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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Region 3 Parent Resource Center: The power of words

  • For some time now, we as a society have looked at the way that we treat our children and have begun to make a collective decision that it is not acceptable for children to be hurt physically or sexually, or killed.
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  • For some time now, we as a society have looked at the way that we treat our children and have begun to make a collective decision that it is not acceptable for children to be hurt physically or sexually, or killed. This is the right choice. Now it is time to deal with an ongoing epidemic - that of verbal abuse.
    Verbal abuse should not be confused with firmness on the part of parents or caregivers. Children need guidance to grow up to be well-adjusted adults.
    Verbal abuse is different. It is an ongoing pattern of hurtful words that humiliate and shame those who are on the receiving end of them. Verbal abuse never produces anything except painful wounds. Many have no idea that they are verbally abusive.
    Most parents and caregivers want the best for their children. Most often parents want to be good parents; quite often, however, they have very poor information about how to motivate, educate and guide their children.
    Cruel words may be said for a variety of reasons. Reasons include a parent's level of frustration and fear over some behavior or trait that their child is exhibiting; an attempt to motivate a child who seems to lack motivation; an attempt at conflict resolution; an attempt at setting limits or disciplining the child; or a lack of information about effective ways of handling their children..
    What, then, are some guidelines for stopping the verbal abuse of children?
    NEVER, EVER, for any reason, call a child a name or refer to the child using a hurtful term.
    DON'T use words like stupid, idiot, moron, etc. to address a child -- for ANY reason.
    DON'T verbally compare a child to someone that the child knows you don't like or respect.
    DON'T verbally compare a child to a sibling or playmate with whom the child doesn't "measure up."
    DON'T keep a mental list of all of the things that a child has done, hasn't done, isn't good at, etc. Instead, make a point to catch the child doing something well -- all children have things that they do well, even if it is something small like, "Jimmy, I really like how you play quietly with your toys". You will be amazed at how much more effective praise is than verbal abuse.
    DO remember to tell children things that you like about them. Make sure the child knows you like them for who they are and not just for what they do.
    DO remember that you can learn to get appropriately angry with a child without becoming verbally abusive. When you are angry, make sure to tell the child that it is the child’s behavior that you don’t like, not the child that you don’t like.
    Page 2 of 2 - DO remember that it is never effective to hurt a child with your words.
    DO try to remember how things felt to you when you were a child; if something hurt you then, chances are it will hurt a child now. Don't assume that it's okay to say some things simply because they were said to you, you have heard others say them, or they feel good to you to say (because they relieve your anger or fear).
    Keep in mind that you are an important role model for the children in your life. If they hear you using positive verbal language, they are more likely to use positive language with others.
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