Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 17th 2014 Contents B3
Thursday, April 17, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
You may be surprised to know
that the most verbally abusive per-
son in my life is my three-year-old.
Or, perhaps, if you are a parent,
you are not surprised.
Aside from disclaiming me as her
friend whenever she s resentful of
my authority, Ziya also has suddenly
begun to articulate, with American
Psycho meets Voldemort darkness,
all the ways she can think of maim-
I will hit you on your head with
a tree , she threatens. I will push you
and make you fall down and get hurt ,
she promises. I will mash up your
face , she swears, channeling The
Godfather. At this point, I began to
She was always physically
assertive, wrestling me in the nights
when she wanted to fall asleep
breastfeeding and I was pushing her
off, flinging both legs and arms like
a Tasmanian Devil in infrequent
though full-scale two-year-old
tantrums, lashing out when she was
vex at her dad or me and then having
to apologise for hitting.
That s average, if annoying. What s
terrifying is when her little brain
starts to use her expanding vocab-
ulary to imagine and detail infliction
of harm and pain to assert domi-
nance, exact revenge or register
Stone and I never throw words at
each other. In 14 years, he s never
insulted or become angry enough to
say mean things to me, and vice
versa. We don t put each other down
and we don t put Ziya down.
We also censor Ziya s television
consumption, precisely because of
its violent content and overall
unhealthy transmission of values
about gender, race, class, sexuality,
nation, capitalism and so on.
Between Dora, Dinosaur Train,
Martha the talking dog, Curious
George, Word World and the Wild
Kratts with their focus on animals
and ecology, where did Ziya learn to
negotiate relationships by being so
During play, at school.
Since she s started school, her
conversational give and take, her
social skills or lack of them, and her
handling of conflict and power have
had to step up. It s at home that she
re-enacts newly encountered situ-
ations and tests newly acquired skills.
She hasn t yet figured out, or
maybe she has, that there are certain
things you should not say and certain
things you only say to your friends
It s hard to tell if she doesn t
understand correct boundaries or is
deliberately pushing them. As we all
know, three-year-olds are wily crea-
tures capable of sophisticated plot-
ting when they have a point to make.
I don t know if it s like this across
the country, but it shows how emo-
tional, verbal or physical violence
becomes part of peer culture.
They ve been learning to pelt it out
Maybe it s the historical role of
domination in founding our society,
and the fighting words and relations
that it has made unnoticeable and
accepted. Maybe it s that we see
playgrounds as idyllic spheres of
innocence and joy, so schools and
families don t treat such learning
outcomes as serious, and don t seri-
ously and collectively try to trans-
form our children s investments in
Can parents, principals and psy-
chologists co-operate to make play-
grounds places where abusive talk
isn t fine-tuned everyday?
I tell Zi that mean words hurt feel-
ings. We discuss how she feels hurt
when threatened in those ways. I tell
her not to respond when she s on
the receiving end and to say sorry
when it s her.
It s a developmental stage, but it s
also a warning sign about the world
our children will create. What can
we do while they are still our fledg-
lings to change such fate?
It starts with mean words
DIARY OF A MOTHERING WORKER
Since she's started
and take, her social
skills or lack of them,
and her handling of
conflict and power
have had to step up.
It's at home that she
situations and tests
newly acquired skills.
I tell Zi that mean
words hurt feelings. We
discuss how she feels
hurt when threatened
in those ways. I tell her
not to respond when
she's on the receiving
end and to say sorry
when it's her.
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