience shame often have difficulty trusting people. They may become overly concerned with what others think of them. They may avoid social situations where they might encounter rejection. They may withdraw from activities and friendships.

When children are shamed, their self-esteem suffers. They may develop low self-confidence and become fearful of making mistakes. They may begin to doubt themselves and question whether they deserve good things. Shaming children can lead to problems later in life. If parents don't understand how shaming affects their children, they may continue to do it. As adults, they may find it difficult to trust others and make friends. They may not know how to handle rejection and may fear rejection themselves.

Children who were shamed as children may carry those feelings into adulthood. They may try to hide their weaknesses and failures. They may become critical of themselves and others. They may blame themselves for past events. Adults who were shamed as kids may struggle with depression, anxiety and anger. Another struggle they may run into is struggle with substance abuse if they have not learned healthy ways to process emotions and cope healthily with pain. They may have trouble forming intimate relationships. They may have trouble getting along at work. People who were shamed as young children may need extra help in school and therapy.

Shame does have a place, but it must be present with the emotional presence and care of loved ones. Parents should talk to their children about shame. For young children, explain that everyone makes mistakes and does things that aren't always good and assure them that they are still loved and valued. Tell them that no one is perfect but that we can recognize our mistakes, and make plans to address them and move forward in a better way. Help them learn to tune into their feelings, understand why they feel the way they do, self regulate their emotions and learn to ask for reassurance if they are struggling about self worth.

Most important for parents is to be aware of your own behavior. Do you treat your children differently than you would treat anyone else? Are you critical of your children? Do you criticize them for things they didn't do? Do you get mad and shame them quickly or are you patient and engaging them in the way discussed above?

Set an example and create healthy family ways of being. Make sure you're treating your children respectfully. You can show respect by listening carefully to what they say. Give them choices instead of orders. Allow them to develop independence by giving choices when it is appropriate. Show your children that you love them. Say kind words and give hugs. Spend time together. Take walks, go fishing, play games, and watch movies and engage with them on a one to one basis daily.

Take a moment to reflect on these verses:

James 1:19 "Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]."

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 4 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. 5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7 Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 8 Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away.

Proverbs 10:19

When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.

Proverbs 14:29

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man promotes folly.

Proverbs 16:32

He who is slow to anger is better than a warrior, and he who controls his temper is greater than one who captures a city.

Proverbs 17:27

A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a man of understanding maintains a calm spirit.

Proverbs 29:20

Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger settles in the lap of a fool.

Treasury of Scripture