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National Editorials & Columns

A child whose needs are not met cannot learn adequately

Last week we delved into abuse’s effect on people thus on society. Neglect is another form of abuse. An e-mail that impacted me a great deal with no source cited went something like this:

(Not yet born) I heard dad and you talking about me the other day. I’m sorry I’m such an inconvenience. Dad yelled I was an unneeded and unwanted expense. Mom, you said I might hinder your promotion. I’m sorry.

(Age l) Boy, I sure messed up life again for you and dad. You’ve changed sitters twice for me and you complain you can’t find an evening sitter. Sometimes when you are forced to stay home, you complain how I’ve really crimped your style. I’m sorry.

(Age 4) I’ve been in pre-school for two years now. You are so happy because next year I go to kindergarten and that will cut your babysitting costs in half. At last I’m pleasing you a little. I’m sorry to be such a problem.

(Age 10) You both are really mad at me now. My teachers insist that you come for a conference. I’m trying to complete the work, but you and dad fight so much I don’t concentrate very well on my homework. I’m sorry.

(Age 14) Boy did I cause you grief. The school called dad too. He has to come to the conference also and he doesn’t like driving the hundred miles to see me anyway. Scott’s mad at you also because you want me to tag along sometimes on your dates. I’m sorry.

(Age l7) I was surprised when both you and dad came to the jail to pick me up. “Thanks for coming, I’m gonna see my friends now.”

(Age 22) Fran and Jake thought I should write you a note. I’m in college now. They come and get me each weekend. We do different things together. Last weekend Jake and I cleaned the garage. This weekend the three of us are going to an art museum. I’m finding that I really like art. See you sometime.

(Age 23) Fran and Jake were talking to me about memories the other day. I felt a little awkward. They think I just don’t remember, so they suggested I write and ask you to help me remember. They asked if I remembered any books you read to me when I was young. Did you read to me? I don’t remember.

They asked if I remembered going to the library with you, or a play, or a museum, or an art show, or an amusement park. Did we do any of those things? I don’t remember.

They asked if we had lively dinner conversations. I remember fixing my own food while one or both of you went to something important. Did we eat together?

They asked me about special things each of you taught me like how to bake a cake, or fix a lawn mower. I don’t remember anything.

They asked me to describe some of our family vacations. Did we take any?

They asked about some of our family traditions. None stand out in my mind. Sometimes we did things, but mostly holidays were the same as other days.

Nothing seemed special. Anyway, I hope you’ll find time to write back. I’d like to add more to my conversations with Jake and Fran.

Abuse rears its head in many ugly places. Any behavior or even non-behavior on the part of the more powerful towards others that causes others pain or unreasonable fear is abuse.

Neglect is abuse and often hovers around physical, mental, and emotional abuse. A child has the right to expect his/her needs to be met by parents. Sometimes meeting our child’s needs isn’t always convenient, but a child whose needs are not met cannot learn adequately.

If he has to worry about whether he will have a meal when he is hungry, of if there will be a clean place to sleep, or if someone will be there to help him, or if there will be warm clothes to wear, he can’t learn well.

Also, if a child has no boundaries, he knows no one cares enough to set them. He can’t learn well if he is trying to understand boundaries of society when he has none at home. How can a child rebel against boundaries if there are none? Children test the waters of society by testing the boundaries of their parents.

If parents hold firm to reasonable boundaries, more than likely the child will rebel, but return to those boundaries. Often the child who breaks the law is one who was allowed to break the law of his parents with no repercussions.

If a parent’s boundaries are either non-existent, very lax, or too severe, a child sees no reason to stay within them. Boundaries are like the fence that keeps dangers away from me, yet has a gate that allows me to go outside at appropriate times.

Often, we take away the joy of being allowed to open the gate “by myself” because we get rid of the fence. No, abuse isn’t an easy subject, but it must be dealt with so individuals can lead more productive lives and society profits.

Until next week — Christine Pauley

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