Adults really need to be careful about what they say to children. There are so many things some adults can say that just mess with children's heads. When I was in primary school the teachers used to go on about "you need to get out of your comfort zone". This made me feel bad until I realised I was already out of my so-called 'comfort zone' all the time just being at school. Something else I've had said to me: "I know this thing is hard for you, but I need you to try." There are so many things wrong with this statement. 1. "I know this is hard for you" - sets the speaking person up as someone who 'cares' and 'understands' 2. "but" - undermines the previous statement as if it's irrelevant 3. "I need" - prioritising themselves 4. "you to try." - implies you weren't already trying So you're letting down someone who cares about you because you aren't even bothering to try? (When, in fact, you've already been trying your best just to reach a below average standard?) Statements like this can make a child feel guilty for no reason - and worthless because they can't meet the standard expectations - not to mention confused by the mixed messages. Or this one - "you need to learn to speak up for yourself and then people won't misunderstand you". So it was always 'my fault' if I got in trouble or got treated in a way that was harmful to me. (And now when I do 'speak up for myself', people rarely listen anyway.) Then there are all the times I've gotten in trouble or gotten told off because of a misunderstanding caused by my disability and the school's voluntary ignorance. Or teachers being grumpy at you when you get an excemption from something. Or a teacher getting angry at me when, due to my disabilities, I was given a choice about whether or not to walk up and down stairs as a punishment with the rest of the class (a punishment for something I had nothing to do with) and I couldn't decide what I should do. And there's being told off for wearing a jumper because you feel cold when everyone else feels hot. (This is something I've gotten both from teachers and peers.) And then there's things like getting in trouble for having the wrong uniform, or forgetting to bring something to school. I saw a girl getting in trouble in grade 1 for not knowing left and right. School often just has a way of making a crime out of the most ridiculous and petty things - and making children feel bad for no reason - usually with no regard for what might be going on in that child's own life or that child's capacities or disabilities, and no compassion. There are a lot of other bad things that children are getting told, but this post is focusing on things I have more personal experience with. Especially for children with conditions like ASD and OCD, these words and incidents can stay with them and they can learn from experiences like these that everything is their fault. Defence Mode can be made worse with this stuff running around their heads. And it can set them up for manipulative and abusive relationships, which disabled people are usually more vulnerable to already, where 'any time the other person isn't happy with you, it's your fault'. And 'if they treat you badly, it's because you did something wrong.' So this is just to say, there are a lot of careless or petty or sometimes well-meaning things that a lot of adults say that can create a burden of unnecessary guilt on children and have long term consequences. Plus, children often may not understand what's going on in their heads or know how to explain it. Or, as they may already feel guilty for something that wasn't their fault, they may be afraid of talking about it and getting in even more trouble. So, hopefully this post will be helpful to someone, whether a child or a parent or someone who's experienced this in the past. Of course, there are also a lot of harmful things that kids can say to each other, but similar ideas probably apply. Note: by 'guilt', I'm talking about unnecessary, false guilt, not real, necessary moral guilt that leads to repentance.
Posted by Sonya S. at 2022-10-24 04:11:24 UTC