We have come a long way from the days of “spare the rod and spoil the child.” There was a time when hitting children was considered normal. Most would now agree that this is unacceptable, and further, it sends the child the wrong message. We have laws now to protect individuals from physical abuse.
We have not made the same progress in terms of verbal abuse . Parents get frustrated with children, spouses can make each other angry. We do not, in our culture, have mutually agreed upon rules for limiting abusive comments. Consequently, anger becomes the excuse to say things that normally would not be said.
Comments spoken to another cannot be erased from memory. Tell a child that he is stupid, and even if you apologize and say it isn’t true, that belief will be stored in his memory. Call your wife names and even though you later say you did not mean it, she will, deep down, always question the depth of your love for her.
Verbal abuse is damaging to everyone. It hurts the one to whom it is directed, leaving lasting scars. It is upsetting for those who are witnesses to it. It does serious damage to relationships .
There is no justification for saying mean, hurtful things to another. Any point can be made without resorting to attacking. Adults should know better, and they should model healthy communication for their children. Early on, parents should teach children the meaning of the term “verbal abuse,” pointing out to them when they are doing it. Children need to be protected from verbal abuse even from their siblings, for this kind of abuse can shape the way a child’s personality and sense of self develops.
Perhaps if we start calling verbal abuse for what it is, we can raise awareness to the point that it becomes as unacceptable as physical abuse.
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