The impact of emotional abuse on the next generation
Written by: Lieze Puren, Nikki Carstens and Esmarie Carstens
IQ, EQ, fitting into boxes, thinking out of boxes, round square education, critical thinking, creative thinking, learning styles, flipped classrooms….
These are just a few of the buzz words being currently thrown around amongst educationalists, academia, schools, parents and educational institutions. As a society, we are so focused on changing the way we educate our children in the 21st century, but somehow everything seems to be exactly the same as twenty years ago. Many theories and papers have been written about this exact phenomenon but very little is being done in the ‘trenches’ to enable our children to think out the box, analyse and critically question information, creatively think and find alternative solutions to problems. Perhaps it’s because society is holding our children emotionally ransom.
Emotional bullying is a silent killer of human emotions. It takes on so many forms and has such significant effects on our children. Emotional and mental abuse happens to both children and adults. In both cases, mental abuse diminishes the person’s self-worth. According to the Administration for Children and Families in the United States, the mental abuse definition is: “a pattern of behaviour that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.” Emotional abuse crosses age barriers. It is not reserved for the playground or the classroom.
I want to sketch a scenario; I recently had a conversation with a very distraught mother. Her daughter has had some difficulties in the classroom due to her recent diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The reward system in their class is a constant visual reminder of how ‘well’ individuals are doing academically. To my horror, I was informed that some children had a line of stars, as long as your arm, but her daughter had a grand total of two stars. These stars were awarded according to standardised rules and criteria rather than encouraging individuals when they have made a concerted effort to do their individual best. Needless to say, her daughter’s self-esteem and motivation levels have decreased significantly.
When children arrive on our doorstep they demonstrate an array of socio-emotional problems. They display feelings of being worthless or damaged in some way. More than often, relationships between parent and child is strained or the child has removed her/himself from all forms of social interaction due to the scarring effects of emotional bullying. It leads to the lack of trust in the parent and this follows through the rest of their relationships in life. Without a positive early relationship on which to base others, emotionally abused children may choose not to have relationships or continually get into other abusive relationships because they don’t know what a non-abusive relationship is like.
Emotionally abused are typically told they are not good enough and eventually they come to believe it. This can lead to unfulfilling adult roles as the person feels they are not worth a good education or job. Emotionally abused children are often punished for expressing their emotions, they never learn how to express them in a reasonable, safe way. This leads to emotions coming out in unpredictable ways such as in anger, depression or anxiety.
Although I have sympathy for our schools and the enormity of the task to combat all forms of bullying, the reality is that many cases are still going unnoticed. One unnoticed case is one case too many and the long-term effects are devastating on any child. It’s with these thoughts in mind that an idea was born to support, not just our children who are so liberally labelled with all kinds of – isms but also to heal from scars created by the very people who is aiding them to develop social and emotional skills.
Clever Kids Learning Hub is a small Cottage School in the heart of Durbanville that creates an environment that is safe and comfortable for our students. More than often children arrive at our doorstep with deep emotional scars. Here they learn to find themselves again and form solid and long lasting relationships with peers and teachers. This is the beginning of the healing process. Only once healing has taken place can real learning begin. Our internationally flavoured curriculum forms the heartbeat of our Hub and is attractively supported by the very things that make us find our niche in life.