Actions speak louder than words right? We’ve all heard this numerous time and it’s true, but words still carry a heavy weight, especially for our children who’ve been neglected, abused, and traumatized. Words can have both a positive and negative effects, and it’s vitally important to understand both.
This is the first in a series of posts on WORDS. Today’s focus is on the negative impact our words can have on our kids.
Unless you’re a prefect parent and a perfect person, you will most likely say things you regret. All we can do is make considerable efforts to not say anything hurtful to our children. This is best kept under control by first remembering where our child has come from, therefore creating empathy. And, secondly, having time to ourselves doing what we enjoy (filling our tank), and getting the rest we need.
Most of us have spoken words out of frustration and anger that may have hurt our children. We suck it up and apologize. I’ve met so many people who simply cannot apologize. Admitting some weakness isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t mean we’re weak. Also, when we are wrong and admit it, we’re teaching our kids how to apologize and that we aren’t perfect either.
I’ve messed up big time far more than I’d like to admit. Once, after a long battle of wills, my daughter screaming at me, saying mean and hurtful things, I said something to her that I’m not proud of. She kept ranting about how mean I was and I replied, “Maybe you should have mean parents, then you would see how good you have it.” Extremely hurtful and uncalled for, I know. Especially when said to a young child with a history like hers. Believe me, I hit myself over the head innumerable times because of my idiocy.
The biggest problem was that my daughter, Payton, who was four-years-old at the time, remembered what I said, and brought it up a few days later. I had no idea she’d been ruminating over my unthoughtful words. She was afraid that if she didn’t behave, I would, as she put it, “get rid of Daddy and get her a mean one,” and that I would also “go away.” Wow, that was a shock and a painful reminder of the damage my words had caused.
A little background. At the time I said this she knew she was adopted, but she didn’t understand any of the logistics. She didn’t know someone else gave birth to her. She had too much she was dealing with to add this information at that time. I can’t imagine how she would feel about my words if she knew she’d come to us the way in which she did. How horribly scary that would be. What I said was still wrong and destructive no matter how much she understood about her past. Plus, we always have to remember that our children have repressed memories, and they may very well remember living with their bio parents even if they were removed when they were infants.
It’s extremely important to keep yourself healthy, rested, and your cup filled so situations like this don’t sneak up on you. After this scenario with my daughter, I felt like I couldn’t be a parent to my hurting children. I’m not perfect. I fail. This situation transpired because I wasn’t in a calm place myself.
We, the parents, set the tone in our home. We must make sure it’s a positive, loving, accepting one.
I’ve heard other parents say utterly damaging things in front of their kids. You may remember this story I included in the post, 6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to, or in Front of Your Adopted or Foster Child. When we were doing foster care, I was standing with a group of foster parents in front of our local DHS building. One woman had her three foster boys there, and they were circling us, running and playing. This foster mom said, “They won’t increase my adoption stipend. These boys need therapy and medication that I can’t provide. So I’ve told DHS I won’t adopt them until they give me more money.”
How ludicrous! Yes, she said those words with the boys at our legs, who averaged in age between six and nine-years-old. It’s probable they understood most of what their foster mom was saying. And, what they most likely gathered from her words scared them. The kids now have a lower self-worth because of her words, as if it wasn’t low enough to begin with. If she really did feel this way, she should not have spoken about it when the boys were within ear shot. Children aren’t deaf.
One would think this was an isolated case, but it isn’t.
I have heard too many parents talking freely in front of their children with no regard as to how it might make them feel.
Our children are listening to us, and to everyone around them. They have the amazing ability to look like they’re busy with something while taking in the world around them. We need to be careful about what we’re saying and treat our children with respect.
Hurting children are far more aware of their environment than the average child, taking everything in. They were required to do this to survive.
Our words affect our kids, whether they’re positive or negative, whether we think they’re listening or not, whether they provoked our words or not.
You can read more about WORDS and how they affect our kids in, Your Words are Hurting My Child.
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