What Are You Doing to Your Child?

When you hold a newborn baby, you sense something God-like … I dare say, even if you're an atheist. A baby is untainted, sacred, perfect!
It's important to hold that thought because incessant crying can get old, questions can grow monotonous, and running after a toddler can be a full-time job. That's not really the problem, though; the problem is that you already have a full-time job. That means trying to turn the child into less than a full-time job -- or, sadly, less than he or she is.
You're likely to find yourself saying "no," a lot. The average child hears 432 negative comments versus only 32 positive comments on any given day.
"I've seen a shift from physical abuse to verbal abuse; we now have parents who wouldn't think of spanking kids but crush their little hearts with words," says longtime parent educator Judy H. Wright aka "Auntie," an honorary Native American title meaning wise woman who loves unconditionally and doesn't judge.
She explains that even when kids don't understand negative words, they understand the facial expressions and body language that accompany them. And they always believe the negative "actions."
To get an idea of how that affects a child, imagine yourself as a 3-year-old, still very much dependent on your parents for survival. You run to greet Mom … but she's not as excited to see you, as you are to see her. And she wants you to wash the jelly off your hands before you touch her. Keep in mind that there's nobody else for you to run to, and you're biologically programmed to be sensitive to rejection (survival of the species depended on that).
You get the message that there's something wrong with (SET ITAL) you (END ITAL), not just your behavior or your sticky hands.
So, what do you do? You try harder to win Mom's acceptance, to be good enough, to be lovable. But even when you win her approval, it seems contingent on playing by her rules or her music. And without realizing it, you begin to tune out your own music.
"The average child becomes an expert at self-sacrifice at the level of the life force itself," says Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D., noted psychotherapist and philosopher.
If you're wondering what this means to the average child -- or your child, as the case may be -- you might consider what it has meant to (SET ITAL) you (END ITAL). Who are you? Can you hear your music? Are you dancing to it? Or was it really somebody else's music you passed on to your child?
If you want to know what you're doing to your child, you might look at what your parents did to you. I'm not asking you to play the role of victim. You're an adult now. I am asking you to wake up to your own childhood wounds and to your own parenting style.
Your child is perfect, remember? Rather than try to change him, validate him. Help her to hear and move to her own music.
How? Catch the negative before it comes out of your mouth … and before it shows up on your face. Let it remind you to affirm your child's true self with words, facial expressions and gestures. Hug, kiss, tickle, take time to listen and interact. Nurture, guide, reassure. Be present. The idea is to make your child feel seen, known, respected and loved for who he is naturally, for what makes her unique -- not for what makes him or her convenient or compliant or image-enhancing.
Please note that this means getting to know your child's authentic self, preferably before you both lose sight of it.
Give your child what you wish you had gotten. And please don't fool yourself about what you got. If you do, your child will suffer with you.
To stop the abuse, be an "Auntie," a wise one who loves unconditionally and doesn't judge.

Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a columnist, author of the just released "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not" and "Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams," speaker and consultant based in McIntosh, Fla. Please e-mail her at, or visit her website at
To find out more about Jan Denise, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at