Google+ Authentic Parenting: Shaming or Showing The Way

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shaming or Showing The Way

Finding the kitchen floor covered in water, walls scribbled on in blue crayon, or your favorite shoes full of glue are not exactly the special moments of parenthood – or are they? Could these moments be special moments? Would you be interested in transforming those seemingly annoying, laborious, stressful situations into positive and even special moments?

When parents make a conscious choice to skip the shame, guilt and hurt that comes with using spankings, isolations and punishment for “bad behavior" and instead search for positive alternatives, they can guide children into a direction of confidence and capability.

Children are not meaning to cause trouble or mayhem- often they are just being curious and need some guidance. Working together, parents and children can find meaningful connections and learn so much about team work, life skills and how to navigate the world even in the face of “bad” moments.

If a glass gets knocked over, juice spills or milk overflows, a child can use a rag and dry it up. Perhaps the parent will help a bit, but a child as young as 18 months can appreciate the value of team work, partnership and the ability to do something for herself.

If you find markers on the wall, paint on bathroom counter, or crayon on the carpet, a warm soapy sponge and scrubbing and drying the mess together shows a child that there are solutions to problems, ways to fix “wrongs” which is such a valuable life skill.

“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.” Chinese Proverb

When we involve our children in the process, they can learn that cleaning up is hard work, while at the same time realizing they are capable. Learning how to work together with a parent or sibling can enhance family harmony, sibling relationships and a child’s overall self confidence too.

The truth is, there are no magic formulas or one-size-fits-all solutions or any one thing that will guarantee that “bad behavior” will not happen again. Several different bodies of research* show that spanking and punishment will not lead to any long term results or ultimate compliance either. On the contrary, it actually shows that over time, punishments can have negative impacts on a child’s esteem, confidence and overall wellbeing.

This parenting thing is hard work and demanding compliance may make things easier at times, but as a parent do you want your child to grow into a compliant being or into someone with bright ideas, a thinker, a leader, someone with a passion for learning, understanding and exploring the world? Fostering cooperation and helping children learn like skills even amidst stressful situations is as special as parenting moments can get.

Have you had any special moments (i.e. paint on the walls or glue in your shoes) with your child recently? How did you handle it?

Peace & Be Well,

*There are several research studies on this, just some examples are the research done by UNH researchers Trinkner; Ellen Cohn, professor of psychology; Cesar Rebellon, associate professor of sociology; and Karen Van Gundy, associate professor of sociology. Joan Durant, a professor at University of Manitoba and Ron Ensom, with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.



  1. So true! My almost 2 year old accidentally spilled a cup of water the other day. I didn't freak out, just went and got him a hand towel and asked him to clean it up(most of the water was contained on the end table). He wiped the water up by himself, and seemed to enjoy doing it! It's amazing how different things can be when you approach things with a 'how can we solve this problem' mentality vs. 'how can I punish you for being wrong' mentality.

  2. Great article , I am so glad that I have visited your site.I was looking for this information.

  3. When I did Montessori training I was impressed how each activity had an inbuilt consideration of how the child could self correct if they'd spilt something or made a mess. It is an empowering thing to be able to give a child a cloth and let them clean it up themselves. To my shame I have sometimes been so obsessed one of my children will spill something, then they don't and later in the day I knock it over! Which is a good humble reminder that adults are accident prone too....

  4. Yes! The how can we solve this mentality is so helpful! Thank you for sharing your experience. I love hearing and seeing tots being so capable, that twinkle in their eye of "did it myself" is just wonderful.

  5. We do this all the time, even with other people's kids when they're over. I do remember one time I almost absolutely lost it! I was making a Waldorf doll for Sprout (lots of hand sewing, lots of time involved) and he got a hold of it before it as even finished and decided to decorate it with markers. I must've turned white, but managed a "wow, I see you were decorating dolly's face" he was so happy. I have to admit though, we did give dolly a bath afterwards.


I love comments! Drop me a line