Words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

"You STUPID STUPID boy!! I did ask you if you needed to go to the toilet before we left the house, right? Now look at what you've done! Can you stop being so stupid and for once listen to me?"

"But I didn't need to go earlier..."

"You should have TRIED! Or told me in advance that you needed to go before you pee all over your pants! You are old enough to speak, right? To tell me what you don't want to eat. Tell me you don't want to sleep. You can also tell me when you need to go to the toilet! Stupid boy."

"Mummy, I'm sorry..."

"I'm not bringing you out any more if you're going to continue this way. I didn't bring change for you, because I thought you're old enough to be responsible. Do you want me to start making you wear diapers again?"

"No Mummy, I'm sorry..."

... and she went on, and on, shaking him by the shoulders every time she needed to emphasise a point.

***

She may be frustrated, she may have had a bad day, her son may have tested her patience repeatedly, or she is simply feeling overwhelmed at that moment. I am not in her position, and I have no right to judge her actions or words. Perhaps I would be as angry as she is if I was caught in that situation.

But I felt sorry for the little guy.

When I came out of the toilet cubicle after overhearing the exchange, I saw that he is perhaps no older than 3 years of age. He was almost in tears, but the thing which struck me most of all was that he looked contrite, and embarrassed.

Maybe because there were about 10 other ladies within close proximity, most of us trying to look everywhere else apart from him, and the choice few who blatantly stared at what should have been a private moment between mother and son.

She has every right as a parent to tell her son what he should do or otherwise. It is her duty as a mother to do so. I am not about to comment on her parenting style.

What really upset me most about the entire incident is her choice of words.

Was he being a 'STUPID boy' to have wet himself? Was it a stupid thing to not be able to control his bladder long enough for him to relief himself in the proper place? Was it stupid of him to not have attempted to empty his bladder before they left home?

How that must have hurt him!

Regardless of how many times one has been subjected to verbal abuse of any sort, I don't think that we really get 'numb' to its usage on us. We may block it out, laugh it off, (pretend to) disregard it enough for it to not have so much of an impact on our self-esteem... but words can have a more powerful impact than a double edged sword. Worse of all, negative words can slowly make the recipient believe that he is what he's been called to be.

To a child in the process of self discovery, still grappling with his identity and self worth, this can take on a devastating effect. Say it often enough, and eventually he will think that's what he is.

Stupid. Idiot. Naughty. Brainless. Dumb. Foolish.
Nouns and adjectives which can maim you, and make you feel small.

I am very particular about the things people call my son. He may be a curious boy who is apt to get up to antics which can be extremely trying for those of us who are caring for him, but that does not warrant him being called a 'Naughty Boy!' even in jest, or to tell him that he has done wrong. There have been times when relatives say that to BabyMoo jokingly, but I will then quickly tell my son (even in their presence) that he is not being naughty, he just needs to listen to more carefully to what <insert person who called him 'naughty' name here> is saying or is telling him.

I don't care if people think that I'm spoiling my son by disallowing the usage of harsh words on him. I believe that there are many ways to discipline a kid and educate them, but name-calling isn't an option. I will not shield him from understanding these words (even choice swear words so that he will know if it's being used on him) but he has to also be able to understand when the usage is appropriate.

***

That boy wasn't stupid.
I'm sure he didn't mean to pee in his pants, and I sure as hell am convinced that he didn't want to go through the humiliation his mum put him through either.

Words can make a deeper scar than silence can heal.

***
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14 comments :

  1. You know why, we were brought up under singaporean parents who liked to demean their own children. Just the culture I suppose. Just like mum in law likes to call my girl naughty and shame shame, sometimes affectionately!

    I suppose it's not the words that's used but more the tone n the way she harped on and on about it. I mean, scold n move on already.

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    1. Ya, I think so... kinda like when someone praises the child, there is a necessity to downplay it?

      I agree on the tone part. I also think that she could have done it more 'privately', instead of embarrassing the boy, who not only had to deal with wetting his pants, and also the stares around him. Sad.

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  2. wow! I use harsh words on DinoEgg but i refrain from calling him stupid or idiot. I do label him as naughty *roll eyes at myself* coz HE IS! ok ok he is being CURIOUS and MISCHIEVOUS which I should have tolerate but cannot at times *roll eyes at myself again*

    Ok back to the mum. She is telling that to a THREE YEAR OLD... she has higher expectations then me *chuckles* But kids being kids, they always need to go toilet at the weird moments. I can ask DinoEgg if he needs to go toilet when we are queueing at the restaurant, 5mins later, our butt barely touch the seat n he proclaims "Oh I need to go toilet." *palm face* Of course he will receive some scoldings from us (who wouldn't?) Now that he is older, I just let him visit the Little Men's room himself *phew*

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    1. I'm not questioning what she did... I'm sure every parent knows how to handle each of their kids best. I just wished that she hadn't used 'Stupid' on him (because what he did wasn't stupid, just perhaps an accident or worse come to the worse - a cry for attention). And she could have done it without the whole toilet listening and witnessing the exchange!

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  3. No doubt at all, I can sense it must be too overwhelming for that mummy. I snap at my children in hush harsh tones when there's a need to correct their behavior in public. But I don't think I've done it in full view of others staring and judging me. Or I may have? Hahaha! Anyways the heart of the matter is not using demeaning words to correct your child. Mmmm is silly ok? :p

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    1. "Hushed Harsh tones" - therein lies the difference.

      Silly billy! :D

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    2. hahaha! I do disturb my boy calling him "silly B.Lee", his initials. hehe

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  4. I think to a certain extent, verbal abuse is as bad as physical abuse. "naughty" is the furthest ive gone. We will never use the word "stupid" on our kids. Never. People say never say never but this one is seriously NEVER!!!

    Ps loving the new domain name btw

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    1. Yeah... I think it's unnecessary in any circumstances! Kids, take on their parents' characteristics. Some are inborn, some are learnt. To call one's kid stupid will require the parent to do some self reflection.

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    2. I love my new house, too!! :)

      And re: the header - all your doing. Lovin' it!

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  5. Sigh...so sad yeah? I always believe in praising publicly and disciplining privately. Of course with my active boys it is a strain just trying to keep my cool...but words do have a bigger effect than people think. Certain words are no-nos. I feel sorry for that lil guy...

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    1. Yes... I think it was more the tone and the way she kept on emphasising it that got to me.

      I was so sad for him, too! It must have been so humiliating :(

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  6. I will not use the word stupid on any child - I just cannot understand why our asian culture has notions like that; so many think tat when u say harsh words to the child, the child will be motivated to improve and do better. Words can tear a person down, what more a 3 year old child hearing this from someone he trusts and love :(

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    1. I don't like any form of derogatory words used on any child either. Ok... they may be subject to it when they start going to playgrounds, etc, but I suppose the impact is more when adults (who are supposed to be role models, etc) use it on them. I think it's far worse than playground bullying of any sort, because aren't we supposed to know better?

      Maybe he's older than 3. But that's besides the point. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we're only looking at it from an outsider's point of view.

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