Keep in mind
Most parents have been
frustrated by their children. It goes
with the job. At such times, they can
even be tempted to use words such as,
“What’s wrong with you?” or “Shame
But growing evidence shows that
It’s a shame
Disgracing a child can lead to addiction
repeatedly shaming children can createtoxic stress, which in turn can lead toaddictions and other unhealthy waysof coping later in life.
“The problem with [constant]
shaming is that it addresses the
person, rather than the behaviour,”
“Rather than thinking they made
a mistake, children who are shamed
grow up believing they are the
Repeated shame can make children
feel inferior, insecure and lonely.
Shamed children can grow up to be
adults who are shy and defensive, and
who fear self-exposure and intimacy.
Garrett says that although many
shamed children can become driven
adults, no matter what they achieve it
never seems enough.
Nicole Letourneau, a Calgary-based researcher who holds theNorlien/Alberta Children’s HospitalFoundation Chair in Parent-InfantMental Health, describes shame as theopposite of unconditional love.
“Shame tells a child, ‘you havefailed me.’ It tells the child that theirparent’s love for them is conditionalon performance.” Instead, childrenneed to know that someone is alwaysthere when they need them. They areimportant and loved—no matter howmuch milk they spill.
New research on the brain
suggests that addiction, whether to
substances such as drugs and alcohol,
or to behaviours such as gambling
or shopping, replaces some of the
rewards that normally come from
healthy human relationships. An
addiction becomes the medication to
hold down bad feelings about the self,
or, as Canadian doctor and author
Gabor Maté has described it, “a hug in
Early, stable and secure parent-child
attachments are the key to children’s
long-term mental health, Letourneau
says. “A child has to know that comfort
will come when needed. There have
been a lot of books written about
parenting, but it really just boils
down to trying to be there when your
kids need you. Do your best and love
— Greg Harris
Early, stable and secure parent-child attachments are key to children’s long-term mental health.