When I was growing up, my father used to say things to me such as: “You are ugly, you were adopted, I’m going to send you to your real parents” and then laugh like he was joking. If I was outside playing and hurt my knee, I’d run inside crying. My father would say: “Well your face is killing me!!” and then laugh. The sad part is, I used to laugh too. My father would often tell me I was a good boy when I made him proud. I was a good boy if I caught a fish. I laughed those times too, even though I was a girl.
I thought this behavior was normal. Now that I am older, I have learned that this type of parenting was not normal. My father was abusing me through verbal abuse.
Verbal abuse is defined as harsh or insulting language directed at someone. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1 billion children between the ages of 2 and 17 have experienced some type of abuse as a child, verbal included. More than 50% of abused children are also abused as adults.
Verbal abuse can be very hard to identify, yet is a form of domestic violence. Long-term consequences of child verbal abuse include impaired social skills and cognitive/emotional development; feeling helpless; PTSD and depression; substance misuse; impaired relationships into adulthood; and self-harm.
Abuse under the guise of joking around is still abuse. We expect and desire respect from children, yet how do we model that respect?
Caregivers can help children become compassionate adults. Model good listening by being present when your child is speaking to you. Put down devices and engage fully in listening. Consider your child’s viewpoint and admit when you make mistakes. Keep your promises and show up for your child. Respect your child’s feelings and experiences by keeping them private. Don’t share their struggles on social media or make them the butt of your jokes. By showing your children respect through what you say and do, you give them the tools to do the same.
OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and sex trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move toward living with respect, healing, and hope that we all deserve. We can be reached 24/7 on our crisis and support line at 1.800.639.3130. Between 9-4 Monday-Friday, we are available on our chatline at www.turningpointsnetwork.org or by text at 603.506.6553.