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Talk So Your Child Will Listen

By Barrington Brennen, 2006, 2017





Question: Dear Sir: Too many parents abuse their children verbally. These parents believe that "stick and stones can hurt their bones, but words can never hurt them." Is this true?


Answer: Dear Friend: It is absolutely false. I can remember as a child hearing other children shout these words at each other when they were in a mean argument that may lead to a fight. Over the years, I have learned that words can do as much harm or more than being physically struck. Verbal put downs by parents is a very serious form of child abuse. One reason why child abuse is so dangerously high in the Bahamas is because many Bahamian parents havenít learned to control their own tempers and tongues. Their tongues are like an unbridled horse or a ship without a rudder.



Parents who shout and scream at their children have low self-esteem generally. Many of these parents are from homes where the expression of anger was more readily seen and heard than the expressions of love and compassion. Simple instructions like "sit down," "open the door," and "eat your food" are given with a hit across the head and shout or scream. Parents who shout and scream at their children normally produce children who also shout and scream to get their point across. When these children become teenagers, the house becomes an arena for shouting matches between parents and children. The one who shouts the loudest wins the argument.



The words and sentences parents use when talking to their children can either build or destroy them. Here are a few examples or hurting words. "Why are you always so clumsy?" "You will never amount to anything." "Bring your big ugly head over here." "Fix your stupid face." "You are the dumbest child I have ever known." "Bring you black ____ over here." "You stupid fool." "Shut up boy, only sissies cry."


Sentences like these cut the heart of a growing child. Each time they are repeated by a parent, it takes away more self-esteem, self-worth, and reason to live. In many cases the only way the child feels that he or she can bear these taunted shouts and screams is by returning more insulting words. By the time the child becomes a teenager he or she would either be a bully or a quiet submissive person who easily gets hurt.



Parents must learn to talk with their children and not at them. This begins at birth when the parents cuddle and sing in soft sweet tones to their little bundle of joy. If the parentsí tone of voice is encouraging, soft, warm and supportive, then the child will be encouraged to express feelings, laugh or cry. If the parents shout and scream and say mean things, the little baby will clam up and withdraw. As a result the childís emotional and academic growth may be delayed.



When your little child is disobedient or accidently breaks something in the home, your tone of voice and choice of words will determine wether your child will really listen or be turned off. Instead of saying "You stupid fool, why did you break that _____ glass," the parent can say, " I know it was a mistake my child. Let me help you pick up the pieces. Next time I want you to be a little more observant so that this will not happen again." In the first response the child will most likely withdraw, cry, or shout to defend herself. In the second response the child will listen and respond in a more positive way by saying, "I am sorry mommy."


Remember parents that you are building a nation with your lips. What you say to your child and how you say it will either build or destroy his life. When your child is small, it is natural for him to trust and believe everything you do and say. Therefore, you hold the very future of our nation between your lips. Do not verbally abuse your child. Encourage him, love him. "Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in pictures of silver."


Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA.  Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 242-327-1980.  


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April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

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