That’s That Ish I Don’t Like: Why I Can’t Stand When Parents Talk to Kids Like Adults

June 28, 2012  |  

As I made my way down the street today,with a lot on my mind as I headed to a doctor’s appointment, I found myself stopped at one of the many lights that separate me from my train station. While waiting, thinking that I should have checked the weather before I hit the streets in tight black jeans, I heard a mother say the following to one of the two children she was trying to give orders to. I guess he might have been calling himself having an attitude:

“Unfold your damn arms! I don’t know why the f**k you be actin’ like yo a** don’t know how to listen.”

…When I was young, most parents didn’t embarrass their children like that when at home, let alone curse them out like they stole something on the streets. They might put a finger in your face or put some bass in their voice in public, but you got yourself together just in time before they let you know you were going to get tore up when you both got home. In fact, my mother could make me feel just as guilty and bad by simply giving me the “Girl, you had better stop unless you want to see my belt when we get home” face or letting me know that she was truly disappointed in my behavior. But these days, people are talking uglier to their kids, referring to them as even uglier names and just can’t discipline them without calling them something you can find in Urban rather than Webster’s Dictionary.

Not only was this woman’s statement to the little boy embarrassing as people watched him get berated on the street, but it was unnecessarily harsh. I know that children can often be a hardheaded pain, but it always makes me cringe when I hear an adult curse like a sailor at a child who will most likely soak in that language and use it on someone else; Whether that be a classmate or a teacher who gets called everything but a child of God because they tried to keep them in check. People underestimate how much their outbursts or explicit conversations with other adults around their children can influence the language kids use with others. And sadly, using strong and unacceptable language to address children has become all too common.

Need another example? Well, just a few days ago, as I walked with a friend back to her place post-church, I heard a young mother talking to her friend while pushing around her son in a stroller. Out of nowhere, instead of calling him by the name she gave him, she chose to say, “Yeah, that little n***a tryna walk already.” As I watched my friend’s face turn up, I asked her, “Did she just call that little boy a “n***a”? She had, and after the fact, she laughed about it and went on with her day with her friend. I’m sure as the day went on she probably called him a lot more than that.

I don’t know about you, but it seems as though if folks aren’t cursing out their kids like Mo’Nique in Precious, they’re referring to them as everything from little “n***as” to “muthaf****s” and more. And they’re clearly doing it everywhere too: on the streets, in the stores (grocery AND retail), at the parks and at restaurants. A few are older parents, but many I find cursing up a storm are young parents, ones barely out of high school, maybe a few years into college who don’t seem enthusiastic about the responsibility that’s become a constant in their lives. I often wonder if these parents are the same ones who we hear about holding their babies under scalding water because they cried too much and too long, and starving them because they resent them. These stories get people’s blood boiling and remind folks of why not EVERY woman is fit to have children. I guess it’s a testament to the fact that if people aren’t ready to handle their responsibilities, and only find themselves yelling rather than talking to their kids, they might want to rethink their sexual activities and doing what’s putting them in these positions in the first place.

Maybe I’m being too judgmental, but I can’t see how cursing a child does them any kind of real good. All I know is that patience is wearing thin and the results are hurt and confused faces like the little boy I watched on the street today. And if you were wondering, after his mother’s rant, he looked like someone told him that he wasn’t and was never going to be anything. I’m not saying she was is a bad parent, but that behavior would probably rip her out of the running for “Mother of the Year.” Nowadays, both parents and kids are having the tantrums, and it seems as though it’s the parent who could use a time out…

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  • Staying Single Ain’t So Bad

    I was all set to disagree with the article based on the title. Why shouldn’t a parent talk to a child as an adult (at least every once in a while)? I lined up my attack as well: kids need to rationalize, think through many of their decisions. A parent doesn’t need to scream to get children to come to a desired conclusion about behavior and to get them to self regulate.

    Then I read the article. I quickly realized it wasn’t about parents talking to their children as adults: it was about parents talking to their children with without any human respect, Because of this, I agree with the writer.

    As a former teacher, I would tell parents about undesired classroom behavior. Then, on their way out, if I happened to also be in the hallway, I would hear , every so often, a parent cussing out the child. I would be there left thinking, yeah what I really wanted you to do was discipline your child, not box them down emotionally.

    Problems with these children did not get solved the next day either. So I was left with the decision of, “If I talk to this kid’s parent, this child is going to come back worse tomorrow. If I don’t do anything, I might manage, but I will have no paperwork to back me up for interventions and etc if this kid needs emotionally disturbed classification in the future.” I usually end up playing the middle and just handle some of it in the class and inform the parent of my decision and SUGGEST firmly that the parent take away TV and etc… I would try and model the type of language I wanted them to use, “Let him know that this behavior is unacceptable and that every time he does it there will be a consequence. Tell him you believe he can make better choices because you know he’s a good kid inside.” Of course, I never really told them I was feeding them lines.

