We have heard of child abuse time and again. Another problem concerning abuses and children has arisen, i.e. kids abusing others. This is an issue that needs to be taken notice of and rectified. Kids using abusive language mostly happen in the areas where the lower class resides. But this can appear in any area – middle class and even the higher class. As a teacher, I have even seen children coming from a higher class area using vulgar language in a posh school. Counsellor Freyaz Shroff cleared the air about dealing with abusive children in an interview given exclusively to ajournalistreveals.com.
Prevention: Children pick up language from anywhere and everywhere. According to Freyaz, “Parents have to be the example that they want their children to follow. Children are not born knowing how to curse, shout, yell, scream and be abusive. So if we come back to the nature versus nurture issue, then in this case there is no argument. The problem is clearly ‘nurture’.”
Children pickup various things from their surroundings. In one bizarre incident, a small boy picked up the words “Son of a B****” instead of “Sum of which” as his father would use those abusive words for his boss in front of the child. She insists, “Though you don’t use abusive language directly in front of your children, but to your boss, in jest with your friends or to colleagues, if your children hear the swearing, they will emulate it. So, the number one way to prevent children from using such language is simply not to use it at home yourself.”
If the child has picked it up from their schools and/or peers, Freyaz tells us not to give the word any attention. She suggests, “Instead have a conversation about polite words that can be used. Ask the child if they can come up with their own examples of good words. Doing so creates and strengthens neural brain connections because you are forcing the child to think for themselves.”
She adds, “You prevent unacceptable behaviour by being the role model that you want your kids to follow. If you do not want your child to behave in a certain way, then do not behave that way yourself. If you have conducted yourself in a way that is not desirable, then immediately apologize to your child. In this way, children can learn that even adults are not immune to making mistakes. But once you have made your mistake, take steps to rectify it. Be extra vigilant and aware of your actions and words. Children don’t have a working model of how to behave in the world. They will look to you for clues.”
Reversal, when the Damage is done: Children pickup bad words for women and use them without realizing that they are insulting their own mothers and sisters. (You know which words I mean). Freyaz explains, “When a child uses a bad word, they don’t actually know or understand what they have said. The reason they tend to use these words repeatedly is the reaction they are getting. To the child the word’s value lies in its anger or shock value, not in the actual meaning of the word. If you give the word, neither of those reactions, it loses its value and the child loses their motivation for using the word. So, essentially a reaction from you is akin to adding fuel to a fire.”
Instead, find a moment that is completely unrelated and random. Use that moment to speak about compassion, kindness, using good words and doing good deeds.
In the case of older children using bad language, it is perfectly appropriate to not react but simply walk away. Responding will guarantee repeat usage of the word. But walking away will create that emotional connect in their brain.
Inculcating Respect for Women and Elders: Recently, we were watching a program on Sun TV, where 4 children were being interviewed by the host. One of the boys was a very abusive type. He used derogatory words for his own grandfather, who was sitting in the audience. The poor man was in tears by the end of the program. Children today don’t think twice while disrespecting even elders. Freyaz says that to make them respect women and elders, we have to respect women and elders ourselves because what we do they do. What children see, they copy. The world is one big life experiment for children. They are going to constantly test their limits and boundaries. We need to be very careful of what we introduce into their environment.
She continues, “The friends you allow your child to keep, the friends you keep yourselves, the maids or caretakers you keep for your child; all these people will influence your child’s perception of how to treat women and elders. The child is watching: how you treat all these people, how these people treat you and how all of these people treat women and elders.”
She finally says, “Over and above this, do not underestimate the overwhelming power media wields upon your child. The TV programs you allow your child to watch do influence your child, even if all the child’s friends and family behave impeccably. If the child sees programs in which women are acting subservient to their husbands or of disrespect towards elders, they will be affected by it.”