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3 Effective Ways to Avoid Shaming Your Child

Updated: Mar 24

Kid feeling shame

Shame is a particularly powerful emotion since it persuades the person that there is something inherently wrong with them beyond repair.  Although adults might intentionally use this method for disciplining their child (unfortunately), kids tend to easily misperceive various forms of feedback that are rooted in good-faith, causing them to latch onto the pervasive emotion at times.  

Here are three effective ways to avoid shaming your child:

Target the behavior, not the person 

When we use generalized language to address a child’s behavior, it can be interpreted as an attack on them as a person, causing a self-defeating internal dialogue that eventually turns into a sticky label.  Additionally, if the child doesn’t know exactly why they’re receiving the feedback, they might conclude that there’s nothing within their control that can be changed.  To mitigate the possibility of this happening, avoid using generalized statements by clearly articulating that you’re upset with your child’s specific behavior.

Targeting the person:

“You make me sad!”

“I can’t believe you!”

Targeting the behavior:

“I feel sad when you call me that name.”

“I feel concerned that you would say that.”

Magnify their effort over outcomes

A proven way for kids to develop deep feelings of shame is by attaching their self-worth to exact outcomes.  Yes, you should absolutely maintain high expectations for your child to strive toward.  However, we know that failure and fluctuation are inevitable when seeking challenging things, so if a child believes perfection is required, they’re almost guaranteed to end up in a state of self-pity and shame.

You can prevent this from happening by prioritizing and recognizing things within your child’s control, such as setting and following through with plans with their best effort.  

Do it with them, not for them

Seeing kids struggle can be triggering and overwhelming for some parents since they believe it’s their responsibility to provide constant comfort.  On the flip side, parents might quickly try to intervene to prevent their child from escalating into a tantrum that they don’t want or know how to manage.  Regardless of the reason, compulsive rescuing is a great way to signal to the child that they’re incapable, resulting in feelings of shame that cultivate a mistaken belief that they don’t have agency over their life.

A simple way to avoid this is by providing help only after the child has given their best effort.


“I’m happy to help you as soon as you try your best.” 

“Try your best first, then let me know if you still need help.”

Zack Kasabo is a certified school counselor who has been working with extremely challenging behaviors for over eight years outside of Philadelphia, PA.  He is the owner of Kasabo Behavior Management which is a coaching service that specializes in helping parents confidently manage their child’s challenging behavior in 8 weeks or less.

You can schedule your free consult today to learn more by going to:

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