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What child has not ever hidden behind mom or dad? Who has not had the colors removed or has felt the heat of shame on their cheeks? And is that few people escape from this unpleasant feeling that this emotion causes us. We talk about the shame and we wonder what can children learn from this emotion and what function does this have within the emotional intelligence of our children.
Shame is a social emotion that appears in those moments when we feel exposed and evaluated, like when we must speak in public or when we are with a group of people we do not know.
It is one of those emotions classified as secondary or social emotions. Secondary because is a combination of primary emotions like fear, sadness and anger. And classified as social because we feel it when we interact with other people, just as guilt is. A learned emotion that we probably wouldn't feel as intensely if it wasn't instilled in us so much from birth.
Shame is such a powerful emotion that it can paralyze us and limit our lives, causing great suffering. That is why it is necessary know how to identify and know it. Detect what its main triggers are and what we can do to help our children to have it.
But not everything is going to be negative. Shame, as an emotion, has an adaptive function. In other words, it is up to us to help us regulate our behavior depending on the situation and the stimuli that we are perceiving to prevent us from doing or saying something.
It also helps us to recognize our mistakes and to want to repair them. But when shame appears intensely, frequently and on many occasions it can become a problem that we must solve before it reaches more.
All children, adolescents and adults feel ashamed. It is inevitable, as is feeling any other emotion. But there are times when the shame is excessive and it can cause a lot of pain and suffering.
It occurs frequently in boys and girls:
- With low self-esteem, with little security and confidence in themselves.
- Who perceive and experience social situations as a threat.
- They are afraid of making a fool of themselves, not knowing what to do, what to say, afraid of the looks of others and what they will think of them.
Following these thoughts and withdrawal or isolation behaviors there is a learning story that has led them to think and feel this way. Among the different causal factors we highlight the following:
- Overprotective or authoritarian parenting styles.
- Being the victim of abuse in the family or school bullying.
To help children face their shame and prevent it from taking a relevant role in their way of being and behaving, parents must:
1. Respect and validate your emotions, any of them. This means understanding how they feel, naming the emotion, and giving them permission to express it in a healthy way.
2. Better to use expressions such as: 'I understand it', 'I know how you feel', 'It happened to me the same when' ... than these others: 'There is no big deal', 'Come on, don't be ashamed of ... . '. Although the latter are well intentioned, they do not help at all.
3. Be more aware of our parenting style, since our way of raising and educating has a great weight in the Emotional intelligence development of our children.
4. Avoid overprotection or an excessively rigid and authoritarian parenting style, since both ways of proceeding prevent the development of essential life skills and competencies, generating feelings of inferiority and of little personal worth.
5. Help you build a positive self image following the recommendations explained below.
6. Promote autonomy from the first years. We must let children learn to do things for themselves as María Montessori used to say 'Any unnecessary help is an obstacle to development'. Although when you require it, we will always be there to support you.
7. Assess their qualities and merits and avoid putting the focus of our eyes on what is not yet capable of doing.
8. Praise effort, the small steps and not so much the final result. When we value only success we send a message to our children that only good results and perfection matter.
9. Avoid negative comments, unnecessary criticism or the high expectations they undermine their self-concept and foster feelings of insecurity and disability in our children.
10. Avoid perfectionism. Accept our imperfections as parents and those of others, we all make mistakes, there are no parents and children.
11. Provide safe environments in which you feel free to learn and express yourself without fear of error, failure, or disappointment.
In summary, shame is an emotion that although we cannot avoid feeling, we can prevent it from limiting and preventing our children from advancing.
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