is it ok to call a child "pathetic"

Margie - posted on 01/19/2010 ( 222 moms have responded )

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I have 9 uyr old twin boys and I know they can be a lil rambunkitious.. one of them came home from school asking me what does pathetic mean? I asked him where did he learn that word from. he said his teacher calls the students pathetic. he said very proudly that she hasnt yelled at him and called him pathetic... should i still go in there and raise a big stink about it because that is really what I want to do!

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Jodi - posted on 01/21/2010

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For a parent you can call your child what you want




Actually, no, a parent cannot call a child "whatever they want" - that can be called verbal abuse and is just as damaging, if not more, than physical abuse.

Deborah - posted on 02/06/2010

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I'm a teacher. I occasionally accuse pupils of 'pathetic behaviour' and 'pathetic attempts'. There's a big difference between this and accusing a child of actually being pathetic, which simply re-enforces low self-esteem and/or perceived victim status. I teach teenagers, though: I'm not sure I'd ever use the word with a 9-year-old, for fear of mis-interpretation as much as anything.

Dana - posted on 01/21/2010

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No, it's not. I would talk to the principal for sure. I would never call my own child anything degrading and I'd be damned if anyone else thought it would be okay to. Just because this week it was another child doesn't mean next week it won't be yours. I say, rock on momma, your instincts are right on!

Brandy - posted on 02/05/2010

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i would say most def. raise a huge stink!! i would say the teacher is the pathetic one!! i laid into the head teacher of my sons school a few weeks ago. he is six years old, and is starting to really struggle in school. can not concentrate at all.. just stares off into space a lot of the time.. and something is def. wrong as he cant spell at all.. some where between hearing the word and writing it gets all jumbled up in his head..

well his teacher was calling him a "slow coach" and i only knew this as another child told me.. when i asked him about it he started crying.. then i found out he was help back from gym to work, as he hadnt finished it.. had reached the point that a child who loves school, and wouldnt miss a day if he was dying.. broke down and told me that he didnt want to work at school anymore.. and that he didnt like it... i was at the school the next day.. and the problem was dealt with then and there. so yes, if your child is shouting and calling the kids names.. that is abuse.. and needs to be stopped imediatly.

Connie - posted on 02/05/2010

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One thing I've learned as I've moved around that country is that words that have become meaningless in one region or area can hit hard in another. In NYC, where I am from, a ball team can be "pathetic." A meal might be a pathetic excuse for food. I myself have become immune to this word's power. I assume people don't become teachers because they want to damage children. What I'm saying is that this teacher may not know that a word she uses without thinking can do SERIOUS damage to the self esteem of her students. You need to talk to her, calmly, about your concerns. Pleased don't throw a "hissy fit.":-)

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222 Comments

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Sandra - posted on 02/07/2010

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I would pull my child from her class. This is outrageous and she is teaching children to belittle others.

Rachel - posted on 02/07/2010

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that teacher should be fired, who in there right mind would call a child pathetic

Rachel - posted on 02/07/2010

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that teacher should be fired, who in there right mind would call a child pathetic

Rachel - posted on 02/07/2010

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that teacher should be fired, who in there right mind would call a child pathetic

Rachel - posted on 02/07/2010

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that teacher should be fired, who in there right mind would call a child pathetic

Rachel - posted on 02/07/2010

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that teacher should be fired, who in there right mind would call a child pathetic

Sarah - posted on 02/07/2010

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I would not wait for her to call my child "pathetic". A childs self esteem comes mostly from what others say about them. THis teacher needs to retire or reevaluate why she choose to teach.

Deborah - posted on 02/06/2010

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Report the teacher. This is abuse of power and schools are trying very hard to eliminate it as soon as it occurs. No child should be called names by any adult for any reason.

[deleted account]

If they are refering to one particular child, then yes, raise hell. . . that's can really hurt a childs self esteem and cause emotional problems. if they were referring to a entire class, saying their work was pathetic, then i wudn't raise a big hoot.

