What Happens When You Shame Your Kid


My kids spent much of their rainy summer assembling, rearranging, disassembling, and otherwise creating "forts." I have sheets, blankets, and furniture which will never be the same, but the good memories should outlast the duct tape damage. Since school started, we're gradually putting away the fort. In the tear-down process, I discovered a previously fully functional lamp which was striped out of its original casing and separated into a dozen little pieces with traces of pink duct tape still attached.  I had no idea a lamp could be so complex because after just a few minutes of "engineering," I knew the fix was above my skill set.

I was a tad steamed and confronted my daughter,

"WHAT were you thinking taking this thing apart?" I snapped. "I thought I could put it together in a different, more creative way,"  she said.

I was chaffed, but in a hurry to get everyone to bed, so I just let it go.  (And by "let it go" I mean my lecture on respecting personal property and disassembling things without permission only lasted five minutes.)


The next morning I was taking the kids for a Starbucks treat and grabbed the mail on the way out. My daughter sat in the back seat flipping through a catalog when she found a $500 lamp.

"What in the world?? FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS for a lamp??" she exclaimed.  "Who would pay THAT when a lamp is just a stick with a light bulb on the end!"


Talk about a softball!  I could scarcely contain my glee at having such a natural segue to talking about MY lamp. I jumped right in saying,

"Well, you didn't find lamp assembly so easy, did you? Otherwise I wouldn't have lost a lamp, right?"

Maybe I threw in another sentence or two just to make sure she got my point. Then I checked my rear-view mirror and I watched her eyes drop, followed by the rest of her head. If the seat-belt hadn't restricted her movement, I'm pretty sure she would have been in the fetal position.

Congratulations, I thought, on beating up a 10-year-old and losing "Mother Of The Year" award in one fell swoop.

Immediately, I said, "Ugh, I didn't need to say that kiddo.  I didn't need to shame you." "Well," she whispered, "I am shamed."

Self-condemnation swept over me like bad sushi.

  • Why would I immediately take the shaming route?
  • Why couldn't I just listen to her opinion on an expensive lamp?
  • Why didn't I just bite my tongue?
  • Why wouldn't I explain the fine art of lamp assembly?

Seeing my daughter's response was like looking in a mirror while under florescent lights and seeing something ugly staring back.  The mirror isn't to blame, the condition of the person is what's reflected.

I think looking in the mirror in glaring light is what makes parenting so humbling.

Sure, my kid needs to learn the value of a lamp, but I'm still a student too. I need to learn...

To "let go" -- really.

To value relationships over things OR expediency.

To be gentle and kind.

We spent our time at Starbucks talking about my parenting (ahem) abilities and my need for her forgiveness. Fortunately, my daughter has learned to "let go" and is both quick and generous when it comes to forgiving.