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Shocking words to a child

August 23, 2013 - Jodelle Greiner
I witnessed something Saturday that disturbed me greatly.

I was in a store here in town and there was a small boy, about one year old or less, who got fussy. He was jabbering and cried for a minute or so. This was during the noon hour and I suspect he was hungry. Anyone who’s been around kids that age can probably picture the scene.

What shocked me was the mother’s reaction.

She dropped a couple F-bombs and then g-d’ed the kid.

I’m still speechless days later.

Keep in mind the kid wasn’t wailing at the top of his lungs incessantly; he was just fussy. I’ve certainly heard kids making much more noise than that. I’ve been around babies all my life and babysat my nephews a lot when I was a teenager, so I have a fair amount of experience with crabby kids that age.

I could not believe this woman was cursing out her kid with that kind of language and the dad — I assume it was the boy’s father — was standing right there.

If this is the way children are being raised, I have a much better understanding of why the kids of today are out of control — committing crimes and shooting up their schools — they’re learning it from their parents and it's coming back around. There are numerous cases of children killing their parents. A New Mexico boy was 10 when he allegedly shot and killed his father in 2009. Now 14, he is scheduled to face a jury this month on first-degree murder charges. His defense team will argue he and his siblings were subjected to years of abuse and tried repeatedly to get help. A California boy who was also 10 when he fatally shot his father was convicted in January of second-degree murder. Abuse and neglect also played a part in that case.

How can we expect our children to turn out with any semblance of normalcy when they’re being cussed out for the most natural response they have, a little bit of crying?

NEVER curse at your children. I don’t care what the kid is doing, what mood you’re in, whatever — cursing at your child is NEVER an appropriate reaction.

I heard a snippet on the radio the other day about a study that found hearing harsh words makes the brain react the same as being physically hit.

I found an article “Words Can Hurt” written by Anne Cohn Donnelly, D.P.H., senior lecturer of social enterprise at Kellogg School of Management.

“Emotional abuse, inflicted by a trusted adult, can shatter a child’s self-image and leave scars that last a lifetime,” she wrote.

“Children pay a terrible price for emotional abuse from parents and other adults. Some live with bursts of rage every day or wild mood swings,” Cohn Donnelly wrote. “Children need to feel cared for and safe. And they need to feel worthwhile.

“In the last decade, we have learned that emotional abuse is deep-seated, widespread and preventable,” she wrote. “(Emotional abuse is) the constant belittling, criticizing and pulling down of a child, most often done verbally. This maltreatment, which results in impaired psychological growth and development, includes rejection, intimidation, or humiliation of a child, and chaotic, bizarre, or hostile acts which produce fear or guilt. It also includes lack of nurturing or acceptance and other actions which damage a child’s intellectual or psychological functioning.”

“Emotional abuse can be even more harmful (than physical abuse),” she wrote. “Children can’t show their scars right away, so the abuse usually continues longer than physical abuse...”

“We can all do certain things to help prevent emotional abuse,” Cohn Donnelly wrote. “We all need to understand that (1) words can hurt as hard as a fist (2) children believe what their parent and trusted adults tell them, (3) adults should stop and listen to what they are saying to children (they might not believe their ears!), and (4) angry or frustrated adults ought to take time out rather than taking it out on a child.”

If you’re a parent who recognizes that you over-react, have unrealistic expectations of child development (berating or whipping a 2-year-old for wetting their pants), or you often feel overwhelmed and frustrated because you don’t have a lot of experience with small kids, please seek help NOW! You need help coping and your kid needs a calm, sane parent.

For everyone else, if you know a parent who is having problems coping, please do SOMETHING. Take them aside and talk to them; sometimes knowing someone is noticing their behavior is enough to get them to admit they are overwhelmed. Suggest they contact an agency or other professional to get training in childcare or counseling to cope. If nothing else, call a hotline and report them to law officials. You might be saving that kid from years of emotional abuse or worse. Verbal abuse doesn’t always stay verbal; it often escalates into physical abuse.

For more information: • Read Cohn Donnelly’s complete 5-page report at • Read “Child abuse happens here,” an article in The Sentinel about the video highlighting child abuse statistics in Faribault and Martin counties made by Zac Huntley for Children First of Faribault County; • Read “Child abuse group honored,” an article in The Sentinel about Children First of Faribault County. The group’s social worker Ann Huntley may be contacted at or call Blue Earth Area High School at 507-526-3201. • Contact Martin County Human Services at 507-238-4757 or Faribault County Human Services at 507-526-3265. Callers reporting abuse can remain anonymous.


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