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Work Behind the Jab

Sheridan Taylor

In which our hero explains child neglect and child abuse through a boxing metaphor.

Little jabs wear a fighter down until he’s tired and demoralized. Boxing 101. Sonny Liston. Tommy Hearns. Marvin Hagler. The jab is the fundamental punch for offense and defence. The jab sets up the other punches. The jab sets our rhythm and disrupts theirs, establishes our timing and throws theirs off. The jab keeps them at our distance, off-balance and disoriented.

Psychological abuse is repeated behaviours or speech that adversely affect psychological development. Psychological abuse fucks up a child’s understanding of their inherent worth as a human being. Psychological abuse would be letting a kid use drugs or alcohol, sexual behaviour, insults, depriving a kid of human contact, criticizing them, threats, swearing at them, subjecting a kid to criminal behavior, or yelling.

Psychological abuse, in short, is telling a kid, maybe in words, maybe deed, usually both, they’re not wanted. It can be subtle but socially acceptable, like “funny” insulting nicknames. Or humiliating a kid when they can’t do something, get less than perfect grades, or don’t do “well enough” in sports. Psychological abuse is also denying love, comfort, or advice. Psychological abuse is as bad for a kid as physical or sexual abuse. Kids who suffer psychological abuse may develop anxiety disorders, depression, self-esteem problems, PTSD, attachment problems, substance abuse disorders, and suicidal ideation.

Kids are literal, and can’t grasp satire, irony, facetiousness, or sarcasm. Parents have been doing it for generations. Unknowingly mistreating children. Subconsciously repeating patterns. Instinctively doing what they were taught. Just jokes. Not overtly nasty. A jab.

Making fun of a kid’s outfit, friends, music, TV show, grades, favourite sport, hairstyle, emotional reactions. Jab. Jab. Little jabs. All day. Every day.

Little put-downs. Constant corrections. Condescension. Patronization. Sarcasm. Mockery. Constantly interrupting them. Eye-rolling and melodramatic sighs at little mistakes. Staring off into space or smirking when the kid wants to talk. Ignoring them when they want to play. Laughing at their failures. Jab. Jab. Little jabs. All day. Every day.

Indifference. Apathy. Neglecting the kid’s emotional and developmental needs. Not letting a kid play with friends. Making a kid do shit they shouldn’t have to. Making a kid take on more responsibility than a kid should have. A lifestyle built around delivering those little jabs. Jab. All day. Every day.

It’s judgment. It’s contempt. Psychological abuse is contempt. Contempt makes it impossible for two humans to achieve connection. It’s insidious and it’s perpetual and it needs to stop. Be aware of it. Don’t accept it. Don’t do it. Don’t allow it. You wouldn’t allow an adult to actually use a physical jab on a child all day, every day, would you?

Psychological jabs are just as painful. But they last much longer. A shot in the face stings for a second. A shot to the psyche stings forever.