When my daughter was 2 months old, my husband and I wrote commitments to her about how we intended to be with her as parents. For us, writing these words wasn’t just a symbolic act; it was a way to clarify our intent to her, to each other, and to ourselves. My husband and I are far from perfect in fulfilling these commitments, yet they are touchstones that help us stay true to our deepest wishes and enable us to keep our focus on the big picture when the daily responsibilities of parenting leads us into the weeds.
Intentions meet reality ― and it’s not always a pretty sight
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a recovering perfectionist and motherhood is helping me to be more forgiving of my “failures.” Sometimes, however, the guilt and shame is so strong that it takes me awhile to stop beating myself up. One of the things that triggers my shame is when I realize that I have shamed my daughter. I feel heartsick when this happens, in part because it is so NOT how I want to be with my daughter. Doing anything that potentially leads her to view herself as unlovable, unworthy, or fundamentally wrong is the exact opposite of my deepest intentions.
Shaming isn’t always easy to catch
I’m not shaming my daughter blatantly – most parents aren’t. I’ve never said “You should be ashamed of yourself,” for instance (just imagining doing this makes my stomach turn). But I’ve discovered that there are things that I do and say that could lead my daughter to infer this message just the same. And based on what I’ve seen in the parent-child interactions I observe and the conversations I have with my clients, many parents are in the same boat – we commonly communicate in a way that could lead our children to experience shame. It’s unintentional, yet the end result is still sending our children the message: you are unlovable, you are not okay exactly as you are.
We can stop shaming our children
In my video, I share examples of the ways we’re sending these shaming messages. I made the video not to judge anyone (remember, I’ve done these things too). I created it in hopes of awakening moms and dads to their parenting habits so that they can determine if these behaviors are helping them be the parent they truly want to be.
From my perspective, one of the top responsibilities of parents everywhere is to safeguard our children’s sense of self-worth and self-love that they were born with but that events in life make it easy for them to question. If we’re communicating in a way that says “you’re not okay as you are,” we’re eroding our children’s worth and they will mimic our criticism with their own internal voice. Because I want my daughter to know without a doubt that she is lovable and worthy exactly as she is, I’m being mindful of the messages I’m sending her!
I’d love to continue exploring this subject if it struck a resonant chord with you. If you’re ready to make concrete changes to shame less (or not at all), you can get my free Shame-Free Parenting Tips (and subscribe to my list) or check out my Stop Shame Ecourse. You can join a worldwide community of moms focused on mindful, peaceful parenting in my Facebook group, The Conscious Moms’ Circle. You can also reach out to me via Twitter (@ShonnieLavender) and Google+. Find more conscious parenting tips on my YouTube channel or my blog.