The Shame game…

Trying to explore a bit more about attachment parenting, as I’m feeling rather lost. Well not so much attachment parenting, as I did the whole gentle birth, breastfeeding, baby carrying thing the second time. What to do with a toddler? With H we did smacks, time out, shame whatever to control her behaviour. S is throwing tantrums constantly when she is denied something, and she knows she is not going to get it. While I clearly remember how that feels (oh yes) I don’t necessarily know how to help her through it. We have had two successful episodes of “alternative parenting”, i.e. not time out/shame/punishment for behaviour. There were consequences but not necessarily direct punishment.

The discovery was that the outcome is much better, happier for everyone – however it takes so much energy, patience and gentleness to get there.  And of course TIME.  A quick time out (2-5 minutes) means behaviour modified, and lets move on. Alternative parenting can take up to half an hour or more, requiring levels of patience I wasn’t sure I actually had. The psychologist is right, in that if the perspective and understanding is changed then patience is not the effort it was, it removes the intolerance and of course the resentment to some degree.

I am of course greatly concerned that I am rewarding the “bad” behaviour, but her distress at time out, coupled with H’s distress at time out (still) up to age 8 years old, says that perhaps it is like locking them in the cellar. S has been voluntarily running to her room to cry, but the last two days has been enraged at being denied her wishes. Given she was a reasonable placid toddler (like H) – I’m a bit stumped as to what to do with them.

In an effort to find out more, or get some advice I was googling attachment parenting, and started to read an article “Good Children – At what Price?” which I didn’t realise was actually written by my psych! My annoyance with the article was that it lacks scientific backup/references. Grand sweeping statements such as “Numerous studies have shown…” – what studies? where? what were the variables? I will have to ask him for those, although I imagine they are in his book.

Anyway, after I realised the authorship, I read it a bit more closely. Whether scientifically proven or not, he really does understand shame. He indicated in one of our sessions what his parents were like, and I know elements of it echo my own upbringing.

While a lot is interesting and of course warrants further investigation into those studies/individual’s work, there was one quote I do not relate to, and feel is not correct for me – “In fact, psychotherapists and researchers are finding that individuals who are more prone to shame, are less capable of empathy toward others, and more self-preoccupied.” Certainly, I am self-preoccupied of course, but I definitely have empathy for others. In fact that empathy and compassion is often debilitating for me. I not only remember but truly know how my kids feel, watching a child tantrum is like a step back in time for me, I get it!

Some quotes that mattered to me:

“Thomas Scheff, a sociologist at the University of California, has said …People who feel shamed tend toward two polarities of expression: emotional muteness and paralysis, or bouts of hostility and rage. ”

“Psychiatry lecturer, Dr Peter Loader, says that people cover up or compensate for deep feelings of shame with attitudes of contempt, superiority, domineering or bullying, self-deprecation, and obsessive perfectionism.”

“When shaming has been severe or extreme, it can contribute to the development of mental illness. This link has been underestimated until now. ”

Hmm, wouldn’t that be nice to blame it all on my father! Not fair though, although I don’t doubt it had a part to play, given that my  first wish to die was in Year 7 (age 12). Also, I don’t like to think that I would be a bully, but I do have tendencies towards the other behaviours…

“This imagined malevolence is usually what underlies the impulse to shame children.”

“Provocative behaviour can indicate boredom, or perhaps the need for another ‘dose’ of juicy engagement with someone who is not feeling irritable, someone who has the time and energy to spare.”

And there’s the basic crux of the problem – I DON’T HAVE TIME AND ENERGY TO SPARE, AND I AM IRRITABLE 50% OF THE TIME.


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