As an adult, when we find ourselves in abusive relationships, we have the ability to talk to others, seek help and find ways to get away from the abuse. Certainly it is not an easy thing to do but it is a choice that we can make. However, children do not have the opportunities to know their resources and even if they do, are usually intimidated into believing whatever threats are made by their abuser.
I don’t have any children and I do not personally know any child that has suffered from physical abuse. I do know that if I were aware of a child being abused, I would not hesitate to go to the authorities. I would not try to handle the matter with the parent or parents as I am not trained to do so. Nor would I be willing to risk the well-being of any child or children by allowing the parents to find ways to hide the children or try to hide the abuse or take the children and run.
Verbal abuse is an entirely different situation. Many parents and other adults that I have met along the way do not find anything wrong with the way that they speak to their children. For example, if a child is not doing well in school, they have no problem with telling the child that he/she is a loser and will never amount to anything. They tell the children that they are dumb, stupid, etc. and go on their way, never thinking twice about the ramification of their words. Then there are those who have children who do a fantastic job but regardless of their achievements, it is never enough. They are expected to do well and if they don’t meet the parents’ expectations, then they are not trying hard enough or they are lazy or they don’t care and on and on and on.
I don’t think that there is a single person who is reading this blog who has not either personally experienced such behavior directly or saw others inflicting this upon other children. Many girls are told that they are too fat or two skinny or too ugly, etc. and end up spending their adult life so self-absorbed in their personal appearance that they never even consider that they are beautiful people just for the people that they are. They never consider that their real happiness in life would be found with a person who appreciates their willingness to trust and to nurture and to be allowed to be just whom and what they are.
Many of the same things happen for boys. If they are not into playing sports and being the big man on campus and working out in the gym all of the time, they are constantly being reminded that they are failures as men and less than desirable and that no woman would ever be interested in them. They have a difficult time growing into adults who understand that physical acumen has nothing to do with being a wonderful husband and great human being. And the sad part here is that the abuse usually comes from the fathers who never succeeded in the athletic arena themselves and are now trying to live vicariously through their sons.
I do understand that most people act and talk to their children this way in the hope that it will spur them on to do bigger and better things. After all, this is the way that the children’s parents were treated by their own parents. However, if every adult would stop to think about the verbal abuse that they experienced as they grew up, I think that it would be a whole different ballgame. How did you do in your adult life as a result of being told that you were dumb, stupid, lazy, too fat, too skinny, not smart enough, not working to your potential, not doing the best that you can, etc.? How has such verbal abuse diminished you as a person? How much did you buy into the abuse that was repeated to you over and over and over? And now, most importantly, as a result of this abuse, how has it changed you as the person you are and what are you going to do to change from who you were told you are into the person that you actually are? The easiest way will be to start speaking to the children in your life in a manner that is completely respectful and to offer your help and knowledge to them if they need it. The more that you treat the children with dignity and respect, the more you will become a positive role-model in their lives and the more respect you will have for yourself which will lead you to being the person that you truly are and/or want to be. And we will not end up raising another generation of people who will perpetuate the same destructive behavior on their children as we have been doing for so many generations.
If you need help or have questions about child abuse or child neglect, check out www.childhelp.org.
I would love your comments.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.