Holly - posted on 02/06/2010

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First, I'd do some damage control with your sons. Make sure they know that it's not okay, and that YOU are proud of them. Build them up. A high self esteem is the best thing to combat these situation. Also make sure that they know not to repeat what they hear to other people (just because they hear name calling, doesn't mean it's okay to name call). If you're comfortable, you might also suggest that they "build up" the kids that have been picked on by the teacher.

How you aproach the teacher could depend on a few things. Out here in cyber space it can be so black and white : it's unacceptable, and a teacher shouldn't do it. By now, you've probably have had several interactions with her. What are were your feeling about her before you heard this? Are you comfortable going in and talking to her personally? Personally, I'm comfortable enough with my daughter's teacher to call and request a meeting to talk face to face. Choose the whatever you feel comfortable with, but try to be as calm as possible. Try to minize your son's input so, and make it seem that it's more your concern that your son's reporting that is bringing you there (on the chance that the teacher is vendictive).

To the teachers and parents that have been supportive of name calling, I'm surprised. No, it's not okay. It's not good to "baby" kids, but purposefully bringing them down is not okay, either. My daughter's 2nd grade teacher is fantastic: she has several difficult students in her class, a son that is not even a year old, we're dealing with major financial cut backs (the teachers worked the first day of school w/o pay), and she does not see the need to degrade her students. There are ways to deal with unmotived students without demeaning their attempts, which does not motivate them more.

[deleted account]

If it were my kids, I would have her butt in a sling and get her fired. Kids already have enough preasure to fit in and be accepted by their peers they shouldn't have to put up with it from adults too. It is mentle abuse and she has no right to steal their selff confidence for any reas9on. She should be ashamed of herself and she has no right working with children at all!

Tammy - posted on 02/06/2010

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I think that you should definitely look into this. I don't think it is right for her to be calling children pathetic.

Cheri - posted on 02/06/2010

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That is so wrong! I would go have a talk with the teacher. She shouldn't be teaching if that is how she is going to talk to kids.

Leeta - posted on 02/06/2010

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I would demand an apology from that teacher for all of th kids she called that. She is supposed to be a mentor to these kids, not the queen.

Abigayle - posted on 02/06/2010

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It isn't appropriate, in my opionion, to call a child pathetic. To me it is on the borderline of verbal/mental abuse and makes the child feel inferior. Better verbage could have been used and if it were my child an immediate teacher/parent conference would be requested. It probably wasn't meant in such a negative context but the children's life's at home are all different and what may not affect one could drastically affect another and damage a child's self esteem which is hard enough to encourage to be positive today.

Kristin - posted on 02/06/2010

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Quite frankly I don't think that individual should be a teacher in the first place if they are speaking to children that way. I remember growing up in a school with teachers who talked to me in that manner and I had a lot of problems going to school. It's disgusting how some teachers think they have so much control and power over young children.

Rita - posted on 02/06/2010

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absolutely, we all need to keep other people especially teacher in check. Children don't or won't speak up for themselves. And who is really pathetic here

Jennifer - posted on 02/06/2010

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I WOULD GO TO THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL AND LET HIM/HER KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON IN A CIVILIZED MANNER CALM AND NOT RAISING HELL

Anne - posted on 02/06/2010

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The teacher's behaviour is inappropriate. Contact the school and file a complaint!

Christina - posted on 02/06/2010

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It is totally out of line for the teacher to call the children names. Especially so much that it is something that your child is grateful that she hasn't called him that yet imply's that it is a very regular thing that is happening. I would not think that is the kind of environment I would want my child learning in... I would definately say something to the principle...

[deleted account]

from there, for sure the teacher will be more careful in saying things to her students. the kids are growing up and they are becoming more alert and fast in picking up new words. teachers are suppose to be 2nd mothers in school.they need to be watchful about their language.

