Grace Filled in a Shaming World


This is me, at the base of a mountain looking into shame and seeing how it affects my parenting. I see kids who have the potential to come unglued. To not have a firm foundation in their home — one which can be found in you as their mom — can be crippling. I know they say it’s wrong to live through your kids, that you could potentially cripple them.

But what if we step outside that box for a minute?

This is me, taking you into the first few words of a question, “What if…” What if we ran this whole parenting gig with meaning? What if instead of counting down the years with sadness, we counted up with gladness? Let’s take a lighthearted turn towards some easy-peasy, self-awareness ways to make some changes in our home, and help each other out by calling a spade a spade (or in this case, a shame a shame!).

“Shame drives two big tapes, ‘Never good enough’ and ‘Who do you think you are?’ Guilt says, ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake.’ Shame says, ‘I’m sorry. I am a mistake.’” — Brene Brown.

Here are some examples of family relationships that are shame based:

  1. Putting the pressure to perform on your child. This can cause them to do good behaviors just to get love from you. Ouch!

  2. Out loud shaming. Communicating to your child that something is wrong with them. “You should have known better!”

  3. Manipulation. A heavy focus on figuring out, “Who did this? Who’s to blame? Someone better fess up now!” is shaming a child into fault.

  4. Strong on head skills. Your kid often says, “I did it because sister did that to me first!” They know how to defend and it can be tiring!

  5. Weak on heart skills. Teaching our kids that they aren’t allowed to feel, that feelings are selfish. If your kid yells at you, do you yell back at them and tell them they’re wrong?

Grace-based family:

  1. People oriented. Edifying your child’s gifts and uniqueness. Affirming who they are, not who you want them to be.

  2. Affirming your love, out loud, often and consistently. “I am so glad you’re in this family!”

  3. Seeking to understand. Putting the focus on “what” a kid did, not “why” they did it. This takes HUGE amounts of humility on our end as the parent. In our family, we would say something like, “We are good, because God loves us. It’s okay to be a kid. He is our need meet-er.”

  4. Heads are used for thinking. Thinking to problem solve and for learning. Feelings are also valid and useful.

  5. You don’t have to be perfect. How you feel on the inside can show on the outside!

This is not your “Leave it to Beaver” perfect family sitting around the dinner table six out of seven nights a week. Being grace-based versus shame-based might not leave room for Pinterest-worthy homes. This is a family that places emphasis on forgiveness, love, and seeking to understand and leaves room for learning.

In today’s world, it’s evident that we are quick to defend and heavy on Mom-shaming; unfortunately, we are passing those behaviors down to our kids.

As a first-time boy Mom, I thought it was my job to raise a “tough, hard working, provider.” This way of parenting will only churn out a boy who is quick to critique and filled with fear of perfection. How far from that truth I am now! By looking through the lens of what our little men can add to the world and letting them recognize their emotions, allows them to step into an arena of greatness.

The words below, spoken by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne University in Paris, sum up what it can look like to have our kids emerge from our homes, filled with grace to give others:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid should who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I hesitated to share this next bit, but I really think it can be helpful. How do you know if you’re filled with shame? 

  1. Do you think that each time you make a mistake you are unworthy and worthless? 

  2. Are you striving to be perfect so that you can be as good as everyone else?

  3. Is it hard to keep up a facade, because you live in fear that people will know your shortcomings (late, disorderly, careless)?

  4. Do you avoid how you’ve messed up?

I’m not counselor, but I can recommend a good one in Chattanooga. I want to start a dialogue about naming shame, that which we feel internally and that which manifest externally to our children. I want to break the cycle with story sharing. Not shame sharing and burden carrying, but by talking about the normalcy of feeling at the end of the rope with parenting. Then, through the wisdom of others, we can learn how to climb back up!