The Power of Words – How parents Can Avoid Being Their Child’s First Bullies
I came from very abusive parents. I grew up feeling as If I were the ugly duckling but, without the happy end of becoming a beautiful swan. I struggled and still do to feel confident, to look at the mirror and not have that message that was “formatted” early in my mind similar to how computers or networking systems. I am reminded by the thoughts that say: “ you’re ridiculous”, “ you’re incapable to do anything right”, or the classic one I heard my whole life from my mother that gave birth to three girls : “xx (my youngest sister) is the most beautiful daughter I have, and then xxx (my older sister) but, you Lana, you’re not ugly”.
I can’t control my tears every time I remember all those moments of the corrupted information that my parents input to my mind as can happen with corrupted memory on computers. I discovered too late that all of those were lies but lies were the only thing I knew as a child. I thought that I was a bad person, ugly inside and out and this was the platform that my pre-formated mind lived in for many years, trained to believe on what I heard.
At the tender age of 12, I had my first episode of depression. I had no friends, no parents to speak to and my two sisters that were close to each other but ignored me. I was alone in my darkness and after having it instilled in my mind of my imperfection and that my mother did not love me as much she loved my sisters.
Some people do not understand what depression is and how difficult for those of us that are depressed, and how bravely we are fighting to not feel this way. Think of depression as if you were in a deep hole, you’re struggling to reach out the surface but, no matter what you do you simply can’t get out without help from someone outside.
I always have been a very responsible student. I woke up every morning at 6am without my mother needing to bother to come to my room and drag me out of bed. I always had good grades but, not that year. I was lost, and didn’t care about school, I didn’t bother to take a bath, brush my teeth or hair. I spent my days alone in my room.
I do not blame my parents. Maybe they were just two ignorant people that without intent marked a kid’s heart forever with deep scars. I had no way out or at least I thought I hadn’t, until I met a good friend or someone that would be my best friend forever. He was a “fun kid”, he fulfilled different roles, and provided me what I needed most. He knew how to be wise and how to whisper in my ears, “you’re worthy.”
I discovered God through a small blue bible and somehow I could feel love and happiness. I wasn’t alone anymore and discovered I’d never been alone. God was the only one I had and sometimes I felt as if He really spoke to me. I do my best to let my daughter know who God is despite what the world says. He loves everybody.
My parents generation was the “forbidden to feel or express feelings generation”. They were taught that an effective way to raise a child was with cruel severity. My mother repeated to me what she learned from her father, where physical and mental abuse were allowed.
I always second guess myself on how I should raise my child without the severity of the past and the permittivity of the present. As a mother I am concerned on what to expect from the future generation as the current one is so full of themselves.
I don’t want to focus on this post in my dark years of depression or on the millennial’s problems but, on how attentive we must be as parents. I have an adorable daughter who is fun, loves to eat bananas (almost too much) and likes to kiss me on the lips (nothing wrong with that), to whom I whisper a some kind of mantra every day in her ears:
“ You’re worthy.
God loves you. He’ll always be with you.
You are not better than anyone, no one is better than you.
If you fail you try again.
You are able to make your dreams come true.
If fall you stand up and fight harder.
Momma loves you.”
I am trying to raise my child without negative comments about her or what she does. Sometimes it’s very difficult not to say anything negative when changing a very soiled diaper but, I want to raise a healthy minded person in a chaotic world. Sounds contradictory but, it’s possible. We just need to focus more on the words that comes out of our mouths.They are the only thing that will reach out to our children even after our death for bad or for good throughout their lives.
“Words can be destructive weapons that destroy your child’s self esteem before it even starts to develop.”- The Bump: How Negative Comments Affect a Child’s Behavior.
Words can sometimes be the most destructive and sharp weapon. We must control ourselves as parents and be wise to use them to create a strong environment in our house where our kids will feel comfortable and accepted. We can use words against or in favor of our child, whatever you decide to use this is the tool you are, directly or indirectly, stoning your kid’s personality with.
Caring for your child’s character and personality and your own attitude towards them is as much important as being concerned about a healthy meal. Thinking of this simple illustration: you work hard to put food on the table, you do a good job on making delicious and fresh meals every day for your family, but your words are the only ones that will hurt or raise up their souls forever.
I like an article from Psychology Today called “ Your Child’s Self Esteem Starts with You”. For many years I did not notice how abusive my parents were, physically,emotionally and verbally, and that environment was what I knew as normal until the day my therapist did clarify it to me.
The article that is a good reading for any parent says that our reaction to kid’s emotions is always important:
“Should you feel calm and sure of yourself, your baby is likely to feel secure and trusting. Our children depend on us for survival and, therefore, are highly attuned to our emotions. The more calm and compassionate we are in reacting to our children, the more resilient they become in handling their own emotions. ”
A great way to start developing your child’s emotions, including self esteem and confidence is :
Listen to yourself – Have your ever listened to yourself when you talk to your kid, specially when they do something “not so right?”
Below I have a list of what to avoid and that were part of my childhood and subject of my therapy sessions.Many of them should not need to be mentioned for being so obvious but, here it is :
“Stop acting like a baby.
You look ugly.
This dress look awful on you.
You’re unable to do anything right.
You shouldn’t have been born.
While you eat the food I put on the table…”
You are a bad kid.
You are awful/bad person
While you live under my roof…
You sister/brother is better than you.
You brother / sister is more handsome/beautiful than you.
Your sister/brother/friend/cousin is much more smarter than you!”
Aggressive Parents creates aggressive children – Don’t expect polite, calm and sweet kids when your behavior towards them is exactly the opposite. Teach by example. When I first married I and my husband had a hard time to adapt to each other. Although I know it wasn’t all my fault, I still can say that many big fights would had been avoided if I hadn’t been taught like an animal to be in a “self-defense mode” all the time. I still struggle to keep it shut down. As my mind is used to be pointed negatively my first reaction is “to attack” back. Fortunately I have a wonderful husband and a calm environment where I live in and these have helped me a lot. I can say I am doing a lot better now.
Compliments Can Do Much More than Negative Comments:
It’s not a shame to say : “ You look gorgeous today, more than usual “, or you did a good job with the dishes”, “Thanks for cleaning your room. It looks good”, “You’ are good kid”
A recent study published on Forbes tells us how compliments works in our brain. In accordance to the Professor Norihiro Sadato from The National Institute For
Physiological Sciences In Japan:
“To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation.”
Permittivity is Not Love :
Do not get confused with your behavior towards kids. There’s a narrow line between a emotionally responsible parent and a permissive one. Your kids need rules to follow and to know what’s off limits to them. Always explain why you have that rules and how this can help them in the present or future.
Think Before your Speak:
Watch what you say and mainly how you say.
I decided very long ago that I would not let myself to develop some kind of “ Stockholm syndrome”. My mind has been captivated for a very long time in the darkness of insecurity and low self esteem that my parents placed me into. I am breaking the chain to my hostage. I will not repeat the same mistake they did to me with my child.
My daughter’s mind will be free. I will create an image in the mirror of her as being a beautiful, capable, worthy child of God that is meant to do amazing things, that is capable to make her dreams come true and that’s is all she will see when looking at herself.