A dear friend of mine recently recommended a book, Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown. I ran out and bought a copy as I am always looking for new ideas about parenting and living life to the fullest. I don’t always agree with everything I read, but I take bits and pieces and small pearls of wisdom and try and incorporate them into my thinking, parenting, and teaching.
Last week, I read a chapter that included many ideas about shame- how powerful shame is and how powerfully it can effect people for years and years.
I bring this up, because I was recently at a child care center visiting one of my practicum students. I found everything about this place really lovely. It was clean, organized, and inviting. The children in the classroom that I visited were engaged and happy, busy and inquisitive. The lead teacher had a gentle touch and a strong sense of structure. She was fair and just and smart and funny. Everything about this room made me smile.
So, imagine my dismay, when I was walking through the building on my way out, and out of another classroom comes a teacher with a small boy firmly in hand (and by firmly I mean semi-dragging him along by the upper arm). He was crying uncontrollably, really distraught. The teacher proceeded to yell (speak loudly?) down the hall at someone who was probably some sort of an administrator. “When are we going to get this kid’s parents in here? This has gone on long enough. Today, he is throwing things.” The other woman replied with, “I’m calling them right now. Just you wait ’til your parents get here.”
My heart sank and then broke into a million pieces. The shame that was wrought on this young child is so much more damaging than any infractions he could have committed. I am not suggesting that the child was not behaving appropriately. I have no idea if he was or he wasn’t. I am POSITIVE that these two grown people were behaving inappropriately. Publicly shaming a child (it was public because I witnessed it), dragging him down the hall, as if he were a criminal, and then threatening him with the wrath of his parents was more than I could bear.
There are a few golden rules. “Never talk about children in front of children” is one I live by. Dr. Brene Brown’s book explores the longterm effects of shame on children. Remember, something that is said today, can stick with a child for years to come.