[deleted account]

if i were in your place, you need not make a big stink about it but just ask the teacher why she had called your son that. be civilized. or you could go to the principal and that she be called to the office and the 3 of you talk. at least you have a witness about the the comment she made

[deleted account]

if i were in your place, you need not make a big stink about it but just ask the teacher why she had called your son that. be civilized. or you could go to the principal and that she be called to the office and the 3 of you talk. at least you have a witness about the the comment she made

Kathleen - posted on 02/06/2010

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This is absolutely wrong. School should be safe and supportive. Name calling undermines that, not to mention it sets a terrible example! I would arrange a meeting w/the principal to let them know this is going on, and find out how they will handle this. If you go to the teacher directly, they are going to be defensive or deny it. This is definitely worth a stink .

Lorrie Ann - posted on 02/06/2010

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This is delicate because your child hasn't been called pathetic so its second hand news from your son about someone else. IF you know the other parents well and think they need to know that their child is being called pathetic by the teacher and being yelled at then you have that right to tell them. Make sure that your child is telling you the truth before talking to anyone about it and check out the attitude of the other parent first because you may decide to tell them wanting to get it off your chest when its not a good tme for them to deal with this appropriately. Remember its better in any situation to speak to your children first and reassure them that your behind them and no matter what the teacher says or does that you want to know because we all make mistakes and its our job as parents to instill that trust in our relationships. So if your child gets into trouble with anyone you know he's going to fess up and you can trust him because he knows your on his side even if it means a punishment and that your not disappointed in him but that he simply needed to learn a lesson and now its your turn to do your job and teach him. Always talk about it, Talk not lecture or scream. Go somewhere else to do that alone.

Debbie - posted on 02/06/2010

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I teach fourth grade and, as tempting as it is, I would NEVER use the word pathetic. However, we teachers REALLY appreciate when parents come to us first with issues rather than going to the principal first. I hope this advice is not too late and I hope it didn't actually happen! Good luck.

Cindy - posted on 02/06/2010

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heck yes! that is totally uncalled for. teachers are there to teach and enlighten our children not put them down. that's what other kids and life is for. kids need people to praise them and help them. i would throw a lulu if it was my daughter, she is also nine.

[deleted account]

I would ask the school what their dispute guidelines are and follow that. My kids' school has a procedure that MUST be followed before things get resolved. So go and talk to the teacher first and get the full story before you get all huffed. There my have been a misunderstanding from your son that will need to be corrected... thats learning for you!!

Hazel - posted on 02/06/2010

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Perhaps you could question your child and see if this was an isolated incident too, see if this teacher frequently puts the children down.

I remember a teacher at my old school picking on a young child and I don't think anyone spoke up about it, I think about it quite often. His name was mohammed and he was a little slower to pick up on things than the other children, he was DAILY called lazy, stupid, pathetic etc etc he was hardly ever allowed out to play as he had to stay in and finish his work. I remember trying to help him out as much as I could so he could come out and play. We must have only been about 6 if that. He left the school the following year, I don't know if it had anything to do with this teacher or not.

Some years later I did work experience at my old school and was put in this teachers class for a few days. Again there was one little boy who was singled out, called the same names and kept in for his play times. He was the most adorable little black boy ever. I never thought much of it at the time, and I should have - but it seems to me that this *teacher* may well have had a racism problem.

So yes, you need to find out whats going on, it could be that it's just a one off and the teacher feels bad about it .... on the other hand she could be belittling children all the time. I wish I had spoken up about this other teacher years ago.

Nita - posted on 02/05/2010

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I would talk to the teacher sometimes children pick up things wrong, they are only children. If you don't get a reply you are happy with from the teacher, then go to the principal. Explain to your child what it means never fib just look in the dictionary. They only want honest answers from their parents. Explain negative words are used sometimes but they don't need to be acted on. Teach children how to judge people around them and ignore the bad behaviour.

