Parenting Advice from Houston’s Brene Brown
THE POWER OF VULNERABILITY & SHAME RESILIENCE
by Bernadette Verzosa
Editor’s Note: This photo of Houston mom Brené Brown with Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou was taken at a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Super Soul Sunday. ParentsPost.com attended two Houston events that featured the inspiring Brené Brown as speaker. She addressed Houston parents at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church just days after engaging guests downtown at the Dad 2.0 Summit, a national conference. ParentsPost.com gathered feedback from parents at both engagements.
They were unexpected and disarming first words from a woman whose advice parents worldwide seek. “I don’t believe in the idea of parenting experts. There are a million different ways to be a great parent,” said Brené Brown to the crowd of about four hundred people at the St. Mark’s Episcopal School gymnasium in Bellaire.
The large group of Houston parents and educators gathered on a school night to find out for themselves why the global spotlight is fixed on Brown, a Houston mother of two, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and a New York Times best-selling author. Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks on TED.com with more than six million viewers.
Brown who was born in San Antonio and attended high school in Klein quickly revealed her endearing personality and easy disposition when her microphone malfunctioned at the beginning of her address. “My expertise is imperfection so I’m comfortable,” she said reassuring the audience while alluding to the title of the evening’s event: “Gifts of Imperfect Parenting.”
Garhett Wagers, the headmaster of St. Mark’s Episcopal School, brought Brown to his campus. “At St. Mark’s we strive to serve the whole child and their family, and we are truly a community engaged. We partner with parents to support our healthy, well-rounded, and balanced students, and Brené’s message speaks to the heart of that goal,” he said.
STUDIES ON GUILT AND SHAME
Wagers says the responses from parents have been overwhelmingly positive. “It is interesting to hear the various takeaways from the evening, since so many of them latched on to different things,” he said. “One powerful message of the night was the distinct difference between guilt and shame, which seems to be universally reflected by teachers and parents. Shame is terribly harmful, and for many the distinction between the two has a great deal more clarity.”
Brown differentiated the two feelings by saying that guilt can be a positive part of an individual’s conscience and self-regulation. However, she urged everyone to eliminate the shaming of children. She backed her recommendation with numbers – statistics that showed that children who are made to feel shame are more likely to conduct in risky and harmful behaviors.
Brown weaved through her trademark topics of vulnerability and gratitude with a combination of funny anecdotes and substantial studies. They are issues she explores in her book, “Daring Greatly.” In it, she challenges readers to allow themselves to be emotionally exposed.
“Her message of ‘be what you want your kids to be’ really ups the ante on personal accountability,” said Amber Alonso, a Museum District mom. “It makes you reflect on your own conduct and makes you conscious of how you are. I went home and immediately talked to my spouse and in-laws about everything she said.”
Alonso appreciated that Brown’s advice was supported by scientific research. “I found the sociological statistics on amorphous topics like joy, passion, comfort and kindness compelling,” she said. “She somehow turned data for engineer minds into practical information that’s usable in daily family life.”
INTERNET FAMILY RULES AND DADS
Brown also talked about technology’s impact on family dynamics. She advised parents to embrace the internet and learn Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with their children. She suggested boundaries be clearly defined from the start which includes the rule that all online accounts have parental access.
Brown’s observations on new technology and electronics were especially relevant just days before her presentation at St. Mark’s Episcopal School. She delivered a similar message across town as keynote speaker at the Dad 2.0 Summit, a national conference for social influencers that include internet pioneers, website owners, dad bloggers and brand marketers.
Dad 2.0 Summit co-founder John Pacini selected Brown for his conference line-up. “I had seen Brené’s TED and TEDx talks online, but nothing compares to the live experience with her. She absolutely electrifies a room. And when I learned that she has spent the last few years of her research career focusing on men’s vulnerability issues, I knew without question that we absolutely had to have her there,” Pacini said. “What’s magical about Brené is that in a packed ballroom with hundreds of people, you still feel like it’s just the two of you in the room, that she’s connecting with you individually and your own set of circumstances.”
Brown custom tailored her vulnerability message to this group by incorporating issues of leadership and authenticity. She also defined what vulnerability is not, for the many parents in the audience who have an online presence. She said telling the whole world via internet about your child’s struggles does not necessarily qualify as emotional exposure. She called the revealing of intimate details online an attempt to establish a “hotwire connection,” a connection that’s not lasting.
Gerome Sapp, a Galleria area dad, former professional athlete and founder of Fluencr.com was among those in the audience. “Coming from the world of being a National Football League athlete and having to live by the motto of ‘let there be no chink in your armor,’ I was initially uninterested. However, the more I sat there and listened to Brené speak, I couldn’t help but to be entranced by her, her candidness and the truth behind her initial uncomfortable message,” Sapp said. “It even allowed me to look at my current life and my life as an athlete and remember that being vulnerable and acknowledging it is the fundamental starting point for any type of real growth in a person whether they are a man, woman or child. Her words and deliverance of that “simple” message was something I will keep with me for a long time.”
Brené Brown’s other best-selling books include The Gifts of Imperfection and I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). She has also developed a Shame-Resilience curriculum called Connections.