Words Can Heal

 

What do words and armaments have in common?


Sometimes the smaller the “weapon,” the greater its destructive power.

Just as the splitting of an infinitesimal atom in an atomic bomb can kill thousands of people, so a single word or two can destroy a person’s self-image and have deleterious consequences for a lifetime.

“Fatso!”

“Stupid idiot!”

“Looser!”

Such insults hurled at a person who already has doubts about his or her looks, intelligence, or popularity (and which of us doesn’t?) can have lethal effects. Children are especially vulnerable to name-calling, because their sense of identity is still in the formative stage.

If Billy’s friend—or even worse, Billy’s parent— repeatedly calls him “Stupid!” his natural reaction (unless he is a straight-A student) will be to feel, “Maybe I am stupid.” This may cause Billy to despair of academic achievement. After all, why study hard for a test when he is “stupid” and probably won’t succeed anyway? While Billy may have had the aptitude to get into and graduate from a good college, his image of himself as “stupid,” may keep him from ever trying to actualize his academic potential.

Parents and teachers who understand this dangerous chain reaction will avoid name-calling as assiduously as they avoid leaving poisonous substances within a child’s reach.

If Katie bumps into a living room shelf and causes a $200 Waterford crystal vase to fall and shatter, her mother would do well to remember that by calling Katie “Clumsy!” she may be doing more damage to her daughter than Katie did to the vase.

How should Katie’s mother respond?

Reality Shows

Unfortunately, name-calling is endemic in our society. One of the main culprits is television, which specializes in the two-word put-down.

For example, American Idol is a popular reality show among young viewers, who admire the celebrities sitting on the judging panel. When a judge insults a contestant by saying, "You're fat!" or "You're the worst singer I've ever heard in my life!" the message conveyed to the audience is: Put-downs and name-calling are cool. The viewer registers that this is "reality," which translates into "normal," which slides down the slippery slope to "acceptable."

Thousands of scientific studies over the last two decades have proven that television has a major imitative impact on its audiences, especially children. For example, a longitudinal 22-year study by Drs. Leonard Eron and Rowell Huesmann, professors of psychology at the University of Illinois, tracked violent behavior and a range of other habits and environmental stimuli in a random sampling of subjects. They discovered that the amount of television children watched at eight years old was the single most powerful predictor of violent behavior at age thirty - more than poverty, grades, a single-parent home, or even exposure to real violence. If a significant proportion of children who watch murder will end up committing murder, then how can children who watch name-calling not end up imitating this odious behavior?

Parents who are seriously committed to eliminating name-calling might try these tips:

Source: Brought to you by www.verticalresponse.com Visit www.WordsCanHeal.org for more ideas on how to heal with words. And spread the word! Send this message out today -- together we can make a difference!

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