Consider whether you grew up in a “Toxic Shame” environment and to consider how you react when you are hurt. We encourage you that though shame-based parenting is often learned, and may be the way you were parented, it can be unlearned as well.
Shame, if you recall, is that terrible feeling of not fitting in, or being horribly wrong. It can happen among your teen’s friend groups, and it can happen in their place of employment. Unfortunately, though, the place it often happens the most is within the home.
Brené Brown wrote a book titled Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. In that book Brown states, “When it comes to our feelings of love, belonging, and worthiness, we are most shaped by our families of origin—what we hear, what we’re told, and perhaps most importantly, how we observe our parents engaging in the world.”
Though the way we might be shaming our tween or teen might be subtle, don’t for a minute doubt they don’t feel shame when it hits them. You are the key person in your tween or teen’s life that is supposed to be a safe place for them—a place where there is no shame, but acceptance. Even teenagers will interpret doing something bad, like a bad choice they’ve been punished for making, to “You are bad.”
Be careful about the verbal and silent messages you are sending your teen. Paul wrote, “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11). If we, as parents, are not “put to shame” in Christ, our teenagers shouldn’t be “put to shame” by us. We have daily opportunities to reflect Christ to them. View this week’s online parenting class.
Instead of resorting to shame when your tween or teen does something wrong or makes a poor choice, take a breath, take a step back, and ask God to help you remember that just as you are learning to parent better, and just as you make mistakes in life, so will they. Your tween or teen is at an age where they might be often frustrated, angry, or even hostile and push against everything you do or say. They might make poor choices, or even outright bad choices. It is an age of exploring, experimenting, and learning—and ultimately crossing over from teenager to young adult.
Shaming a teen for age-appropriate behavior will likely shut them down and crush their spirit, and could potentially interrupt this crucial stage of development. Though they might do things that you would classify as dumb, illogical, or impulsive, it’s part of their growth.
Above all, guard against shaming your tween or teen for something awkward they have done. You want to encourage them to find themselves and blossom into their own person, as God created them to be. And that is different than you.
The greatest thing you can do for your tween or teen is continually ask yourself what will help them flourish and grow into their potential, and preserve their dignity.
We hope this series on helping you identify whether you may be shaming your teen or tween has been helpful. Parents aren’t perfect (I know you know that!) and grace in abundance is needed when parenting your teen—but also for yourself when you make mistakes.
I am just an email away if you have any questions, concerns, or comments. You are not in this parenting journey alone!