Scarred for life

Be­ing em­barassed in pub­lic can dam­age a child’s self-es­teem.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PARENTING -

WE of­ten hear par­ents scold­ing their chil­dren and call­ing them names in pub­lic. Many passers-by would just walk away while some would watch the com­mo­tion from a dis­tance. No one would go to the child’s res­cue.

We don’t re­alise that chil­dren, es­pe­cially very young chil­dren, are suf­fer­ing when their par­ents or guardians re­peat­edly yell and hurl abu­sive words at them.

In many house­holds, par­ents con­tinue to be­lieve that chil­dren will get over this emo­tional hurt when they grow up, and learn some­thing out of this dis­ci­pline.

The truth is far from this. To­day, we live among adults who are emo­tion­ally scarred by the threats, name­call­ing and ne­glect they ex­pe­ri­enced as chil­dren. The vi­cious cy­cle con­tin­ues when they be­come par­ents as they may adopt the same par­ent­ing style with their own chil­dren.

Un­for­tu­nately, we live in a “cul­ture of si­lence” and choose not to in­ter­fere when we see chil­dren get yelled at or thrown out of the house as pun­ish­ment.

Once I wit­nessed two young chil­dren squat­ting out­side their house. They were sob­bing un­con­trol­lably. I found out that they were locked out as pun­ish­ment for dis­obey­ing their mother. I voiced out my con­cern for their safety and well-be­ing. Their mother re­lented and let them in.

As a young child, I lived next to an el­derly neigh­bour who was rais­ing her six-year-old grand­daugh­ter. Liv­ing in a ter­race­house, I heard her cries and screams when her grand­mother was beat­ing her. I felt help­less.

There was a mother in my chil­dren’s tod­dler play­group who slapped her two-year-old daugh­ter’s hand to stop her from reach­ing out for things. This was her way of telling her child that she should be­have ap­pro­pri­ately. She told me that she wanted her daugh­ter to learn to wait for her per­mis­sion.

In­fants and tod­dlers who live in homes with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence tend to be un­der emo­tional stress that af­fects their cog­ni­tive and sen­sory devel­op­ment. Joy Osof­sky and her col­leagues con­curred with this in their study, pub­lished in 1999.

A new UNICEF re­port on Child Dis­ci­plinary Prac­tices At Home this month re­veals that three out of four of chil­dren sur­veyed have ex­pe­ri­enced vi­o­lence in the home. Half of them suf­fered some form of phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment while three out of four were sub­jected to psy­cho­log­i­cal ag­gres­sion.

There is an ur­gent need to come up with a na­tional strat­egy on get­ting data to curb the in­creas­ing vi­o­lence against chil­dren. We must join forces to pro­tect them by mak­ing ev­ery home one that is free of vi­o­lence.

We need to help par­ents and care­givers un­der­stand that they can use pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline in­stead of phys­i­cal force or ver­bal threats. Chil­dren do break and can get dam­aged when they are hurt. Even min­i­mal phys­i­cal or emo­tional hurt can cause the child to suf­fer harm.

It takes time and pa­tience to get chil­dren to be­have cor­rectly. They need to ob­serve and learn from the peo­ple around them. They make mis­takes along the way. This is how they learn what is right and wrong. They need some­one to show them how to get things right. If we want a bet­ter and safer fu­ture, we need to make sure we know how to help our chil­dren learn the best pos­si­ble way. They need to be em­pow­ered not put down. They need to be ac­cepted not re­jected.

More can be achieved if we treat our chil­dren with more com­pas­sion. It is their right to feel safe and live in a se­cure en­vi­ron­ment. They learn to co­op­er­ate when they have the right skills to do it.

Ev­ery par­ent wants his or her child to be well-man­nered and ca­pa­ble. Hit­ting or scold­ing will not achieve this. When it gets too dif­fi­cult to cope, stressed-out par­ents need to seek help.

When a child’s chal­leng­ing be­hav­iour pro­vokes par­ents, the child is re­jected by his par­ents. In turn, the child who feels re­jected will be­have worse, caus­ing par­ents to re­act more neg­a­tively to­ward him.

Use pos­i­tive words with your chil­dren. This way, they will be­have pos­i­tively and thrive. Chil­dren who feel loved tend to have high self-es­teem. They co­op­er­ate with oth­ers to achieve suc­cess.

Seize ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to spend time with your chil­dren with­out get­ting an­gry or frus­trated with them. A word of en­cour­age­ment can make a dif­fer­ence in how they view them­selves. n Asia Pa­cific Fo­rum on Fam­i­lies is con­duct­ing an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on Divorce,Re­Mar­riage,Step­fam­i­lies& Blend­edFam­i­lies:Chal­lenges AndTheWayFor­ward from Nov 1-3 at Crowne Plaza Mu­tiara, Kuala Lumpur. To reg­is­ter, con­tact Su­laiha (% 07-2244148 / fax 072230867 / e-mail su­laiha.kk@ gmail.com).

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