Whether it is jogging through Columbus Park, shopping on Madison Avenue, or riding the Jackson bus during rush hour, I am often shocked at how some parents talk to their own children. Comments such as, “Get yo’ dumb a- off that ground” and “Shut the f-k up,” have the same effect on me as nails down a chalkboard. Although there are many reasons why parents resort to this form of discipline (which may include irritation, anger, or lack of a more effective strategy), ridiculing a child is of mental and emotional abuse, and if we don’t tolerate it in intimate relationships, we should not tolerate it in child-parent relationships.
Cutting comments and flagrant insults don’t just silence a child, they hurt a child as well. The consequences of demeaning your children are great in number and severity. Below you will find just a few that will, hopefully, provide profanity-flinging parents with a wake-up call about their choice of punishment.
It’s not effective
Consequences are supposed to prevent bad behavior from occurring, so, in essence, a good consequence is one that is not used often. If you find yourself hollering and swearing at your child repeatedly, then your approach is faulty. I often find that parents who cuss at their kids do so frequently. You can hear their rant before approaching them, while walking next to them, and when walking away. Such excessive use of this consequence only gets children immune to crude and demoralizing remarks and does not stop the negative behavior from occurring in the future.
I often observe how children react after parents verbally attack them. Many appear impervious; the insults seem to roll off their backs just as if you told them the sky was blue. The more you bash kids with foul language, the more they become desensitized to it. It’s bad enough that our children listen to vulgar words in music, movies, and television shows. However, when they are subjected to it from their own parents, they begin to understand that cussing is a normal and appropriate response to life’s irritations. With this understanding, they will be less and less offended by dirty words. So when your pre-teen daughter is called the B-word, she won’t think anything of it, and when your teenage son is called the N-word, he will believe that it is o.k.
Teaches kids to cuss
There was a family that once lived across the alley from me, and every summer night, I would hear an older woman cussing and shouting at several grade school children, using words and terms I only expect to hear in R-rated movies. So, I was not surprised to hear the same children each summer day shout the same expletives at each other while jumping rope. Remember that our vocabulary tends to originate from what we hear in our homes. Parents with potty mouths tend to have children who possess the same. So if you yell swear words at your child when you’re frustrated with them, you can believe your child will use the same swear words to ease their frustrations as well.
Your kids believe you
Even though you think your kindergartner is the brightest kid in his class, calling him stupid or dumb will only make him think he is, despite all his A+ papers with happy face stickers. Bad comments, especially those from people we love, are often engrained in our minds and prevent us from taking steps forward. Just think about the times someone close berated you. What did they say? Why did it affect you so much? How has it hindered progress in your life? Remember, when you resort to snapping at your child out of frustration, think about how you could effectively scorn your child’s behavior and not him or her.
With our busy schedules, we rarely have time to talk with our kids, so let the words they do hear from us be positive ones that make them feel good about themselves and about being our children. Please take this column to heart and share it with others who need to do the same.