Verbal Abuse of Children
by Donna G Harris, The Marketing Caregiver and Crazy Granny | on July 15, 2012
CONSUMER HEALTH INTERACTIVE
You’ve no doubt heard the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Well, it’s not true.
Name-calling hurts — especially when the person doing it is a parent, a teacher, or a coach.
Hollering and flashing your temper might strike you as a natural and effective form of discipline if you were brought up with it.
But for children it may cause emotional trauma that results in long-lasting harm.
Among other things, verbal abuse can undermine your child’s selfesteem, damage his ability to trust and form relationships, and chip away at his academic and social skills.
In fact, current research shows that verbal abuse of children can be just as destructive emotionally as physical and sexual abuse and puts them in as much risk for depression and anxiety.
What is verbal abuse of children?
You may be verbally abusing your child if you are doing any of the following:
•Name-calling, belittling, swearing, insulting. (“You are stupid.” “You’re a rotten kid.”) Indirect criticism, such as disparaging your child to your spouse, also hurts. Just because you’re not berating your child directly doesn’t mean he doesn’t hear it and feel the sting.
•Rejecting or threatening with abandonment. (“I wish you’d never been born.” “I should put you up for adoption.”) This kind of verbal abuse creates a sense that your child doesn’t belong — and isn’t wanted — in the family.
•Threatening bodily harm. Studies have linked verbal aggression and physical aggression: A Harvard study found, for example, that “parents who yell frequently are the ones most likely to hit frequently, and vice versa.” Even if you don’t act on violent threats, they may make your child fear you and distrust you.
•Scapegoating or blaming. (“You’re the reason this family is such a mess.” “If I didn’t have to take care of you, I could have a better life.” “If you weren’t so clumsy, your sister wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”) Your child will think he’s a bad person who deserves to be unhappy.
•Using sarcasm. Making a mocking remark, such as “Now that was smart” when he spills grape juice on the rug, might seem like a way to avoid direct criticism, but your child is perceptive enough to understand that you’re demeaning him.
•Berating your spouse. A study at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, determined that children who see their parents verbally abusing each other are more likely to be depressed or anxious, and to experience more interpersonal problems of their own.
Interestingly, the study also found that verbal aggression between parents was more traumatic to children than physical violence between parents.
How common is verbal abuse?
Reports are mixed. A study at the University of New Hampshire found that 63 percent of more than 3,000 American parents surveyed reported one or more cases of verbal aggression toward children in their homes.
However, a Child Protective Services study determined that only 6 percent of all child abuse cases involved “emotional maltreatment” (of which verbal abuse is the most common form). The fact that signs of verbal abuse are harder to recognize and prove than signs of physical abuse may account for the seemingly low number of “official” verbal abuse cases. What are signs that a child is suffering from verbal abuse?
•Negative self-image. This is the most common and pervasive effect of verbal abuse. Your child may say things like, “I’m stupid,” or, “Nobody likes me.” Or he may simply seem withdrawn, sullen, or depressed, all of which can be signs of a poor self-image. In defining emotional abuse, the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse says that it “attacks a child’s… sense of self-worth.”
•Self-destructive acts. “Cutting” (using razor blades or knives to cut his own skin) and all forms of self-injury signal a problem, as do other reckless activities that put your child in danger.
•Antisocial behavior. The New Hampshire study found that verbally abused children demonstrated higher rates of physical aggression, delinquency, and interpersonal problems. Your child may hit other children, frequently quarrel with his classmates, or be cruel to (or even torture) animals.
•Delayed development. The slowdown may appear in your child’s physical, social, academic, or emotional development. He may have difficulty making friends, fall behind in school, or engage in regressive acts such as rocking, bed-wetting, and thumb-sucking.
Does verbal abuse do any long-term harm?
Yes. Research shows that abused children are more likely to:
• become victims of abuse later in life
• become abusive themselves
• become depressed and self-destructive later in life
• develop anxiety
Why can’t I seem to control my temper?
Most parents at some time find themselves feeling frustrated and angry with their children. This is normal. Occasionally they say things they regret — to their children, their spouses, or their friends. This, too, is normal. But if you find that you are routinely having angry outbursts or that whenever you’re frustrated you lash out at those around you in the ways described above — then you need to get help. (Please keep in mind that if you feel overwhelmed by your anger, you may want to consider getting help from a counselor, psychotherapist, or mental health professional trained in anger management.)
Meanwhile, here are some ways to begin helping yourself. To start getting a handle on your outbursts, try to understand the reasons behind your behavior. The following are some of the more common explanations for verbally abusive behavior:
• a failure to understand that there are other ways to discipline and communicate with your child
• the belief that verbal abuse is necessary as a form of “tough love”
• an inability to control strong emotions
• a history of verbal abuse by parents, teachers, and other adults
What can I do to avoid verbally abusing my child?
In moments of stress and anger, try to refrain from saying anything mean or sarcastic to your child. Remember, you’re his main and most important role model. If you tend to fall apart, lose your cool, and act abusively at challenging times, you’ll likely raise a child who does the same.
Here are some ways you can calm yourself down:
• Take a “time-out.” This method works as well for adults as it does for kids. If your child can be left alone, go to another room. If he’s too young for that, try walking to the other end of the room. Then take a few slow, deep breaths, seeking to let go of the situation emotionally. Wait five minutes (or more if you need it) before talking to your child.
• Share your feelings of resentment or anger with your spouse or a friend. Be sure to do this in private, where your child won’t hear you and feel wounded by your words.
• Try to deal only with the present rather than letting all the stressful incidents that have “piled up” overcome your emotions.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using what it calls the RETHINK method to bring your feelings under control. RETHINK stands for:
• R ecognize your feelings.
• E mpathize with your child.
• T hink of the situation differently. (Try using humor.)
• H ear what your child is saying.
• I ntegrate your love with your angry thoughts.
• N otice your body’s reactions to feeling anger and to calming down.
• K eep your attention on the present problem.
A study at Colorado State University found that parents who participated in a six-week workshop based on this method became more effective at managing their anger.
If you saw value in this post please do a child a favor and share, tweet, like and also leave a comment. Help get the word out and help our children and grandchildren. Share this on your FB wall and save a child TODAY, if you see yourself in this post JUST STOP IT! NOW ~
Donna G Harris
skype ~ donna.harris48
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