    That type of abusive language as delineated by the author seemed to produce violent reactions or a deep seething almost unquenchable anger in children.

  • Kristina Tramel

    I’ve never called my 12 year old son out of his name and I also refuses to call him a “man”. I never understood why people like telling little boys to “man up”. They are not men..they are little boys and should be treated that way.

  • B

    some mothers look at their kids, and see the child’s father they havnet forgiven yet. will def make them bitter towards the child. Many mothers need to forgive the fathers of their children for their lack of support.

  • I heard a woman call her 7 year old son a pu**y because he wouldn’t stop crying. When I addressed the issue, I got cursed out too.

  • Ash

    My mom would always whisper, “Don’t you dare…” and that scared us just enough.

  • bkabbagej

    What is truly hard for me to handle is when parents insult their own children and describe them in horrible ways “with your black and ugly self”, “you’re so stupid”, and terminology of the like.
    It just makes my stomach turns to here anyone calling our babies such ugly names. I usually say something, especially if I know the person. Talk about destroying someone’s self esteem and making the baby self conscious. Sad state of affairs.

  • ramen noodle

    A friend of mine told me that her mother called her everything she could think of until she was 13 and had some height and weight on her. One particular day, she got tired of it and told her “If I cant talk to you like that, then dont talk to me like that”…she expected to get knocked out, but instead, her mom looked at her really strange and left the room. Their relationship remained shaky afterward, but she never cussed her again.

  • Nosi

    Try to be a woman before you become a mum i say!!!

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    Well I’ll say it: she’s a bad mother. When I hear people go on like that I stare them down. Don’t care how they feel about it.

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  • Gimmeabreak78

    The title of the article was a little misleading to me. When I first read it, I thought it would be about adults speaking to children in language more sophisticated than they could understand (e.g. using big words, or discussing complex subject matter). Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective, because I don’t think talking to someone using a mouthful of profanity is talking to that person like an adult–it’s talking to that person like he/she is an animal. It’s beyond me how anyone could speak to a child this way.

  • gameit

    This is sad and people wonder why the world is changing in a negative way…I discipline both my boys only to teach them right from wrong. I never even have to take out the belt cuz they never let me make it to number 3…lol but they still know mama don’t play and they also know I love them and show them respect as they should grow older to show got to give it to get it…..

  • dee

    What I hate to see is the parent walking down the street full stride with the little baby sprinting behind them trying to keep up and all of a sudden you hear “bring yo a$$ on and stop walking so slow!”. All I can think about is how badly i wanna just wanna scoop that baby up and hug them because you can see the child has tiny little legs and your legs are three times the leg span of that little baby….what do you want the child to do run the whole way at top speed to keep up?! I just feel like sometimes people set their kids up for failure.

    • Kristina Tramel

      “What I hate to see is the parent walking down the street full stride
      with the little baby sprinting behind them trying to keep up and all of a
      sudden you hear “bring yo a$$ on
      and stop walking so slow!”.

      I hate this!

  • please don’t stereotype this behavior as belonging to ‘young mothers’ not all young high school mothers are like that. I am 29 year old and my mother cursed and fought my sister (who is 11 years younger than me) like we were her rivals. she wasnt a young hs girl either. she blamed us for everything that went wrong in her life. she still does. it’s sad.

    • Mrsadkiah

      Yes. My mother adopted my sisters and I well into her 30s and behaved like this so you are so right.

    • Southern Girl

      It was the same with my mother as well. I see now that my mother did not (and still doesn’t) love herself and saw us more as competition than her daughters. So age is not a factor – people who are not at ease with themselves cannot be good parents.

  • CA Pullen

    I don’t think a parent should cuss a child out in private or in public. I have seen it happened in public when parents do this. I feel really bad for the child. There is a way to speak with chlldren without cussing them out. It will have an effect on the child in the long run. I see why some of these children are the way they are.

  • FromUR2UB

    There’ve always been people who talked to their kids like that, but at one time, they were the minority. The world is kind of upside down now. Fringe cultures have become the models for societal behavior because entertainment has promoted them. People who grew up on a diet of Jerry Springer-like talk shows, and later, reality shows, seemingly lack an understanding for the need for modesty, shame and privacy. They don’t mind handling very personal matters, loudly, in public places. If that’s not bad enough, they saw people rewarded with fortune and fame, for being crass and ignorant. So behavior that used to be shunned, has become the norm.

