Kids Are Precious, Tell Them That

Choose your words to the children in your life carefully. A careless, casual criticism could be the words your child carries engraved on his or her heart for the rest of their life.

I don't have kids of my own, but I've always had kids in my life. I became a big sister at age 6 1/2, acquired two more younger brothers, and I've been "Auntie Beth" to countless friends' kids, and an actual Auntie to my niece. I definitely have that "mom" protective instinct. I said recently to my own aunt Karen that I had no idea when I held my niece Makayla for the first time just how much joy this child would bring into my life. She replied "now you know how I feel about you." Blessed doesn't begin to describe how I feel that this child is a part of me. She's 9, and she has a real sense of humor, a sunny and generous spirit, and she's just as happy to spend time with me as I am with her. She and I laugh like hyenas over things that nobody else in the world would find remotely funny and her presence in my life is a constant reminder of just how great life is. I would without hesitation sacrifice my own life to save hers.

Thinking about her makes hearing all the stories coming out of Penn State all the more horrifying. When the news story broke, and every time I read an update, it felt like someone lit a fuse inside me.  I feel angry, disgusted, heartbroken and ashamed. When an adult abuses a child, especially an adult in a position of trust like a parent, teacher, coach, scout leader, it is the most heinous and vile violation imaginable. They've taken something away from that child that can never be restored and no amount of punishment can ever right that wrong.

I can't imagine why Penn State's coach thought that it was okay to report what he knew and then sit back and do nothing. How many young people's lives would not have been decimated had Joe Paterno followed through and made sure that the appropriate actions were taken? 

It's a mess, and there is no quick fix. Let this be a reminder to us all that children are precious and childhood flies by and is gone before you realize it. Choose your words to the children in your life carefully. A careless, casual criticism could be the words your child carries engraved on his or her heart for the rest of their life. Children are our greatest resource and they deserve to be cherished and protected, even when they're at their most obnoxious. Tell kids how special they are and how much they mean to you.

Give thanks for the children you're blessed to know.

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Mary MacDonald (Editor) November 14, 2011 at 08:54 PM
I completely agree with you Beth, because I would often hear my students tell me things they had heard -- from teachers, parents, friends -- that bothered them, and sometimes it would seem like the slightest thing. But even the tough ones can be hurt easily, and vice-versa. It doesn't take much to bring them up either. I once wrote on a student's paper that she had made an "astute" point. (which, was a stupid word for me to use with a 12th grader). She asked me after class what it meant: I told her, you know, "sharp." She was still confused: "like pointy?" No, I laughed: "like smart." And her whole face just lit up. I remembered that for a long time...it made me wonder how often she'd been told that...
Beth Rayner-Zyskowski November 15, 2011 at 12:52 PM
My middle school gym teacher, Mr. Turner, said something jaw-droppingly inappropriate about me in front of me and the entire class. I was completely humiliated, went home and told my mother and she did nothing about it. Every child needs to know that someone has their back. That creep should have faced consequences at least severe enough to ensure he never treated another student the same way. This isn't very nice of me but when I heard many years later that he had died I was glad.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) November 15, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Sometimes we all say things that are stupid, or we regret, but with kids, you need to watch your language and what you say, because they will remember it a long time. I had one boy crying in the hall last year over something an adult said about him, in front of his friends, and I know it was a flip comment to the teacher, but it wasn't to him. I hear you on this one....
UglyHat November 15, 2011 at 03:21 PM
No offense intended Beth, but this reminds me of the old saying ‘sticks and stones…’. I agree that we should watch what we say but I think it’s good that kids learn sometimes good people say mean things. And some people are just mean. It will help them later in life. Perhaps your childhood encounters with mean people helped make you what you are today. I would much rather have 1,000 kids with hurt feelings than have 1 kid sexually assaulted. A guy in Hopedale turned himself in yesterday for sexually assaulting a young girl – and recording it. And they let him free on bail! What does that say to the little girl? Pedophilia seems to be a sickness that overcomes fear of punishment. Perhaps it is because the punishment for such crimes is too lenient. Or perhaps the sickness is terribly severe. Either way, long-term isolation would benefit society. Not as much as the death penalty would, but every little bit helps.
Charlie Schnapps November 15, 2011 at 04:01 PM
I loosely agree with you, Beth, though I'm not sure that I see the connection between sexual abuse and hurting a kids feelings. I'm sure that jerry Sandusky told his victims that they were wonderful before he assaulted them.
Beth Rayner-Zyskowski November 15, 2011 at 07:01 PM
The point I was trying to make is that abuse doesn't have to be sexual or physical to be devastating. A child who is verbally or emotionally abused is that much more vulnerable to sexual predators because they are so desperate for adult attention, affection and approval. I don't think that we need to coddle kids, and I think that the current thinking of giving every kid a trophy just for showing up is absurd, but a child who feels loved and protected at home is much more likely to tell on an abuser than one who feels they have no one to turn to and no one to save them.
UglyHat November 15, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Okay, now I get it and I agree 100%. Well said.
UglyHat November 15, 2011 at 07:37 PM
First I didn’t think I agreed with you, and then I thought I understood you. Now I don’t even know what you’re talking about. In your article you refer to ‘A careless, casual criticism’. Now you’re talking about 13 years of verbal and emotional abuse. Clearly, these two things are not equal – ‘sticks and stones’ does not apply to that type of abuse. I’m sorry you’ve been emotionally scarred.
Beth Rayner-Zyskowski November 16, 2011 at 04:03 AM
You're right, Mary. We need to be mindful that what we say to a child who looks up to us carries more weight than we may even realize. That's a lesson I for one have learned more than once.


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