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Words Matter

Words Matter

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” is reported to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Mankind has come a long way since 1862. Humans have made incredible advances in medicine, exploration, technology, and, unfortunately, in bullying. Today, words are used to insult, discriminate, criticize, and taunt. Children, teens, adolescents, and adults can find themselves subject to hurtful words: socially, face-to-face; technologically, through social networks; in family circles; and in home environments. Words have been used [many unintentionally] by teachers, coaches, social workers, and religious and civic leaders to criticism and embarrass children of all ages from all walks of life. In safe and affirming places, promoting equality and acceptance, a mistaken word has demeaned, belittled, and denigrated. Most don’t realize that any word or group of words, beyond the obvious, can be hurtful – can be bullying.

Some of the most harmful unexpected bullying comes from parents, however, the juxtaposition between chastising and bullying can be difficult. Although parents know their child and the child knows they are loved, a poor choice of words can lead to fright and/or flight on the part of the child, impacting them emotionally short-term and emotionally and physically long-term. We have all heard the phrase, “choose your words carefully”. Parents practice this socially, in the workplace and with family and friends, yet when chastising a child, disappointment and emotions take over and word choice becomes second nature. “I don’t have time to talk about this right now”, sends a very different message than, “let’s talk about this later when we have more time.” Improving Lives Counseling Services offers sessions designed specifically to improve parent to child exchanges and family communications.

The internet is full of websites suggesting words parents should use and phrases they should avoid. Parents often repeat the phrases they grew up on, not recalling or realizing how they were affected. With work, school, extra-curricular activities, social events, family gatherings, and 4-6 hours of sleep a night, parents are stressed and children often stretched in all directions. Every parent wants the best for their child – which today includes an array of social and extra-curricular activities – considered necessary by the so labeled experts to raise a well-balanced child. With chalk boards and calendars on kitchen walls scribing every hour of every day, it’s small wonder words are considered long after they are said and apologies are not made far too often.

The wrong word at the wrong time affects an entire household. Words used in anger or in haste are overheard and repeated. Children don’t comprehend the hurry scurry society parents traverse, or a need to respond when they have nothing to share. Have you asked a child “how was your day” and received a one word response? Did the same child open-up later when they had your “full attention” and things had slowed down? Is not paying attention when a child is trying to get your attention bullying? No. Is not responding when a child is talking to you, or giving short snappy responses bullying? Yes. There are four basic types of bullying: verbal, physical, psychological, and cyber, all of which can be found in the dysfunctional home. Psychiatrists and psychologists found parental responses much like choice of words fell into the category of bullying. In a blog on parenting, a mother asked her nine-year-old son if she used words that hurt him. The response was, “I’ll make you a list.”

Children will accept parental bullying until frustration sets in – often preempted by erratic behavior. Adults look back on their childhood and realize the words their parents used contributed to the person they see in the mirror; a person facing social, economic, or financial inefficiency. Many find their anxiety, stress, and behavioral disorders rooted in the words their parents chose to use. The therapists and counselors of Improving Lives Counseling Services have the training, tools, and treatment plans needed to spur open communications between parents and children, and through the mental checkup diagnosis societal and/or behavioral disorders. We offer individual, couples, family, group, and video sessions. Let us help you and your children live the life you were meant to live.