By Dickson Tumuramye
The way we look at children and baptize them “names” matters a lot. A child’s identity should not be based on his/her general weaknesses or inability. A child may be disabled but calling them children with disabilities creates a negative connotation on them. However, calling them children with special needs sounds better and actually triggers someone to respond positively to this child’s predicament.
Like women don’t like to be referred to as big or fat, (they prefer being told “you are eating well”), so also children and adults feel victimized when being called orphans, disabled, obese, among others. Any name that reminds a person of his/her vulnerability affects their esteem and makes uneasy and they develop self-rejection.
In life, we sometimes reflect what our minds conceive, and we perceive it to be like that. If you keep referring to your child useless, stupid, foolish, a disappointment, words like who will marry you? Look at you! Shameless child! I wish I was not your parent, I regret why I gave birth to such an ugly child like you etc; it leaves a child to perceive that surely s/he is like that or has no value. If this person makes a mistake accidentally, s/he will be reminded of her/his parent’s/guardian’s comments. This will remain stuck in their minds and it becomes worse if any other person refers to them as such because they will take it to be a fact.
The end result may be this person will start to act carelessly due to mere perception. They will likely lose self-confidence and its related outcomes. And don’t be surprised to hear some parents of these lamenting that their child was bewitched when actually they drove the church to the state. We can change a child’s attitude by how we prefer to call them, say about names we call them and even the words we tell them.
In my tenure as a child worker, I learnt that children at all age groups love to see us cheering them. Words of affirmation to children add a lot of meaning to their development. It is parents to create opportunities for their success and not to frustrate them. Parents, guardians, teachers should design what a child can become. This builds their confidence. It also works well in marriage between couples. Just try to refer to your spouse useless or ugly, you will see the reactions.
What our children are going through today, the shortcomings your child experiences can only be turned into something better depending on your perception and attitude towards him/her. Remember inability does not necessarily mean disability. Haven’t seen people with certain physical limitations yet they are talented and can shine better in many areas!? God takes away one thing but replaces it with another. Some of our children are not even physically disabled or handicapped but the words we utter out in their presence make them impaired in some way. It could be a weakness but because of insensitivity, you magnify it into a huge thing, yet you could have taken advantage of helping the person to develop this into strength.
Sometimes, everyone has moments in life when we are moody for a certain period. You may know it, but you don’t understand why it happens to you. Even your children at any age need a matter of time to overcome such situations. You need to be close and have a discussion time and then to discover where that situation is coming from. Seek solutions not judgments. None of us is perfect or an angel. As they say that we all have a degree of madness, but the difference is the level, so also, we are all weak but that doesn’t call for you to identify or classify me by what you see. Never judge a book by its cover. Be concerned by the way people even your family members identify your child.
The writer is a child advocate and parenting coach, Kampala.