Emotional child abuse: swearing at a child cuts them like a knife
“Please don’t swear at your child!”. That’s what I wanted to say to the mother in the children’s playground earlier. But I didn’t. I didn’t say a word. I just stood and watched from a distance as her daughter’s body language showed a little girl crumbling inside.
Since I’ve become a mum I’ve found myself judging other mums a lot less than before the Tinkerous Toddler popped out. It’s only when you’ve walked the parenting path that you can truly understand the realities of it. None of us are perfect at it, most of us hope that doing our best is good enough.
And I don’t baulk too much at the sound of someone swearing in the vicinity of a child. I don’t particularly like it, but it doesn’t fill me with abject horror. It never could, because I am a potty-mouthed baggage at times and I have certainly slipped up on more than one occasion, usually when behind the steering wheel of the car.
But to hear a parent swearing AT their child, well it’s horrible. In this instance, the little girl was around seven years old and she’d come to a halt half-way down a slide, a rather big slide. Her mother started shouting at her from across the playground.
At first she seemed concerned at her daughter’s predicament. But she quickly became agitated that her daughter might be making her look foolish for not doing as she asked. Of course many of us have been in this situation. I know I have; the times when I’ve been smiling and calm on the outside, but seething on the inside.
Soon there were fucks and shits (of the verbal kind) flying everywhere. “Get the fuck down”. “Just fucking get down”. “I don’t give a shit about that, just MOVE”. The little girl became frozen to the spot. What looked like it had started as a bit of a silly-billy thing, saw her backed into a position where she didn’t know where to move. She certainly didn’t want to come sliding down and into the wrath of her mother. Especially after the mother shouted at her that she was really showing herself up.
Honestly, if anyone ever wanted a lesson into how to knock the self-worth out of a child, this was it.
The little girl finally made a slow descent to the bottom of the slide. Within moments the mother was back off to sit with her friend, shouting loudly to said friend on the walk back, “she says she couldn’t move because of a fucking ant”. And just in case the rest of the playground hadn’t heard her the first time, she shouted it again and again, “a fucking ant, a FUCKING ant”.
Personally I thought it was quite a sweet reason for a little girl to come to a halt half-way down a slide. Either she was scared of the ant or she didn’t want to crush it. Either way, bless her. Unfortunately this was all very much lost on her mum.
It is very easy to think of child abuse as hitting and beating a child, or worse. But it is so important to remember that words hurt. Words can crush a child. Swearing at your child is a form of emotional child abuse. It is words that make up the story of a child’s life and if those words and the sentiment behind them are negative and hurtful, even if it isn’t all of the time, they can destroy a child.
It’s quite ironic that whilst this little girl may well have been trying not to crush an ant, her mother didn’t think twice about crushing her.
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