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Horsemen of the Apocalypse: #2 Contempt

August 11, 2011

Contempt - the 2nd Horsemen

When my kids were younger, they used to tell me that “Daddy, you need to be careful about your mean looks.”  Now I am thinking, “Hey kids, Daddy got a lot worse than “mean looks” when he was growing up, so feel fortunate!!”  But, as I have reflected over the years and realized that I have a pretty good scowl, I have come to understand that a “mean look”  can be part of a much larger problem.

This brings us to our 2nd Horsemen of the Apocalypse that destroys relationships:  Contempt.  Contempt happens when we attack our children with the intent to insult or psychologically mistreat them.  Contempt can take many forms, some subtle and others quite obvious.  The subtle forms include:  mean looks, sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your lip and sarcastic jabs.  The more blatant forms include:  direct insults, name calling (Your lazy, fat, stupid, a slob etc), hostile humor and mockery of our kids.

When we show contempt to our children, the basic message ranges from “You’re not good enough” to “You’re totally worthless”.  Now, I bet if I asked every person reading this blog, no one would say they want to communicate those harsh messages to their children.  That’s great, neither do I.

The trick is it isn’t really about what we think we are communicating, it is about what our children are perceiving and taking in.  Was I trying to hurt my kids with mean looks, of course not!!!  But, that does not mean that my looks did not negatively effect my kids.  Yes, they can get over it, but why create obstacles for our children to get over?  I think it is easy to rationalize our behavior and say things like “it’s OK this (negative behavior) of mine will toughen up our kids.”  My experience as a son, father, teacher and coach has taught me that negative behaviors by adults rarely produce positive results with kids.  So, a guy like me, continues to monitor his “mean looks”.

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