What are we teaching our children?

July 24, 2018 Jess Van Zeil 5 comments

I wrote this blog just after I lost my eye in October 2015, a time when I was learning to love myself and the way I looked again. I decided not to release this originally out of fear, I was scared that it was too direct, too emotionally charged and too controversial. I stumbled across this blog again recently after speaking at an event about parenting and I realised the importance of getting this message out there as I am no longer angry at the contents of this blog but empowered, I no longer care what other people think of me because I love me.

One of the main topics was how children are influenced by the way their parents talk about themselves, for example if a young girl grows up hearing her mother say – I am ugly, fat, dumb etc. that young girl will begin to believe the same about herself! BUT this is equally true about how we talk about other people, if we want bullying and judgement to stop we need to stop talking negatively about other people, as this normalises the behaviour that is hurting the kids of today!

December 2015: Since my surgery I have had some very interesting encounters with parents, both good and bad, but there was one moment that made me realise how much influence a parents attitude towards adversity can impact a child’s outlook on life. The other day while I was at work, I saw a mum carrying her crying daughter so quickly stopped what I was doing, to go and check on her. As I approached and started to enquire whether everything was ok, the mother cut over the top of me and pointed loudly exclaiming ‘look at the pirate, isn’t she scary!’ In that moment I felt like an animal in a zoo, as she disregarded my feelings in attempt to distract her child. As she did this, two things hit me, firstly If I react in the way my instincts are telling me too, I may not have a job tomorrow, and secondly It’s this naïve treatment of adversity that teaches children that its ok to point out people’s flaws and potentially what leads to picking on or bully other kids.

If you reverse this situation in your mind and think, how it would feel to have someone point at your child and say “look at her big ears doesn’t she look like Dumbo?” Not only would it upset your child but it would really hurt you too. You would probably be wondering why this person thought it necessary to point out their ears, as now that child will probably be fixated on the fact they have elephant like ears, when in actual fact your child was beautiful, wonderful and innocent!

Another point I want to draw on here is the saying “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, while the intention is to stop bullying it is actually just teaching them to keep mean thoughts to themselves, rather than to think nicely about people,. It doesn’t teach them acceptance it teaches them avoidance and judgement. Which I personally believe leads to bitching or talking behind peoples backs later in life.

We should praise people who have risen above their adversity, and teach children to look up to the bravery and strength displayed. We (as a whole) should not be so quick to judge someone by the way they look, or what society deems a ‘disability’ but for they are. I want to be a part of an open and accepting generation where no one is cast aside for their ‘abnormalities’ and see this improve with time.

We should be teaching children everyone is different, and those differences should be celebrated!

5 Comments on “What are we teaching our children?

  1. I work in 3 schools & will be sharing this with my colleagues. We as a team work very hard to stamp out bullying. You take a subject which many see as a hard issue to tackle & eradicate and show us through personal encounters some basic patterns which we need to change.

  2. As a child I wore an eye patch for many years. At school the name calling from other children was constant and cruel. Unfortunately adults werent much better just a but more sophisticated wirh their taunts. I am now 56. It took me a long time to love myself and my perceived imperfections. Now when I am confronted by adult ignorance I assertively and politely let the person know hiw their comments actions make me feel. Sometimes it is exhausting but i will no longer take responsibility for someone elses ignorance.

  3. Beautifully said, Jess. All of what you say makes so much sense, and shows so clearly the importance of acceptance of other people. Sadly, I suspect we may have been guilty of making some of these comments when we were rearing our own children, but as grandparents, I think we know better now.
    Thank you for sharing.

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