GCU conference explores parents’ shame
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Shaming a child is not good, which instinctively most parents know.
Parents do it anyway because it makes the child stop bad behavior, at least in the short term. In the long term, there are consequences, mainly to their self-esteem.
For behavioral health professionals, the challenge is telling clients how to stop shaming.
That’s where the married-couple team of Ryan Sheade and Erica Tatum-Sheade comes in to help clinicians. The private practitioners, lecturers and educators from Scottsdale presented “Parenting Without Shame – What Clinicians Need to Know” on Friday at the GCU College of Humanities and Social Sciences‘ third annual Behavioral Health Conference.
“It’s how not to shame a parent for not parenting without shame,” said Ryan Sheade before taking the podium in a roomful of mental health professionals and students.
The conference was designed “to help professionals expand their knowledge base and show how passionate GCU is about behavioral health,” said CHSS Program Manager and conference organizer Jacqueline Webster.
Other presenters covered principles in working with complicated patients, empowering body and mind to lead a satisfied life and learning the different roles within the behavioral health system.
Shaming survives in silence, Ryan Sheade said, instead of parents asking the child, “What can I do to help you out?”
First, it’s helpful to know the types of parents and parenting techniques – also useful for those who aren’t practitioners.
Erica Tatum-Sheade described the parenting types: authoritarian (the because-I-said-so parents); permissive (“I love you so much, I’ll let you do what you want.”); uninvolved (children should be seen but not heard); the authoritative parent, which is the ideal, a parent with limits and boundaries but also love and warmth.
An authoritative parent doesn’t rely on punishment, but discipline. The former involves a punitive sentence without explanation while the latter issues consequences but also communicates why.
For example, said Ryan Sheade, after a “time out” you ask the child, “Do you understand why you had a time out? OK, I love you. Now go play.”
It’s important to separate the child from the behavior.
“There are no bad kids, just bad behavior and poor choices,” said Erica Tatum-Sheade.
Another mistake is children can grow up assuming they were born angry. Parents tell them they were always the one fussing, even as a baby. It’s a story that gets repeated and internalized. You weren’t born angry, but children do have different temperaments that parents need to adjust to.
“You have to parent every single child differently. That’s why teaching is so hard,” said Ryan Sheade, who also teaches social work courses at GCU.
All this talk of shaming doesn’t mean you heap praise on a child for everything. It doesn’t raise self esteem but creates a person always looking for the next fix of praise to feel good about themselves. A parent should focus on the effort, not the outcome.
The challenge is to get clients to recognize these factors without just writing a to-do list.
“When I’m training therapists, I tell them that our job is not to give people advice and tell them what to do. And so many therapists, that’s what they do,” Ryan Sheade said.
If you want to give advice, just be a hairdresser or bartender.
“If we tell people what to do, they go out and it works, then they don’t get to own that solution. They go out and it doesn’t work, it’s my fault,” he said.
People will ask Ryan or Erica, who have three children together, “What should I do?”
“I tell them I have no idea. I don’t live your life. I’m not in your house. There is no way I can have a full assessment. What do you think the best options should be? Brainstorm. Pick three. Try it. Come back and tell me how it works.”
The task is to tell parents how they may be shaming their children, what it looks like and feels like, and how to break those habits and set boundaries.
Erica describes parenting by using three body parts:
Hands: You give children support without pulling them along, just like when they are learning to walk. But you’ve got them when they fall.
Ears. “Listen to what that behavior is trying to tell you. Understand the need that behavior is trying to fill.”
Heart: “Heart is coming from a place of compassion and empathy. Our job is to sit with them and say this is hard. We are sitting with them in that hard place. Then they feel like they can come to us when it is hard. If you parent without shame, they will come to you.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.