    • Excepcion

      Very well put.

  • chanela

    no you’re not being judgmental. i’ve been seeing this stupid trend lately of parents calling their kids “lil n**a” its ridiculous and immature. people have no problem cursing in front of other people’s kids, their own kids,the elderly. people have absolutely no respect anymore. SMH

  • IfUDontCareWhyYouReadingMe

    but overall parents have different ways. some parents may talk dirty to their children and others see it as damaging but on the other hand some parents discipline with beatings and there are other parents that object against that. i guess its all the matter of opinion at the end of the day.

  • Please. . .I’m 50 years old, and my mother and father cursed my siblings and I out regularly (usually followed by spankings, which most kids nowadays know nothing about). Dad didn’t want us yelling back at him in the street, so he waited until we were behind closed doors. But Ma didn’t care where we were at. I guess it depends on the kid who’s being screamed on. All I know is, there is a lot of stuff I still don’t do today because Mama and Daddy wasn’t having it, and they were quick to let us know they weren’t to be played with.

    • Guest0531

      Understood, but does that mean there wasn’t a better way? You made out fine but is there any bit of confidence or ability or part of your personality that has gone un-nurtured because you were afraid of being yelled at? Maybe not, and thats cool but the point is that harshness isnt always necessary to get the point across. There is a difference between disciplining and unleashing your frustrations on your children. That may be the difference in your situation.

  • Guest360

    I said this in the other article concerning parents who let their kids do whatever. If you don’t know how to discipline your kids, DON’T HAVE THEM!!! Or better yet, go to a parenting class and learn. Whether you’re letting them run around as if they have no home training or calling them all kinds of filthy and just plain disgusting names to get them to listen to you. That isn’t discipline. If you can’t teach your children to be respectful and mindful people in society by leading by example, either stop having them, learn how to, or give them to people who will. Way too many kids are growing up around people who can’t take care of a hamster let alone raise a responsible adult and it’s unbelievably sad to see.

  • Gummi Bear Cupcake

    I call it TLNS – The Little N***a Syndrome. People treat their kids like small adults or Little N***a as they like to call them, then wonder why they’re smoking weed and having sex at 11.

  • IllyPhilly

    I don’t call my kids names in public, but a, Get the hell over here before you get stomped to dust, slips every once in awhile.

    • Jemel

      i agree and i don’t care about the thumbs down. I always talk to my daughter while disciplining her and very, very seldom will i spank her. i try to explain the wrong in what she’s done and let her acknowlege it also. I try not to yell but still make it be known that i’m not playing so don’t go there with me.
      However, EEEEEVVVERY now and then i need her fear the wrath of me. She needs to understand that her life will be much easier if she just listen or go somewhere and sit down right now.

  • sammi_lu

    I have never cursed directly at my kids but I may have dropped a damn or a** while scolding a time or two..I make it a point to try and keep my cool. One time I remember it was freezing outside and I told my daughter several times to bundle up.. we were rushing out the house so I didnt notice she only had on a hoodie. Once we got to our destination she was complaining about how cold it was and could she borrow my coat right quick. I was sooo annoyed she didn’t listen to me and that she actually wanted me to freeze in her place bc she chose to “try and be cute”. Before I even thought I blurted out..”Ohh well u better get it how u u listen next time” lmao.. my friend immediately gave me the eye and started cracking up, til this day she jokes about me telling my 8 yr old to get it how she lived like I was talking to an adult. It made no sense,and I immediately knew it was totally slipped but hey, what parent is perfect?

    • Amija James

      I admit to using damn with my 12 year old son. It’s very rare, but it’s when I’m about to lose it. When I say damn, he gets it together real quick! I remember my mother using damn when I was a kid and we know that she meant business! She didn’t curse so damn was major!

  • Someone’s comment was frustrations and unhappy time in their lives. Life stress can be a factor that causes parents inappropriate behavior. Its hard being parents there are many factors that may cause a parent to behave inappropriately. Trying to keep a roof over your family heads, jobless, absent parent. Maybe the parent has asked the kid to stop a million times and the moment you hear them going off in the mall on their kid, but you didn’t see or hear the parent asking the child to stop it. You only see when the little one is blinking the tears back with their big innocent eyes and your heart goes to them. I was always had the ability to talk with my kids allowing them the freedom to talk to me but always demanding respect and letting them know to get respect you must give respect. I would tell my sons when they exhibited less than appropriate behavior I would tell them I was disappointed in them and they got to the point the did not what mom to be disappointed. Parents are different now, not saying this is reason enough don’t you see the change in people now. When the parents started identifying themselves as my baby daddy or my baby moma. parents were forever changed my pet peeve is the baby daddy/moma title.

