Saturday, June 25, 2011

Parents Getting it Wrong


Author's Note: This post may prove controversial... keep in mind this is just my belief and that this is relating to verbal abuse.

So, I was looking at the post over at Nourishing the Soul that I recommended in my last post  and the last comment stuck out to me... or rather the end of it did.
think this is why I subconsciously chose not to have children – I was so scared to get it wrong like my parents did.
 The part in bold is what I want to focus on. This part was in reference to saying things to children that wind up having negative impact later on in life. Not about physical things, rather the verbal.

The bolded part left me feeling odd. I feel when someone "gets it wrong" the right choice or way is clearly evident and that they have had access to the knowledge to know the difference between the two. When you take a test in school, you're being held accountable for things you are supposed to know. You can get it wrong if you didn't pay attention or chose not to listen to what the right answers are. However, you had access to the right answers before the test. You were given the knowledge you would need to know.

I don't think that's the case with verbal abuse and while I do think wrongs are being committed, I'm not sure it's a case of parents getting it wrong

I don't believe any parents wants to factor into their child having an eating disorder, engaging in self-injurious behavior, having suicidal ideations, being depressed, or anything of the like by saying careless things. I think at that moment in time they're doing what they think will work or is acceptable - resulting in them saying things that might have lingering effects.

Consequently, I don't think placing blame on my parents for getting it wrong will take me any further in my life as I'm not sure that even saying that they got it wrong is fair.

So what do I think the problem is?  

I firmly believe that it is education, or lack thereof.

I think wider spread education of the power of words needs to take place. Wider spread education about the power of any size action needs to take place. I think education in general needs to take place.

We often hear about child abuse. When I used to work at a dental clinic we were all told the signs to look for -- bruises in odd places,  stories of falls by parents that don't match up with the injuries, cowering, among other things --- all things that are linked to physical abuse. Verbal abuse (though it can be just as, if not more so, damaging) gets a lot less talk time. I believe that's where a huge part of the problem lies.

Parents may know that beating their child is wrong from having been told that in school when they're young, by the news, by the media, by activism groups, and by campaign ads, but since verbal abuse is generally not covered by those outlets parents may not truly believe that telling their child they're worthless is a form of abuse. They may wind up changing one out for the other... instead of being physically abusive they may rely on verbal abuse to get their message across...  perhaps even offering up the phrase, "quit crying. You think this abuse? You don't know what abuse is. Keep crying and I can show you what abuse is."

If we start to educate people on verbal abuse, what it entails, and its consequences at least part of the problem will be corrected. I think this education is paramount. Not only for parents, but also for people in general. We all have the power of saying something that can contribute to making someone feel like they are less than. We also have the same power not to... we just have to know that we have this power. That our words do as well.

I'm curious as to your thoughts on this topic.. or rather discussion piece...


  1. I believe that it is first and foremost, and education deficit. Our generation have grown up realizing that verbal abuse is very damaging and inherently wrong (though there is still a lot to go on that front). Our parents grew up with their parents not talking about things, about sweeping it under the rug and not calling others' on their wrong behaviour.

    It's very much the same with body image and self esteem. Our mothers were taught from theirs, despite the femist movements of the past two generations, that their body needed to be "perfect" and so they know nothing but to pass that on, while at the same time our culture fuels it. If we taught parents how to talk about self esteem and body image, or better yet, teach them positive self esteem and body image, they would be better equipped to teach their children.

  2. I think you make great points -- basically no parent intends to harm their child, and we don't really get anywhere by presuming they're bad people, etc. That said, I think one of the things that's hard, when trying to deal with harm you've experienced (whether it was intended or not) is understanding that you can be incredibly hurt or incredibly angry about something that wasn't intended. One of the best therapists I ever had was the most unconditionally accepting of my parents; he was the last person in the world to blame them, which ended up serving me well. But he was ALSO the person who taught me that I could feel whatever I felt about those actions, that I could be angry at them even if what happened wasn't their fault, even if I still loved them, even if I knew they were good people and wanted them in my life. That gray space -- where they could have hurt me without meaning to, where they could be marvelous people who weren't always marvelous parents, where I could love them and be angry simultaneously -- did a lot more to heal my relationship with them than purely blaming OR purely defending them.

  3. I definitely think that you can and should be allowed to feel however you feel about a situation. However, I also think that acknowledging that someone made some mistakes and saying that they got it wrong are two different things.

    Especially since we do NOT educate about the repercussions of verbal abuse, mainly physical abuse.

  4. I think it is perfectly fair to say someone is wrong or right about something. So, if a parent is wrong about something, he or she just is. The same goes for a child. If a child is wrong about something, he or she just is. What matters is the attitude with which this is communicated. It can be done with an attitude of condemnation or it can be done with gentleness with a focus on guiding the other towards making better choices that will result in them being better people than they already are.

    I do not think there is a difference between making a mistake and being wrong. You made a mistake when you have done something wrong. I think what you are attempting to convey is the difference between intention (motive) and action (execution). When you say someone has made a mistake, you are saying that they had the right intentions all through, but the action (execution) could have been better and the end result could have been different. When you say someone is wrong, they never had the right intentions in the first place. At least, that is what I understand from reading what you’ve written.

    I am open to someone telling me that I am wrong and also why they feel I am wrong. This opens up room for discussion and for a healthy appreciation of different perspectives. A healthy discussion will often reveal blind spots on both sides. Thus, every issue needs to be looked at objectively. There are often two sides to an issue where one issue is often obscured to the other party. Thus it is counter productive to treat certain issues as being above scrutiny just because they come from parents.

    I have seen many good parents. The one thing that I've seen most of them do is explain their actions and present the value therein. When children (who have reached the age of accountability or who can tell the difference between right and wrong) are given an explanation as to why something was said or done or a certain decision is taken by a parent, they tend to respect the person more even if they do not agree with a decision. Parents think that by them acknowledging their error or admitting the fact that they were wrong will make them lose their child’s respect. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children will figure out that they do not need to agree with you eventually. It is just a matter of time. How about having them disagree with you but with the utmost respect for you and your position. Who knows, they might eventually come around to understanding your choices in the light of the circumstances at that time …


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