Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bad Parenting

     "I suck! I suck!"
     Wow, I thought. She's not even two yet and my daughter already has a negative self-image. It's so hard raising girls in our culture...
     Oh, but actually what she was saying was that she's stuck. She says that a lot. Her self esteem is just fine--it's her tongue that's all twisted up in knots.
     That's a cute little anecdote, but I'm going to use it to lead into something that was neither cute nor funny. I was in a public restroom the other day, unfortunate enough to need to spend some time on the throne there, when I heard a man and a boy come into the bathroom. Within moments of entering, the little boy had done something--I don't know what--to cause the man (his father?) to berate him as a "dummy" and ask "why do you always have to be so stupid?"
     When I saw them, the boy probably wasn't older than 3 or 4, and the man, well, he hardly seemed old enough to merit the designation, maybe in his early 20s, but yeah, probably the father of this boy. And for all that his words were so mean, in his other words you could detect a note of concern, of care, trying to keep the boy from doing something he shouldn't, trying, perhaps, to do the best he could as a caretaker, but with no thought at all about the child's emotional health. 
     Everything about the situation was sad. This guy shouldn't be taking care of a kid--taking care of himself was probably challenge enough. And this kid shouldn't be growing up with the constant message that he's stupid, inadequate, worthless. But there they are, stuck with each other, and I doubt their relationship is unique in its character.

1 comment:

  1. Remarks such as the ones you cite should NEVER be said to a child, nor should patently untrue ones, such as "You are a brilliant musician" to a child who is tone-deaf, both leading to false and harmful self-talk. Sometimes I wish parents could just hear themselves recorded and played back; or think of the same demeaning words being applied to themselves (they probably were). I wish more parents were perceptive people such as you.