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Better Think Before You Punish Your Child For Shaming You

  • 4 min read

… your shame isn’t his fault.

When my friends’ children have bad grades, their parents flip out and get really mad — especially the fathers who think they have to punish their children.

But do they really have to? Wouldn’t it be better to hold on for a moment, breath in and out?


Responsive parenting in problematic situations

Have you ever heard of ‘responsive fathering’? It’s a key phrase in Jordan Shapiro’s new book exploring the identity of fathers in a modern household.

You may know Shapiro from his change-triggering NYT bestseller, ‘The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World’. In his new book, ‘Father Figure: How to Be a Feminist Dad’, he shares personal experiences and anecdotes describing his failures, as well as research-based insights.

This book redefines what it means to be a good father. It’s for anyone who dreams of a world where dads are both strong and kind — a world where children of any gender can look up to the men in their lives.

Adam Grant, #1 NYT bestselling author of THINK AGAIN

Since the book is for both — fathers and mothers, you can also say ‘responsive parenting’.

At the center of this idea is the question:

Why do I react the way I do in problematic situations?

Instead of having the fixed mindset of ‘I’m the father. I’m king of the house and center of the universe’, Shapiro recommends fathers should think more about what the other members of their family need from them on their journey to thrive.


I’ve done such a bad job. I’m not a good parent.

Shapiro explains what’s going on in a father’s brain.

A father thinks: ‘Oh, I’ve done such a bad job. I’m not able to make him/her an A-student. I’m not a good dad.’

Therefore, they are angry at their children, getting stuck, yelling at them, punishing them for making him feel this shame. Shame is an emotion and that’s for a reason. But this shame is not the child’s fault.

The root of this behavior is narcissism. Dad is the center of the story. Everything revolves around him because boys are taught to create ‘their story’.

Since fathers play a big role in their children’s lives, the NYT-bestselling author recommends acknowledging this fact and not becoming a villain in somebody else’s story.

Just as we take ownership of our choices, we need to own our mistakes as well. Making mistakes means we have an opportunity to apologize and to think about what we could have done instead. This sets a far stronger example for our children than blaming someone else.

How do fathers experience all the emotions and not get stuck in them?

Shapiro suggests, in problematic situations, to…

rather think: ‘My child struggles at school. How can I help and make him/her succeed?’

We are the children’s guide and their rock in the background.

The next steps may be:

  • Explore your emotions and the problematic situation first.
  • Respond rather than react.
  • Identifying the problem together with your (sensitive) child.
  • Help your child take responsibility when needed.
  • Sitting down and problem-solving with your child.
  • Discussing your child’s ideas about how he/she can improve their grades.

How to become a responsive parent?

We don’t need to be a boss giving our children orders or punishing them. We can simply be their guide. Moreover, when we threaten a child with punishment we begin to erode the trust between parent and child.

In order to become a responsive parent this is crucial:

  • Acknowledge your partner and children
  • Be respectful, kind, and clear
  • Be available when needed
  • Figure out what your family needs
  • Be willing to respond and to listen
  • Respond to the members of your family
  • Listen deeply with intention
  • Make time for your family
  • Help your partner as a co-parent, not an ‘assistant’

Food for thought, isn’t it?


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