Shame on You!


shame on you article revised
“Shame on you!” “You’re a bad girl!” “You’re naughty.” “You’re such a baby!” Many of us have probably heard these words said to us before. You might even find that you are saying them to your children.  These kinds of phrases are what I like to refer to as negative identity statements. These statements speak to who your child is and make a claim that can be hard to ignore.  And as a mama of two rambunctious little boys, they can slip out of the mouth all too easily! You see, the thing about words is that they always mean something whether they were spoken intentionally or not, and as mamas, those words hold intense power and weight over our children.

So, how do we replace these negative identity statements and still teach our children that their behavior is wrong? How can you discipline your child and show your displeasure while still loving them well? How do we discipline with kindness and patience? There isn’t a perfect formula, but here is what I have learned so far.

  1. Pause and think. When your child does something disrespectful or disobedient, give yourself a moment to calm down and wrap your head around the issue. Allow yourself to make as much of a calculated response as you can instead of an emotional reaction. This is much easier said than done (my emotions often rule my parenting, and my life), but try to practice it whenever you can remember. I once heard of a mother that would stop and rub lotion on her hands before addressing her kids in order to calm down and avoid saying things she would regret.
  2. Be compassionate with your words. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying- I’m not telling you to say everything by coating it with a spoon full of sugar. Instead, remember when you were a child and you made those same mistakes or exhibited that same behavior. (I know there are times when I realize I’ve done the exact same thing as an adult!) When we discipline our children, we should do so because we are concerned with the state of their hearts and not the outward appearance of their behavior. This means our words should show our children our concern for who they are, and not just what they’ve done.
  3. Be thoughtful and creative with your consequences for negative behavior.  Let the “punishment” (so to speak) fit the crime. Here are some things to take into consideration: age and maturity, personality, the frequency of this particular behavior, and the effect the behavior had on other people. For example, my four year old is an extrovert who loves being with people. One of the most effective consequences I could give him would be to cancel a play date. I know of another mom who was tired of her five year old refusing to share, so she made him give five of his toy cars away.
  4. Have an escalation procedure in place. Don’t pull out the big guns in your discipline arsenal first thing in the morning when you still have ten hours left in the day together. Come up with a plan so that you have something bigger to fall back on if things continue during the day.
  5. Reconcile the relationship. Never ever make your child feel like he or she has to earn your favor back. After you have talked and disciplined your child and you know they understand what they did was wrong, make sure your child knows that you love them. Don’t let your child feel like they have to put on extra good behavior so that you will like them again. Reconciliation restores the relationship and confirms your child’s identity and your unconditional love.

It is all too easy to look at our children’s misbehavior as an attack on our own personal identity. We become embarrassed and feel judged because our kids can’t keep it together like “that perfect mom” from your son’s preschool class. Don’t let yourself believe this lie! Our primary goal in parenting is to cultivate who our children are on the inside. So the next time you want to crawl into a hole deep in the center of the Earth and hide because of what your child just did, remember that what other people think doesn’t matter, but what your child thinks based on your response does. And guess what? We’ve all been there with you. You aren’t the only one!

What tips do you have for disciplining your children well without breaking their spirits? What practical ways have helped you make a rational response instead of an emotional reaction to your children? What is your biggest struggle when it comes to discipline?


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Nicole is a SAHM and mother to two amazing little boys. She has been married to the love of her life for eight years. She is a southern girl, born and raised in South Carolina. She studied music in college, and teaches piano lessons in her home. Some of her favorite activities include Zumba, thrift shopping, running, consuming too much coffee, getting sucked into Pinterest for hours at a time, and spending time with her family.