Okay. I promise the rest of my posts are not always going to be such downers, but this topic is something that has been bugging me for years now, and it feels good to get it off my chest. So on to Part 2:
Parents Deny the Validity of Their Children's Thoughts/Feelings
Even more upsetting is the way parents talk to their children. They ridicule and belittle them. Now, most of the children I work with are under the age of 5, and these poor kids just can't win for anything. No matter how they act, their parents ridicule them. For example, a child is upset because she's getting a finger poke. First, the parent lies to the child about the pain. Then, the parent gets upset and sometimes yells at the child for crying. The parent acts as though the child is intentionally misbehaving, when the child is actually scared. Lying to the child about the pain will not help, as the child knows it will hurt. Yelling at the child will not help, as the child cannot control her fear response. The child needs to be told the truth and then comforted as much as possible throughout the procedure and after the procedure.
When the finger poke is over, many children are understandably still upset and often still crying. Many parents will get angry, and tell their children "It's over. Stop crying." Or, "See? All that crying for nothing." But the child is not crying for nothing. There is a reason. The parents are telling the child that he shouldn't be feeling the way he's feeling, that his reaction is bad, that they are upset with him for having the feelings he has. There is no comfort offered, and the parents appear to have much disdain for their own children. What a horrible and isolating experience for such a young child.
Another one that gets me is "See, your little sister didn't even cry." First of all, babies cry less often than older children, as they often don't know what's about to happen. Older children have been to the doctor several times, and they know the drill. They have a lot of time to think about and anticipate what will happen, and therefore are more scared than the younger child. But secondly, why are these parents trying to make their children feel bad about themselves, to dash their self esteem at such a young age? Even the older kids we see are no more than 4 years old. One time, a mom was thoroughly disgusted with her child, who was just shy of his third birthday. She ridiculed him, saying, "How are you going to go to school acting like that? Do you want all the kids to laugh at you?" What the hell? Did this mom actually think her child is the only one who cries about pokes/shots?
Worse yet, there was an incident in which a mom was upset with her child because she had been crying all morning after being told they were going to the clinic that day. The mom kept saying that there was no reason to be upset. Then, after the poke was over, this poor child was finally smiling. Her mom still ridiculed her, saying "Why aren't you still crying? I thought your finger hurt." Good lord. If the child had still been crying, the mom would be mad about that. Now that the child was happy, the mom was ridiculing her. This child just couldn't win, no matter how she acted.
I bet that's how a lot of children feel - like they just can't win. And if they can't, then why even try?