Actions may speak louder than words, but we best not underestimate how the phrases we use shape the language of children. I guess it is a hazard of my profession, but I regularly see and hear the world through the eyes and ears of youth and wonder how exposure shapes their development. This theme continuously invaded my thoughts this week, as I spent most of it in Las Vegas. I probably dont need to elaborate. However
With regard to verbal behaviors, it wasn’t foul language that grabbed my attention, as much as it was the numerous times I heard inflammatory words stupid, sucks, pissed off, shut up, etc. Initially, I believe these words make children feel uncomfortable. However, when they hear them continuously, in a variety of settings, not only do kids become desensitized to the words, but they most likely go on to incorporate them into their own vocabulary, as well. [Sadly, as I sit in the airport writing this, I cant seem to make it through a complete sentence without being exposed to the colorful descriptive language of the adult sitting next to me nor can his five-year-old daughter.]
Most of the adults with whom I talk tell me their biggest complaint with youth today is lack of respect. Respect comes in many forms and Im thinking if we want children to show individuals verbal respect, we better model this through our own word choice. For the words we use today will most likely be the words we hear from our children tomorrow.