  • Izzysez

    I have stopped a woman in her tracks for talking to her child like that. I know I was wrong, but this child was so meek, and the mother so belligerant, I could help but be livid. My mom didn’t even let us use the word “weird” to describe people.

  • mya

    It is so important to call attention to this. I’m glad my mother, grandma, aunts…none of them cursed. They say my dad curse ( a country man talking jive with his friends) but he has never cursed in my presence and I only caught him a few my entire life.

    I do sometimes but I don’t swear at children and I try not to use harsh words. The sad thing about children, when you talk to them like that, they turn right around in the next 5 minutes and say it with heart to their little friend, in the right context, and mean it. let that little friend “be acting like he don’t know how to listen”….It’s something that has really got to stop


    As a parent I never cursed at my child or called him out of his name because he is a reflection of me. My cousins they talk to their kids like they are dogs they take their frustrations out on them its sad. My heart breaks for all my cousin’s children because they chose to have all these kids and cant take care of them

  • RedButterfly81

    My parents never cursed at us growing up, I will NEVER curse at and around my daughter. I definitely HATE it when other parents curse out their young kids as young as toddlers. I even had to get my friend told when she cursed out her 5 year old daughter when she messed up her room. It’s not only the young parents, it’s the older and grandparents that do that ignorant ish too.

  • Pivyque

    I agree with you. I hate that. What makes it worse is that my husband’s family doesn’t care if there are kids in the room or not, they curse up a storm AND consider kids “grown” by 9 months. They wonder why they have limited time with my kids…talking about giving them COFFEE and mashed potatoes when they were literally a few months old…*woooo* don’t even get me started lol

    • Amija James

      My in-law’s are the same way. I was at a baby birthday party and the grandmother was giving kids beer. I was looking at her like she was effin crazy and one of the cousins saw me and started laughing at me. What the eff? I felt like I was from a different planet.

      • Pivyque

        Exactly! And they make it seem so normal!

    • Karmellkreem

      OMG – this is it! I had to tell numerous relatives to stop smoking/cursing and turn the tv off b/c she thought it was perfectly normal to let my 2 y/o watch videos (you know, with the 1/2 naked chicks and lyrics, omg the lyrics). then there’s my sis who sees nothing wrong w/ letting her 12 y/o child watch housewives of whatever, but chastised me for letting her watch twilight and harry potter, cause they are the devil. BLANK STARE.

  • Imansaray23

    The sad thing about it, its never gonna change. the cycle will continue generation after generation

  • Mrsadkiah

    It’s very damaging to a child and I’m glad a site catering to Blacks spoke about this because when my sisters and I speak of it they tell us “you been around White people too long” (since we grew up in a suburb) or we’re just being sensitive. My mothers favorite was “dummy”. People have no idea how much a child internalizes this. In my experience, it only makes you hate your parents.

  • upgradedkittenheelskenya

    My mom would scold my sister and I the way Tami Roman scolded Keisha.I thought my first name was b@#$* and my last name was retard.Oh and don’t let her have friends over she would really show off

  • upgradedkittenheelskenya

    Oh My sister and I thought Simple B***h was on our birth certificate when we were younger.I honestly felt like Tami Roman raised me.Everything was b***h b***h and more b***h (Tammy voice)

    • MLS2698

      I guess that’s why Tammi thinks it’s normal.

  • MedPassion

    That is a pet preeve of mine. That, and parents who give their mall children soda and chips for breakfast. Who puts Pepsi in a toddler’s bottle??

    But I digress… That aggressive tone and foul language is pathetic, dangerous and sad. There is absolutely no excuse for that destructive mess.

    • Guest1234

      LMAO @ Pepsi in a bottle. That’s just triflin’.

      • MLS2698

        Or, Cheetos and a pickle for breakfast.

    • Kristina Tramel

      I agree with the soda thing. My son didn’t have his first whole soda until he was 10 and even now I rarely buy soda at all.

  • Felicia

    I myself have been guilty of that behavior in which it was a unhappy time in my life and in result I took my frustrations out on my kids. Since then I had to check myself and understand their is a way to talk to everybody especially with respect even when disciplining there is a formula. I actually got sick after while when cursing at my kids. So now I don’t even curse altogether. Parents are angry and disgusted most of the time because they are miserable!

    • Ladybug94

      I’m glad things turned around for you. Thanks for your candidness.

    • Guest1234

      Thanks for your honesty. It really helps community understanding when people speak truth. It turns something that makes no sense into perfect sense. I’m glad things have gotten better for you!

  • Not all parents fit the position as a parent.

    • Ash

      Hopefully people will start using contraception now that this Health Care Bill passed.