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Are we shaming our children?

Robin Grille is a father, psychologist in private practice on the Northern Beaches, an author, and a parenting coach and educator.  I am an avid supporter of Robin’s belief that “humanity’s future is largely dependent on the way we collectively relate to our children”.  This is a huge responsibility for parents today.

As I go about my business walking around the Northern Beaches where I live, I tend to observe the people around me.  All too often I will see a small child standing there looking up with fear in his eyes – with (I’m guessing) his mum or dad towering over him – yelling – making threats!!!   Now, that child may well have been behaving inappropriately, getting on someone’s nerves or causing some commotion  – I can’t know what has lead up to the child being spoken to in this way.  What I do know is that this is causing distress for that child … shame … fear … anger !  Verbal punishment is commonly used to regulate children’s behavior and relies on shame as a deterrent.  Robin asks the question, “What if shaming our children is harming our children?”


  1. Is aimed at curtailing behavior through negative feelings and thoughts

  2. Involves a direct or indirect comment about what the child ‘is’

  3. Gives the child a negative image about ‘self’ rather than the ‘behavior’

Examples of Shaming:

  1. “you’re naughty”

  2. “stop acting like a spoilt brat”

  3. “don’t be so stupid”

  4. “stop being a cry-baby”

  5. “big boys don’t act this way”

  6. “you are just being silly”

When parents feel irritated, frustrated or overwhelmed, they may resort to shaming.  Unfortunately, this is common and many people consider it acceptable.  It does not mean that parents don’t love or care about their children.  The shaming may occur due to a lack of insight into the negative effect that shaming has on children and a lack of awareness about other options to deal with a child’s challenging behavior.

Submitted by Rosemarie Nugent – Psychologist.

References: ; ; ‘Good’ Children – at what price? The secret cost of shame – by Robin Grille and Beth McGregor.

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