The Power of Words

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Linh H
Member since August 9, 2017
  • 3 Posts
  • Age 20

Image by Zara Walker

Image by Zara Walker

Words can heal but, sometimes, they can hurt too. In fact, the pain that words leave behind often goes unnoticed as there are no scars left on bodies. However, just because the scars are invisible, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

To children, adults are like superior beings who know so much about this strange mysterious world, that they might as well know everything. It is not unusual that children to look up to adults and to believe everything they are told, from tooth fairies to Santa Claus. If we are all aware of that, then why do we suppose children do not believe us when we say something bad about them? Why do we assume that children have some kind of filter in their brain when it comes to negativity and that negativity cannot be absorbed?

Sometimes, I wonder why it is tremendously difficult for me to accept genuine compliments. I guess it can be traced back to my childhood – back to when I was constantly compared to other kids and made to feel like I was not good enough. Negative words have a powerful impact on children. Gradually, kids start to wonder if it is true that they are not good enough. This question lingers in their mind and creates feelings of insecurity that manifest in self-doubt and inferiority complexes. I grew up in a society where it is okay to compare children, but I think that this parenting approach does more harm than good. Each child is unique and should not be made to feel insignificant. By comparing kids to others, adults directly damage their self-image instead of encouraging them to improve themselves. Inferiority complexes or feelings of inadequacy are common among children who have suffered from verbal abuse, and the effects are very likely to last and follow children into adolescence and adulthood.

Parents always want the best for their children; some of them even want their kids to be the best. However, sometimes, what’s best for children, and what makes them the best do not overlap. Parents’ expectations can be a great source of motivation that inspires children to be better. Words of encouragement, if used properly, can have a positive influence on children. Nevertheless, absurdly high expectations can be detrimental to children’s development as they put children under a tremendous amount of pressure. Don’t get me wrong. It’s understandable to have high hopes for your own kids but when it leads to humiliation and belittling, it’s an entirely different thing. As a result, children strive to work harder and even to change themselves just to satisfy their parents. Shouldn’t kids be taught to embrace themselves rather than being forced into boxes? Throughout my childhood, I witnessed the impact of unusually high expectations to excel placed on my friends and even me, to be the best student in class, or simply to be like someone else. We were not physically harmed but the pressure was immense and we were constantly stressed. Because unrealistic expectations are almost impossible to meet, children often fail and there is disappointment, which then again makes children feel like they are not good enough.

Though the effects of verbal abuse are not visually apparent, its psychological impact can be very severe. For instance, comparisons reinforce the toxic mindset of seeking approval from others. Children who have been subjected to this kind of abuse may go out of their way to achieve a certain goal as long as it is recognized by others. After all, they are desperate for parents’ love and willing to do anything to gain affection. Children ought to know their values are not based on other people’s opinions but their own, and they should be motivated internally instead of externally. Another serious effect of verbal abuse inflicted upon children is trust issues, a direct result of low self-esteem. Grownups that were verbally abused as kids tend to have difficulties believing they matter and are loved because they have been convinced otherwise. It’s a defense mechanism to ensure they will not get hurt as trust will not be lost. However, I believe that it’s maladaptive and likely to be problem when it comes to human relationships during adulthood.

Verbal abuse, varying from belittling, to humiliating, to threatening, is real and a great number of children are suffering from it. Words are powerful as they can be empowering or damaging. Acknowledging the potential effects of verbal abuse is the first step in changing and improving the situation. Identifying the source of negativity and resolving it is also a great start to positive communication between adults and children. Use your words to promote confidence and self-expression and to remind children that they are loved. In this world, children are vulnerable; let’s show them love and appreciation.

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