Auntie Says… Words matter

What you say can have a lasting effect

Are you aware of what you’re saying to your child or what message you’re sending with your behaviour? Kids do hear whether you think they’re listening or not and believe me the ears perk up even more when then they overhear their name.

The reason I ask is that I had a chat with a mom a couple of weeks ago who related a story about her ten-year-old daughter returning from a weekend visit with her dad. The girl said her dad started teasing and calling her names when he noticed she had underarm hair. He told her she needed to start shaving because the hair made her masculine and no boy was ever going to like her.

Needless to say, this upset the young girl who then went home to mom and relayed the story. The mom, not wanting to put her ex-husband in a bad light, wasn’t sure how to react to the situation.

The whole thing peeved me off.

A parent should never demean a child for any reason and in this particular instance, the dad is way off base.

I see it as a clear case of bullying. Teasing and commenting on normal physical development and body image will do more harm than good. Personal grooming is something that needs to be discussed with options given but it isn’t something to be mocked or shame-filled.

I applaud the girl for questioning her dad’s words. By acknowledging that the words made her uncomfortable a much-needed discussion took place. In the end, I’m trusting the mom had a chat with the dad to relay the problem and I hope he took it seriously. The sad thing is a week before the young girl was completely unaware of shaving — it wasn’t even on her radar — and now it’s an issue. I hope the dad learned a lesson, but only time will tell.

Words have a lasting and powerful impact. Kids can become hypersensitive about things they have no control over, from the colour of their hair, the size of their nose, to the onset of puberty. Everything and anything can become an issue that affects self-esteem, personal growth and social interactions.

There’s a whole movement around body shaming, for example, where humiliation is used against someone’s size or shape. This disgusts me beyond any imagination and when it’s used on children or young people it’s even more deplorable.

Kids have so much anxiety and stress already in our fast-paced world they don’t need a coach poking them in the belly, parents putting them on diets, and they certainly don’t need a grandparent telling them all about their liposuction, boob job, and facelift while promising the youngster that they too ‘can have their flaws fixed.’

These are real stories about real kids.

Home and family should be a haven for children and not a place of ridicule and self-doubt. Comments are sometimes made in jest but believe me that can be even worse when you’re the butt of the joke. Words can sting and wound to a point of leaving a life-long scar. Imagine having no voice, no recourse, and no insight into what damage is being done.

I know I’ve barely touched on this issue but I want it to serve as a reminder that children do absorb our words and we need to watch what we say.

Often we don’t let kids watch adult movies because you ‘can’t un-see what is seen’, well, neither can you ‘un-hear the criticism, negativity, or judgement that you hear.’

Think about it.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached through her website at www.fayeearcand.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Petition to install safety barriers on Hwy 97 garners over 500 supporters

Yesterday a fatal collision on Hwy 97 claimed the life of one individual

Oliver Health Centre celebrates expansion of ER

Minister of Health was in Oliver for the official opening of the improved emergency department

ALERT and Penticton pilot team up to talk about Australian wildfires

Mike Bridson has been fighting the fires in Australia, and returns to help more later this month

Harlem Globetrotters’ Hops Pearce is pumped to bring show to Penticton

Less than two weeks to get your tickets to see Globetrotters’ high-flying stunts

Okanagan health care community mourns loss of long-time hospital director

Ken Jarrard dedicated his life in Penticton to health care; he passed away today at age 92.

Older Canadians highlighted in Kelowna film project to fight ageism

The project is part of a campaign to combat ageism

Revelstoke already double last year’s snowfall

The city is just below halfway to the snowiest winter on record

True Stories: Okanagan memoir-writers, reading

Reading with local North Okanagan writers Art Dalton, Patti Shales Lefkos, Raven Dahl, Janelle Hardy

Kelowna’s last video store, Leo’s Videos, to remain open despite failed sale

Kelowna’s last video rental store will remain open and under its namesake’s ownership

Crown won’t appeal sentence in child sex assault case of former Burns Lake mayor

B.C. Prosecution Service said sentence doesn’t meet standard for appeal

Summerland drama students to stage Matilda

Story by Roald Dahl will be presented at Centre Stage Theatre in February

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Woman convicted in Salmon Arm love triangle murder granted escorted temporary absences

Monica Sikorski was 17 when she plotted shooting death of 22-year-old Tyler Myers

New book released on the untold Indigenous history of Revelstoke

Swift River is Laura Stovel’s fourth book

Most Read