Sometimes I cringe when I hear “parenting” come out of my mouth. I am smart, educated, thoughtful, and attentive to my children. It’s hurts to admit this, but the words that I use with them don’t always reflect this.

I can be absolutely impatient and rude. 

Recently, my son dropped his cup of milk on the floor and I yelled, “What are you doing!?” as I took the cup from his hand and threw a towel on the floor to clean it up. I didn’t say it softly with compassion and concern. I actually yelled it.

At the core, this was an act of shaming. Asking this question did nothing to teach him to be more careful or how to solve the problem of cleaning up the mess made. It just made him feel poorly for making a mistake that most of us make from time to time.    

If I made a mistake at work and my boss yelled, “What are you doing!?” I would have welled up in tears. I wouldn’t have tried to solve the problem. I would have spent a good amount of time contemplating my bosses’ awful behavior instead of focusing on what I could do better next time. 

But, I did this very thing to my child and then expected him to be more careful next time. My question and accusation didn’t lead to a great interaction. 

Parenting is the lesson that keeps on giving as long as you are willing to accept the lessons. Most of the time my poor responses come out in the form of a rhetorical questions, and now I am trying to remove these questions from my language. 

Here are some questions to AVOID:

  • “What is wrong with you?”
  • “What is your problem?”
  • “What were you thinking?”
  • “Why would you do that?”
  • “How could you be so stupid?”
  • “Why can’t you be more like…?

Shaming isn’t just in questions. It’s also in name calling. 

  • Stop acting like a baby
  • Stop crying. 
  • You are being a bad girl today. 

No parent is perfect. No child is perfect. We all have to keep learning.

I never want them to feel shame for making mistakes. Instead I want them to feel my love and support when they do make mistakes. Along with me, I want them to experience the joys of learning. Sometimes the greatest joy can be found in our mistakes. 


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