Words are used to express our emotions, needs, and frustrations. Children at a young age learn how to use words to tell others what they are feeling and thinking. As they grow, children might start to use offensive words and realize that they can hurt others with the words they say. As adults, we need to teach children to be advocates and explain why words matter and take a look at the words we use around them.
Learned from school or social media, children might start using offensive words without even realizing the true meanings. They use it as slang, not noticing they could be offending someone within earshot. It is important to correct the child and explain to them how it could offend someone and hurts their feelings as part of your own advocacy. Be consistent with corrections and eventually the words should disappear from their vocabulary. For an index of language and word choices surrounding the special needs community, click here.
As adults, we can teach children to use alternate words that won’t be offensive. For example, parents concerned with their child using God’s name in vain encourage the use of “oh goodness” or “oh geez”. Parenting already includes the effort to use language that sounds more innocent and sweet versus an offensive word they don’t even know the meaning of. Creating innocent alternate words or, when appropriate, the proper terminology will help the offensive words that a child uses disappear.
Also, children might start using words to hurt and make fun of others. We have discussed how to explain bullying to children, but it’s also important for advocates to explain special needs in a way that makes sure their own child is not part of a future problem. They could start using mean words to compensate for the differences between themselves. A child could tell a peer that he is a “nerd” for being good at math, or tell a peer that she is “stupid” for not being able to spell a certain word. It is critical to teach children to celebrate differences and to teach them that making fun of each other is hurtful. To understand more about talking to children about differences or the importance of advocacy, read our post here.
One thing to realize is that children will use words that they hear around them. To block some of the influence, parents need to monitor social media and the TV shows their children watch. If they are watching shows that use offensive language or display a lot of bullying, then children may think that is okay and normal. You can set up parental controls on many devices to block shows or items that display hurtful language and actions.
The most important thing we can do to teach children that words matter is to lead by example and build advocacy by being an advocate. A child won’t realize that a word is hurtful or offensive if they hear it from their role models every day. We need to analyze our own language and use kinder words to show children that the words we chose to use are important, both for advocacy and day-to-day life.
Teaching children that words matter is an important life lesson that will affect them far out of their childhood. Words express our emotions, but finding and using kind words will have a better impact. Correcting children when they use poor words and explaining how words can be hurtful will help children learn that words matter. We can’t forget to lead by example and monitor outside influences. If you have any suggestions on how to teach children that words matter, please feel free to submit them through a comment.
If you have any questions regarding Cerebral Palsy, advocacy or would like to learn more about teaching children why words matter, don’t hesitate to call us at (800) 692-4453(800) 692-4453 FREE or fill out our contact form on Facebook or our website.