From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Beware of Emotional Abuse!
Recently, I wrote about interpersonal feuds between adult friends and family members.
Most of these feuds arise out of inconsiderate comments that leave lasting wounds and
damage relationships. This month, my thoughts turn to the children in our lives who are
equally effected by things we say.
I recently encountered a woman in the orthodontist's office. She was waiting along with
her son for his appointment. All of a sudden, her son said sheepishly, that he had left
something that he needed at home. This woman in a very subtle fashion began a quiet tirade
against her son's self-esteem. Her comments were brief, but cutting... and before long,
her son's head was hanging low. As adults, we often make mistakes. When children make
similar mistakes, they are often ridiculed.
To avoid assaulting your child's self-esteem, I recommend the following:
- Speak to your child as you would a friend. Be polite, sincere, and understanding. If an
adult friend had indicated that they left something at home, my guess is that the woman in
the waiting room would have been more accomodating and less insulting. There is no good
reason for being rude to a child.
- Listen attentively. It is more difficult for children to communicate their concerns.
Children are often intimidated by adults, and they are not as facile with language.
Children often disguise their concerns. They know what they think, but fear adult
responses. We must listen openly and non-critically if we want them to express themselves
- Recognize that your child will be an adult someday. As children, they are handicapped by
age and rules. They are not able to drive themselves until age 16, and they don't have
much spending power. However, they know what they want and they know whether adults are
trying to be helpful or hurtful. Children remember the things adults say to them!
- What goes around --- comes back around. Later on in life, we will look to our children
for many of the things they need from us now... affection, consideration, attention and
support. As you chauffeur your children around, realize that someday, we may need the same
from them. As members of the "sandwich generation" now experience, it is not
long before parent-child roles get reversed. As parents, we set the tone for how our
children will treat us in the future.
Children are just little people. They may lack experience, but they don't lack
feelings. Self-esteem is a feeling of self-regard that grows out of a sense of how others
regard us. If we want our children to grow up strong and secure, we must treat them with
respect and courtesy. These are lasting impressions.
ęCopyright, 1993, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,