There is not a parent that I know of who loves their child so much that they would intentionally bully them. Every parent wants the best for their child and means well. What if by chance, you were actually unintentionally bullying your child? Is that actually possible, because after all, you are your child’s protector, comforter… supreme adorer? You bet it is!
When most people hear the word “bullying” in relation to their child, they instantly cringe and tell you, “I don’t bully my child, no way would I ever lay a hand on them!”. I am sure that is true for many! Did you know that bullying comes is all shapes, sizes and packages? Bullying can come in the form of mental, emotional and verbal abuse, oh yes, the power of the word! As we mature, we are equipped to adequately discern statements, and get underlying messages and intentions. This is however not true for children as they are still ‘wet behind the ears’ in their interpretations and perceptions. Basically, what you say is what they get! So parents, this is where you come in…
Are you unintentionally shaming or blaming your child, or are you taking a ‘taming’ approach as I like to call it? Before you want to shoot me for using the term ‘taming’ because you may think that I am referring to your kids as animals, ‘taming’ in this context means to train, discipline and control your children (Besides, I am sure some of you have affectionately called your kids, “rug rats”, “little kitten”, “tiger”, etc., in the past!). After all, these three attributes of ‘taming’ definitely present a more stable, psychologically and emotionally healthy environment, and rearing for your child.
Conversely, shaming or blaming are non-intentional bullying approaches that could potentially harm your child’s self-esteem, ability to master tasks, and this could lead to anxiety, behavioral problems or even depression. The shaming and blaming mentality is very old school and outdated, but still used today by parents because that was something they were conditioned to as children, as were their parents, and generations prior most likely. Just like priceless heirlooms being passed down and accepted, these intangible, negative parenting behaviors are unconsciously engrained, accepted and unchallenged, because after all they must work because you turned out okay… correct?
Communication is paramount in any relationship, even more important in parent/child relationships. Did you know that back in the 1990’s some research found that on average parents spent roughly 2 1/2 to 6 1/2 minutes per day engaging their children in meaningful communication? WOW! Furthermore, that meaningful communication revolved around these similar themes; “Why is your bedroom always messy, do you like living like a pig?”, “Why don’t you have all ‘A’s’ on your report card, come on, your smarter than that!”, “Why can’t you be more like so and so?”, “Stand straight, shoulders back, look presentable!”, etc., the list goes on. These are ‘shaming’ and ‘blaming’ motivators. Parents mean well, they want what is best for their kids, but sometimes using the iron fist, ‘good cop, bad cop’ approach is the reason that kids are doing what they are doing in the first place, and that you feel the need to blame/shame them in your communication.
When you ‘tame’ you are taking the time to explain and truly understand why your kids are doing what they are doing. Furthermore, you correct them when they make mistakes, and praise them for doing good. Taming truly is all for discussing and communicating consciously, rationally and most importantly, listening to what your kids are saying rather than just hearing them. Guess what? When you blame/shame, your kids are most likely tuning you out–hearing you, but not listening to what you are saying because it is the same ole, same ole.
So, why not get into some ‘taming’ with your kids? It is so simple, any parent can do it! The best way to ‘tame’ is to state your intentions in specific terms to your kids so they understand what you want, or do not want them to do. It is best not to order your kids to do things, as that is the path of greatest resistance and they are less likely to tune you out with a “Whatever!” Instead, when you ask your kids to do something, tell them how much you appreciate it and offer your gratitude in advance.
Does it really work? If so, how? Let’s say you are constantly after your kids to do their homework. This may be the case even more so if they are not pulling good grades, even failing. Perhaps your typical method of operation is one of shaming, “Are you kidding me? You haven’t done your homework yet? No wonderful you are failing! Do you want to be a failure and wind up being a loser?” I know this may sound harsh, but some parents lose control because they love their kids so much. They want to see them succeed and they say harsh comments out of desperation. This is blaming. Does it work? Perhaps it could if done occasionally, but children will shut it out, or feel berated which could undermine their self-esteem. Instead, you could try using a taming approach such as, “You didn’t do your homework yet? How do you hope to succeed when you are not putting the effort in? You know that if you want to succeed at anything, you have to try. You are a smart person, and I want what is best for you, as I am sure you do. So what do you think you have to do to succeed?” Taming is great as it demonstrates to your children that you want to work with them to succeed at what you want them to master. Also, by asking questions, you are engaging in a civilized conversation which builds a good rapport and shared interest. Children are more likely to keep their listening ears open!
As a general rule, people like to live to the perceptions they have of themselves based on how others see them. This is called Looking Glass Self–you see yourself as you believe others see you, and then think, feel, act and eventually become that person. So, if you imply or tell your child they are doing “good”, they are going to live to that stereotype. Heck, it has worked in reverse for shaming/blaming hasn’t it? Praise your kids not only when they do good, but in advance as that is the ultimate compliment to them and it is a great ‘taming’ practice. Always be genuine and sincere when grooming your kids with positive praise as they can see through phoniness and patronizing. After all, they are not dogs!
Peter Andrew Sacco PH.D. is the author of many popular international selling books and more than 800 articles. He currently hosts a weekly radio show, “Matters of the Mind” which features celebrities with whom he discusses mental health, relationship and addiction issues. He is an award-winning executive producer and award winning lecturer, and host of documentaries on relationships, psychological issues and children’s issues. To learn more about Peter, please visit http://www.petersacco.com and http://www.bullyingisforthebirds.com, where parents, teachers and kids can download his new book Bulling Is For The Birds for free.