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It’s useful to understand how and why shame is chosen when we are children. Once this is understood, shame can begin to be healed and released. For parents, this healing work helps them build a parenting style that minimizes the development of shame in their own children.

There are three basic parenting styles, authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. When parents are raising children, they either consciously or by default use one or more of three basic parenting styles. Authoritarian and permissive are most common. The third, authoritative parenting, is where we want to land, but generally requires the parent to do some inner work to achieve. How does this relate to shame?

Children are conditioned by their parents from birth. Conditioning means giving a child social feedback and boundaries based on our values—the conditions under which the child is going to live and be successful in any given culture and family. Parents do this in a wide spectrum of healthy and unhealthy ways, depending on their own upbringing, skill level, and current level of consciousness.

Authoritarian parenting is when a parent, whether intentionally or not, generates fear to get the child to do what they want them to do, or to stop doing what they want them to stop doing. This fear can be extreme or even just a bit, and is based on tangibles. That is, the parent says or shows, “I am bigger than you, stronger than you, smarter than you, older than you, and you will do what I say.” The child lives in an unpredictable environment where he can begin to feel like a burden because the parent does not invest time to understand or coach him. When the child is in need of redirection, the child develops a fear response that intensifies over a lifetime, “What is going to happen now? What harsh words will my ears hear now? How mad will my parent get this time? Will love be withheld? How will I cope?”

Authoritarian parenting can yield an immediate result, creating an appearance of effectiveness. This parenting style is ineffective because it does not help the child create a strong inner compass to guide them when they are not with the parent, or when they are grown. It is only effective when the fear source is present.

The outcomes of authoritarian parenting are expressed once the child reaches adulthood in two primary ways. First, they may play small because of the limiting beliefs and other cognitive distortions that develop as a result of the communication blockers used by the authoritarian parent throughout their childhood. Emotional intelligence is dampened. Second—the opposite—they display a false and exaggerated sense of self that is based on achievements and accumulation. These “accomplishments” can never satisfy because they are outside of the Self (looks, titles, power, wins, competitiveness, material acquisition). A grounded Self cannot be based on transient trappings that can be lost or eventually fade.

Permissive parenting is when a parent is afraid of creating conflict with their child. The parent is afraid of hurting their child’s feelings or self-esteem, sometimes because of the authoritarian parenting they themselves experienced as child. Try as they might, they are unable to implement boundaries and set reasonable limits for their child. Permissive parenting is marked by parents who say many things, but do not follow through. Basic integrity requires us to say what we will do, and then to do what we say. This is especially true in parenting and is where most parents miss the mark. With children, it is a “monkey-see/monkey-do” proposition—they watch us—that is how they learn. So the child lives in a confusing environment where he feels unworthy of follow through. “My parents only have enough energy to say the rules, but they don’t hold me to them. It’s too much work. I’m not worth it.”

Permissive parenting can seem effective because the parents are not necessarily yelling or outwardly traumatizing their children. They are so nice! This parenting style is ineffective because the child grows up with undefined values. They lack self-respect because they know, even before they can put words to it, that they are not fully integrated with their true self–so, they lack integrity. Like a candle in the wind, the child is easily influenced by others and lives without depth of conviction. This can lead to poor choices, ineffective relationships, and never reaching one’s potential–all of which increase shame.

Often, we see parents cycle between the two styles, as a counter-reaction to what they can see is clearly not working. This waffling adds indeterminable levels of stress to the family culture, exhausting the parents and creating insecurity for the children. And, there’s little left energywise for the marriage relationship. It would be too unsettling for the child to think of his parents as less than, or out of control, because that would mean he is unsupported in the world, which is an impossible situation. So, a belief that he is the cause is reinforced, he is bad, and shame is chosen.

The third parenting style, Authoritative parenting, is marked by parents who hold a clear set of identified values. These values guide their decision-making, so they enjoy the peace of Spontaneous Right Action—knowing what to do, why to do that, and how to do it, in any given situation. Authoritative parents create clarity, spaciousness, and harmony in the family culture. They commit to becoming a master communicator, which provides emotional safety for their children, and fosters a keen emotional intelligence in them. Clear boundaries are set, understood, and reflected through the actions of the family members. They are able to do this because they operate from their own integrated Adults Self (coming in The Essentials of Shame, Part 3). With authoritative parenting, highly effective leadership and collaboration are used to guide children through all the lessons they set up for themselves. Parents are differentiated from their children to a healthy degree, and this allows for optimum outcomes.

If this resonates with you and you’re ready for a personal roadmap, book a 20-minute call with me so I can assess what’s really going on and get you started on your way to becoming a master parent, today!

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