I took Elodie to McDonald's today, which is something we do a few afternoons a week. She's in kindergarten now, but is only on half days, so is home with me in the afternoons. We often get bored or tired or frustrated being cooped up in the house, so we pack up the knitting and walk a few blocks to McDonald's. I get a diet coke and knit while Elodie plays with the many kids that are always in the play place.
Today, we both saw something that made us both a little sad. There was a little boy that E was playing with. He seemed to be really sweet, and they were having a great time. When his mom said it was time to go, the boy was upset that they were leaving. She hauled him into the bathroom. Several minutes later, the boy came out very red faced, like he'd been crying very hard. As they were leaving, she told him to "shut up", and then threw his toy into the garbage.
Now, I do not, by any means, have a clean mouth. In fact, it's usually quite filthy. But there's one thing that I cannot abide, and that's the words "shut up" uttered at another human being. I'll drop the eff word without the slightest hesitation. But telling another person to shut up is demeaning. And a mother telling her child that, her five-year-old child, is absolutely, unquestionably wrong in my books. To me, it's beyond rude. And to tell your child to shut up and then throw away one of their possessions is awful.
I am totally scarred by that interaction I witnessed today, and will take this opportunity to remind myself that abuse comes in all sorts of forms. Whenever a person makes another feel bad about themselves, it's abuse. It is our jobs as parents to guide our children, but to also empower them so they make proper choices, not to berate them and make them feel worthless.
Parents, take note, your words stick with your children. And they mean something.