In March of this year Monica Lewinsky (yes, THAT Monica Lewinsky) gave a TED talk entitled: “The Price of Shame”.
She launched her presentation by asking: “Can I see a show of hands of anyone here who didn’t make a mistake or do something they regretted at 22?”.
I thought back to when I was 22 – yep, I am sitting on my hands also (actually, my goofs & missteps went WAY beyond 22)!.
When our two sons made “sub-optimal decisions” in their teen years and I was tempted to get on their case, most times (not all, unfortunately), I contained my anger, remembered my teen years, and simply said: “What did you learn from that?”
Training them to think, to make their own decisions, and giving them the freedom to skin their knuckles & knees on their journey to adulthood was the core of our plan.
It started with letting them dress themselves at age 3 – they decided to choose a polka dotted top with plaid pants – we knew that eventually, they would “figure it out” – and they did.
It continued with letting them choose what to eat at the buffet.
While we were not perfect – we made an effort to avoid using shame as a tool for guiding their behavior.
Shame doesn’t work – it actually destroys a fragile emerging identity.
Since as parents we desire that our children self-regulate their behavior, a great strategy is to focus on helping them develop a healthy conscience that guides them in their decision-making, both now & as adults.
P.S. Go to TED.com and watch The Price of Shame. It will change how you parent.