top of page

Is Inducing Guilt in a child a helpful training tool?

A common practice for many parents is to use guilt to induce shame. The thinking is that I can correct my child's behavior by making the kid feel guilty. This practice usually works to modify behavior in the short term. Most children crave parental acceptance and approval. Children experience feelings of safety and love when the parent rewards them with a smile or kind words. They feel guilt when the parent or guardian withholds approval. Guilt techniques can be as simple as saying:

  • You took two pieces of candy. I wonder who won’t get one because you were selfish.

  • You hurt Grandpa’s feelings when you wouldn’t kiss him goodbye.

You didn’t memorize your Bible verse as the other kids did.

  • Oh, you only got 4 A’s. I thought there would be 5. Maybe you’ll do better next time.

Some parents and educators believe that it is essential to teach a child to feel guilty when they’ve done something disobedient. They think that guilt will stop the child’s misbehavior. The guilt may indeed stop the behavior, but it tends to intensify the longing for the deed, thereby reinforcing the guilt. Many churches adhere to the scripture, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” As predicted, this technique often creates a condition whereby the child feels guilty for what they’ve done. Then the child thinks about their behavior, followed by the belief that God listens to their thoughts. Their guilt is not a helpful technique to ensure moral behavior. Instead, it keeps the child tied to the act in the form of evil thou

ghts God hears.

Some believe that guilt will help make a child more compassionate. For example, “You should share your toys with the neighbor boy because he has less than you.” The intent is to make the child aware of the plight of the other boy. Unfortunately, the use of guilt as a training tool doesn’t make a person more compassionate. It makes the child more internally focused. They are always looking inward to see how they “should” behave instead of how an externally focused individual would act.

A healthier training tool would be to say to the child, “Let’s see who we can help today to make the world a little better. Do you have any ideas?” This approach is more favorable because it helps to encourage the child’s altruism instead of creating a sense of guilt. Guilt is not the same as remorse. Expressing remorse is feeling sorry for something that one has done to someone or something else. Remorse is a looking outward action. Guilt has nothing to do with anyone else. It focuses only on the self.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

#MentalHealth #Childcare #Fanaticism #Consequences #RaisingaKindChild What does a child deserve? What does a child deserve? Lots of people would say that the most important thing children deserve is l

bottom of page