All of us begin life feeling great about ourselves because no one has ever told us that something is wrong with us. However, it does not take long for any child to become harmed by negative words or actions. For example, just words in simple statements from one of those relatives we all seem to have, such as, "Oh, too bad you did not get pretty curls like your sister," says to the child, "Your straight hair is not pretty, "or" Your sister is superior to you, "and causes pain.
Most children from the ages of five to eighteen spend about half of their waking hours at school. And it is in this environment that much of the damage is done to a child's self-image, damage from peers, teachers, and administrators. Labeling, which has become increasingly more popular education professionals, can have a major impact on a child's self-image and its ability to learn. Tell a child he is learning disabled, and he will be learning disabled – and hurt. Maybe he will feel fairly bad about himself the rest of his life. Methods of discipline and unjustified discipline can also do a lot of damage. Here's a few examples. Billy, a college of mine who taught at the same university, told me that his kindergarten teacher had told the class that Paris was the capital of Europe. He had corrected her and explained that Europe was a continent and that Paris was the capital of France, a country of Europe. The teacher had told him to be quiet and went on giving the class the wrong information. Billy corrected the teacher again and was chastised in front of the class and sent to the office for discipline.
One of my current students, a very shy boy, told me how on his first day of kindergarten his mother had gotten him to school late. When he went in the classroom the teacher drew a circle on the blackboard and had him stand with his nose in the circle as punishment for being late.
What do these stories have in common with each other and the hundreds of others that I have heard or witnessed? They give the child in question a negative feeling about himself within the educational environment.
The words or actions of other students can also be damaging, particularly in those cases where dominance is an issue. Children frequently make comments to each other like,
"Nobody wants to play with you."
"You think you're so smart, so nobody likes you."
"You're fat (ugly, stupid, skinny, etc.) ._
"Your clothes look dumb (cheap, old, etc.)."
The children making these kinds of observations have, of course, learned this type of behavior by being on the receiving end of similar marks themselves; however, you having such knowledge does not do their goals any good unless it is shared knowledge.
Being ignored, bullied, or laughed at by another student, teacher, or a group of other students in institutional settings such as day-care centers and schools where a child has little or no choice in having to return day-after-day without the skills to combat his pain does much more damage to a child than most professionals or parents have been willing to acknowledge. Evidence exists, however, that such occurrences happening repetitively in a child's formative years can lead to severe damage to the child and possibly lead to violent behavior by the child if not properly resolved.