SHAME is described as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. It is a loss of respect or esteem, it is dishonour, or a person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honour.

Shame is one of the biggest killers of our teenager’s self-confidence and self-esteem. It robs identity and purpose and makes an individual hide away or cover actions that need to be spoken of. Without releasing confusion, regret, embarrassment, hurt or frustration the feelings can end up crippling a person in later life, and become the root cause of depression, hopelessness and under achievement.

Although shame is an emotion that is closely related to guilt, it is important to understand the difference. Shame can be defined as 'a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.' Others have distinguished between the two by indicating that 'We feel guilty for what we do. We feel shame for what we are.' That is why I continually stress the importance of distinguishing the behaviour of the teen from the person they are. It is critical that we always LOVE the person but discuss and focus on the behaviour.

Shame is often a much stronger and more profound emotion than guilt. Shame is when we feel disappointed about something inside of us, our basic nature. Both shame and guilt can have intensive implications for our perceptions of self and our behavior toward other people, particularly in situations of conflict. But self-esteem is the one valuable tool we all need in life in order to be able to survive.

The teen years are simply a period of maturation between childhood and adulthood, but in the process of transition a child must journey through self discovery in numerous areas of their lives; physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, relationally and sexually, in order to arrive at an understanding of who they are. That is a lot to accomplish in only a few years of their lives!

One of our many roles as parents is to steer our teens through ‘change’ with the stability, safety and security in place to support them through these tough years. We are their support. We are their rock and foundation platform from which they NEED to be able to mistakes and as a consequence learn, mature and grow.

MISTAKES ARE THE GREATEST GIFT TO OUR TEENS BECAUSE IT’S WHERE THE GREATEST GROWTH COMES…….but we don’t like to see ‘failure’ and so we either try and rescue our teens from facing it OR ignore it, hide it and cover it up when it happens.

By not honouring the role that mistakes have, we deny our teens the greatest opportunity to become who they are. Therefore we need to stand alongside our teens IN THE MIDST of their mistakes and provide the opportunity to discuss choices and options to overcome difficulty, empower them, equip them and educate them in change. We have to be strong and emotionally mature ourselves in order to do this well and so I urge parents to disentangle from their own insecurities, fears and inhibitions by also seeking some help or support at this time. We are responsible for our teenagers, but we also need to take ownership of our reactions to their behaviour without blaming them for triggering us. If something is there to be triggered, it is not our teen who is to blame!


One of the challenges of identifying symptoms of shame is that they look very similar, if not identical to, symptoms of depression. Teens may often withdraw from loved ones, feel apathetic toward activities that were once enjoyable, isolate themselves, and experience feelings of being overwhelmed but have difficulty expressing any of these feelings. Teens suffering from shame might also lose their appetites, fall behind in school, and have trouble in relationships. By many measures, they appear depressed.


Shaming your child when he/she does something wrong is not a correct way to discipline a child, it doesn't matter how old the child is. Shaming children can sometimes even turn the child against the parents and the child will be more inclined to sneak around you and lie to you. Often your teen just wants to talk and get help, but if they open up and are honest they al