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Chronically Hurtful People – Teaching Your Children

Children are naturally innocent and  trusting. How do you teach them about hurtful people? Here's what expert Roxanne Livingston recommends...

 The Nourishing Company
                         The Nourishing Company

Volume VII # 115        Copyright 2015       All Rights Reserved

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Once again, BetterHealthBytes is delighted to welcome returning guest author and expert Roxanne Livingston, M.A., author of   Chronically Hurtful People: How to Identify and Deal with the Difficult, Destructive, and Disconnected.   Her articles for us on Chronically Hurtful People are among the most popular articles we have published. Happily, here is her next contribution:

Raising Children to Have Self-Trust when Encountering Hurtful People

I have been asked a number of times, how parents and other caring adults can help children be aware of hurtful people in their midst, and avoid investing their trust in such people.  My answer is, “Children are born with the capacity to know when something feels unsafe.” 

That somewhat flippant remark may be true, and will continue to apply as children grow up, at least for children who have the good fortune to have had adult caretakers who supported their feelings and intuitions, and regularly validated their experiences. Unfortunately however, many well meaning parents and other involved adults, undercut the natural intuition and instincts of youngsters without realizing they are doing so.

While I would never claim that practicing the ideas I share below will protect a child from all danger, I do advocate these practices as ways to reinforce a child’s innate ability to trust his or her own feelings in any situation. When children develop a good sense of self- trust regarding their everyday experiences, they are more likely to know when they feel uncomfortable in certain people’s presence.

They are more likely to trust their perceptions enough to avoid some of these situations and people. They are less likely to self-blame when they have been fooled by hurtful people, and less likely to self-criticize over negative encounters.

These practices are for everyday life, everyday hurts, joys, fears, sorrows, irritations, disappointments, and any other emotionally tinged circumstance. When our experiences are accepted and we connect with our genuine feelings, we are better able to navigate life in such a way as to be on our own side, our own advocate.

Listening with Concern, and Validating are two of the foundational skills I recommend to parents, teachers and others.

 1.Listening with Concern means just that, hearing what the child is telling you.  A child feels heard  when caretakers show interest in what is being conveyed, looks directly at him or her with interest and compassion, and gives reassuring evidence that they got the message the child was sending. It is often helpful to paraphrase what the child said or conveyed.  Sometimes it is necessary to find and name a feeling for the child.

2.Validating means letting children know their  feelings make sense.  It does not mean the parent or caretaker agrees with a child’s assessment of what just happened that provoked emotions, but serves to calm a situation by letting the child know his or her stress was understood and accepted.

 Example: You notice eight year old Justin has been unusually quiet when he comes home from school.  You want to know if something is bothering him, but he has never been that verbal so it is hard to tell what might be causing this behavior change.

Avoid cornering him and trying to pry it out of him. “Justin, I am tired of your being so closed off and quiet.  What is going on? This is really frustrating me. Is it school? Is it your friend Bill?  Is it the teacher?  What is it?  I’ve had it with your quiet ways.”

Avoid ignoring the situation altogether and hoping for the best.

 Practice Listening and Validating with Concern.

   “Justin, I see you are being a little more quiet than usual.  I wonder if there is something bothering  you , or if  you are worried or sad about something.”  This is listening to his body language, and naming what you think might be the feelings underlying  what you are seeing.

  ”It makes sense to me that you would be a little quieter than usual if there is something  going on and whatever it is might be  hard to talk about or share.  I am here for you. “  This is validating that you get it that there is a good reason for whatever he is experiencing.


Your six year old daughter wanted to be on her first soccer team with her good friend, but that team was already full. She is crying.

Avoid  minimizing her distress, disregarding it altogether, or changing the subject or shaming.

    “Oh for heaven’s sake. It isn’t a disaster that you aren’t on the same team. You get to do so many other cool things, I wish you wouldn’t make such a big deal out of this one.” Or  “ Grampa has been sick lately.  That is something to be upset about.” 

 Practice Listening and Validating with Concern.

  “Ava, I see you are really disappointed that you aren’t able to be on the same team as Lizzie.  I can see why that bothers you, I would be disappointed too if that happened to me.”  In this example the parent is giving her child a name for the girl’s experience. This is empowering for children, to know their feelings have names and are real.

 Just as babies learn to trust both their own experiences of hunger and discomfort  when they are fed and nurtured well, older children learn to trust their various emotional experiences and needs when these are listened to, named , supported and validated.

Roxanne K Livingston, M.A. is the real deal: She's made chronically hurtful people the focus of her professional work, and come out of it with the essential nuggets we each need to recognize who these people are and to immediately initiate certain key self-care strategies when we do. Happily for the rest of us, she is sharing this life-saving information in her new book, available by clicking on this title: Chronically Hurtful People: How to Identify and Deal with the Difficult, Destructive and Disconnected or going to Createspace/3697008. We suggest you get a copy and memorize what she's discovered - it could save you a lifetime of pain and suffering (this is no exaggeration!)                                    

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Tags: chronically hurtful people CHP's Abusive relationships difficult people narcissistic people self-absorbed people dealing with difficult people hurtful relationships relationships that hurt 

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Tags: chronically hurtful people CHP's Abusive relationships difficult people narcissistic people self-absorbed people dealing with difficult people hurtful relationships relationships that hurt


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