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.
WORDS THAT HURT
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.
TALK WITH YOUR CHILD NOT AT HIM
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
TALK SO THAT YOUR CHILD WILL LISTEN
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."