I first came across Brene Brown and her powerful message about the power of vulnerability a few years ago in her famous Ted Talk .
I’m not sure whay it has taken me so long to read one of her books (oh that’s right I’m a mum and don’t have a lot of spare time to read!) but a couple of weeks ago I picked up Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly and got so much out of it I wanted to share my lessons on the power or vulnerability when it comes to motherhood, parenting and relationships.
The power of vulnerability – Parenting
Many of us treat parenting as something we need to master and try and acquire the information we need to parent correctly in lots of different ways. How do we get our babies to sleep through the night, discipline our kids, feed our kids, nurture their creativity, give them the best chance at success in life etc. As mums, we have probably experienced judgement or judged another mum about aspects of parenting.
Brene explains “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting”
This takes the pressure off to ‘get parenting right’ but puts responsibility on us as mothers to be vulnerable by being the person we really want to be. In my Natural Super Kids program I talk about being a healthy role model for our kids because our kids do what we do not what we say and I feel like this is a similar concept.
Shame vs Guilt
Brene encourages us as parents to work hard at not shaming our children when they mess up or do something wrong. To do this we need to seperate our children from their behaviours. There is a significant difference between you are bad and you did something bad.
‘You are bad’ is shaming and if you are wondering why we want to avoid shaming our children here’s why – shame is correlated with addiction, depression, aggression, violence, eating disorders and suicide! So you can see why we want to avoid shaming our kids!
On the other hand ‘You did something bad’ tells a child they can change that behaviour and the behaviour is not who they are. Such a powerful and simple differentiation.
Being mindful about how you greet your child
Again something simple we can be mindful of when our child walks into a room – first thing in the morning, after school, getting ready to go out etc. Do you automatically pick on something ie you can’t wear that, slow down, wash your hands, tidy your hair, your shoes don’t match? Do you even look up from your phone? Make an effort to make your children feel valued and loved by looking at them, showing interest in them and not being critical.
The courage to be vulnerable
As parents we want to protect our children in any way we can. It is heart breaking to see them hurt, disappointed or excluded and often seeing these things in our children brings up bad memories of ourselves as children.
Brene says “Raising children who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail”
For me, this goes alongside teaching our kids that winning and succeeding are not everything. Giving things a go and putting yourself out there are much more important.
These are simply my take aways from Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly – powerful hey!
For a little more in depth wisdom from someone in the know I asked Emma Holdsworth from Treehouse Family Counselling for her views on parenting and shame and here is what she had to share
Parenting and shame
The shame attached to not being a ‘good enough parent’ is a heavy burden that unfortunately is carried by too many parents. There is so much judgement by society, the media, individuals and particularly other parents on what it means to be a ‘good or bad parent’, it is no wonder so many parents feel the shame associated with not being ‘good enough’.
How can we raise a generation of children who feel loveable and worthy of belonging? We can begin with a message of self-compassion, ‘I am enough’. According to Brenè Brown, “who we are as adults and how we behave in the world is much more important than what we know about parenting or what we say to our kids” so if we feel loveable and worthy of belonging then our kids will be more likely to feel it too. (Yes I know what you are thinking, easier said than done!)
Self-compassion is a skill that can be learned, like all other skills through practice. Brenè Brown talks about how shame is when you feel like you are bad, useless, not good enough etc rather than that you have made a bad choice or done a bad thing (she says this feeling of having done a bad thing is guilt and that guilt is not debilitating like shame). A practice of transforming your language from ‘I am bad’ to ‘I did a bad thing’ is a good place to start in combatting pervasive feelings of shame.
According to Brenè Brown the antidote to shame is vulnerability. Practicing vulnerability as a parent starts with getting comfy with talking about the real stuff and accepting help when you need it.
I am worthy of support and love.
I am worthy of connection and belonging.
Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step. When you put yourself out there, as in the real you, warts and all, you are more likely to develop true connection.
Parenting without shame
How do we support our kids to learn this important stuff about vulnerability, shame and self-worth?
- By living it, as discussed above.
- If your child has done something wrong, use language that tells them that their choice or behaviour was unacceptable. Never say things or dish out punishments that make them feel that they or their feelings are unacceptable, bad or a disappointment.
- Allow your children to speak freely and openly about their feelings and help them to explore them by actively listening to them without always trying to fix the problem. Let them sit with their feelings and work through them. You can then help your child find alternatives to feelings of shame. “I hear you saying you feel like a nasty person because of what you said to Tom, you are not a nasty person but it sure sounds like you said a really nasty thing”
- Own up to your own mistakes and admit when you have done the wrong thing. Use the language you want your kids to use. “When your dad and I had an argument, I said some things that were not okay to say to him, I feel really terrible about what I said and have apologized to dad about that, I want to let you all know that I am going to try really hard not to let my emotions get out of control like that next time we have an argument” (I made a mistake, I have made amends and I am going to try to do better next time)
- Support your kids to be vulnerable, try new things, push past their comfort zone from time to time, build trusting relationships, be curious, ask questions and ask for help when they need it.
- Respond appropriately. Never belittle, laugh at or put down your child for their vulnerability.
- Parent from a place of love, respect and connection and you can’t go wrong. No rule book required.
Don’t you just love Emma’s advice! I know some of the things Emma and I talked about overlapped but I think it always helps things really sink in when you hear them in a slightly different way.
Emma is passionate about supporting families to transform their relationships and works to help families to have deeper connections, positive communication, improved emotional health and wellbeing and confidence in themselves and their relationships. Be sure to check out her blog and offerings here
and be sure to grab a copy of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, it is such a great read!