I recently read the article headed “Why Quentin Tarantino refuses to give a penny to his mother” posted on a WhatsApp group I belong to. In that article Tarantino said he swore to himself that his mother will not receive anything from him because she was never supportive of his writing career when he was young. He said his mother was frustrated with him because he struggled academically and would rather write screenplays instead of doing his homework and that one day she told him “this little writing career you are doing, that shit is fucked over”
The article generated a bit of talk about whether he was being too harsh and unforgiving especially since his success had proven her wrong and she may not even remember saying those words. We all agreed that he had probably taken things too far and advised ourselves about the impact our words have on our children and how words spoken in jest, frustration, encouragement etc are imprinted in our children’s memories and are rehashed long after we said them.
I feel for Tarantino ‘s mother because I understand how easy it is to misspeak and anger our children. I put myself in her shoes and began to imagine what burden she may have been carrying unbeknown to him as she tried to ensure there is a balance in all areas of their lives. I can understand the pressures she may have faced simultaneously at work, in her finances, in her marriage or lack of one and in her other relationships . I know the frustration she may have felt in thinking that he was not putting in much work in what was more important and playing his part by studying hard.
As I always say, parenting is the most difficult job on earth. There is always the likelihood that we will mis-speak and anger our children when they live underneath our roofs. The truth is that most of us are overwhelmed about our situation and circumstances in life and when we loose control of our situations we tend to lash out on the people we can exercise some form of authority and control over without thinking deep about the effect our actions and words will have on them. Most times we may not even remember the words we spoke or the occasion that warranted those words, but like my children have reminded me and like l also remember words spoken to me when I was much younger the words spoken by a parent have a long lasting effect especially when they arouse deep emotions within us and cause us to come to a resolution.
Many a-time it’s not the words that are spoken that create such a reaction as that of Tarantino’s but it’s the way they are spoken -The sarcasm that drips from them, the snide remarks, the taunting and downgrading tone -all telltale signs of the motive to belittle and denigrate. It also depends on the subject matter at hand, if it pertains to something close and dear to the child the words will cut deep and the effect will be long lasting. I remember vividly the emotions that arose in me and what I was doing and the resolution I made as a teenager when l was wrongly and unjustly scolded without cause. I also remember how at a parenting seminar Pastor Sam Adeyemi who is a very successful and well regarded leader recollected what he was doing and how he felt when his father referred to him as being slow because he was reserved as a child. In both recollections referred to, I was sweeping the dining area in our house and he was ironing some clothes.
Drawing from my own experiences and that of others , I know what broke me, what helped me and what a parent should never say to a child and the following top the list.
“I wish I never had you”. Every child gets their sense of identity from their parents which is why even though a child may be maltreated by their parent they will still choose them over other people trying to save them.
“Never come back”- I am all for children being allowed to suffer the consequences of their behavior so they learn from their choices and become responsible but even then we should never turn our backs on them and deny them our support and help. When they make mistakes or need help we should be the first place they come to.
“You will never amount to much”- after supplying the basic needs for their bodies , we must supply the one thing needed for their souls to thrive and that is encouragement. We should be our children’s first and foremost cheerleader.
“Why can’t you be like……” everyone wants to be loved for who they are and children are no exception.
“You did great BUT…” it always makes nonsense of the compliment before it because it simply tells them their effort or they themselves are not enough and puts all the focus on the negative.
“You’ll never be any different or ……….. can’t change” – this statement implies that they can never change for the better and that they are a hopeless cause no matter how much they try. If said too often they will stop making the effort.
“It’s not a big deal”- it might not be to you or to them eventually but for the now when it is, be emphatic and respect their feelings no matter how absurd it sounds.
“That’s a foolish/ stupid question”- we forget that children don’t have the education, experience and exposure we have and that if the child knew better he will not ask the question. When we say this often enough our children seek their knowledge and education from other sources most times to their detriment.
Stupid, foolish, idiot, ode, slow – derogatory labels never bring out the best in anyone especially our children.
So am I saying that we are never to correct our children or tell them the bitter truth? Not at all. I am saying be mindful of your words and your emotions when you speak to your children, don’t pour out your frustrations on them and more than ever be careful of the tone you use when correcting. As Quentin Tarantino said in that interview “there are consequences for your words . As you deal with your children , remember there are consequences for your sarcastic tone about what’s meaningful to them”.