Johann - posted on 02/05/2010

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well first of all that is a terrible word for a child to be called they have hardly lived long enough to be pathetic,It is not appropriate , i would slip a note to your child and let him put it on her desk , he can do it anonymously or not you too , but say , I understand being a teacher is a hard job and I appreciate your job , but i would prefer if you didn't use certain words in the classroom , like pathetic and or any others that go right along with that and can hurt a child's self esteem we are to be the ones who guide the kids so knocking them down at the knees before they have even ran is so disappointing. a teacher is a mentor and a child will look to this teacher for guidance and will carry it with them through life, better deal with it now.

MAUREEN - posted on 02/05/2010

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THAT LAST MESSAGE WAS NOT MEANT FOR YOU...IGNORE IT...BECAUSE ITS THUMBS DOWN ON YOUR COMMENT...THIS COMMENT IS FOR MARIA LAND

Carey - posted on 02/05/2010

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I have read several of the post here and there seems to be a mixed review of what to do. Pathetic in todays terms means useless or worthless. These are negative terms. A 9 year old child shouldn't have to hear words like that coming from a teacher at all unless she/he is giving the definition. Even to say that a child's work is pathetic is 1 NOT TEACHING THEM ANYTHING , 2 CAN CAUSE SELF-ESTEAM ISSUES WHEN THEY ARE OLDER, 3 IF A TEACHER CAN NOT TEACH A CHILD WITHOUT CALLING THEM NAMES THEY SHOULDN'T BE A TEACHER. It doesn't matter what context the word was used in, in was in a grade school where children that young shouldn't have to hear such things being called at them. as far as the children go that act out have you ever asked the kids why they did what they did or did you just figure the kid was another pathetic case? If you do not know what is going on behind someone elses door, don't assume they are just trouble makers.... sometimes these actions are a way out of a really bad situation for them. Judge not lest ye be judged! and obviously you did learned something while you were there because your not in school any more. If you didn't like being picked on in school by other kids or adults even today, why would you let your kid go through that with their own teacher? Think about what you say before you say or do it!

MAUREEN - posted on 02/05/2010

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WHEN DOES IT STOP.....!!!!!!!YOU LET IT GO NOW IT WILL CONTINUE AND WILL MAKE IT WORSE THAN EVER, I SAY ONE TIME, YOUR OUT OF HERE..THESE ARE OUR PRESOUS CHILDREN

MAUREEN - posted on 02/05/2010

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I SURE WOULDNT WANT HER NEAR MY CHILD TEACHING OR OTHERWISE. SHE IS DEF IN THE WRONG CAREER.FOR SURE..THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ANY THING LIKE THIS..NEVER......WE ARE TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN NOT ADULTS REMEMBER THAT.....

Carey - posted on 02/05/2010

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Jo, I'm sorry that you feel that at 9 years old a child knows the meaning of pathetic and should have to take on a teacher. Where have you been for the past millenia to notice that abuse is abuse. How would you like someone to call your child that just because they didn't "get" something as you say? No child will stand up to a teacher at that age by themselves because children are taught that you have to be good in school and do what your told. Children are taught to respect adults no matter who they are so that being the case NO child that is 9 would do that nor should they have to. If someone ever called my daughter something like that they had better be able to hide cause i'd knock'em on thier ass.

MAUREEN - posted on 02/05/2010

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YOU CAN ONLY WONDER WHAT SHE DOES TO HER OWN CHILDREN, OR FAMILY, SCAREY THOUGHT

Carey - posted on 02/05/2010

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In my personal oppinion YES BY ALL MEANS! Children have it hard enough in school with their peers, adults such as their teachers are to help them with issues and to teach them, not put them down and personally I would take that as verbal abuse to the children in the class, just because the teacher has not called your son this doesn't mean he should be exposed to such negativity, especially since these are people our children are looking up too, and teaching them. If we do not accept this behavior out of our kids why would we accept it from the people we entrust to take care of them while they are in their care. also, It is never okay to call a child pathetic, that's like telling your child they are stupid when they are just kids, of course they are lacking in the smarts department they have to be taught almost everything, we were there once and thought we knew it all but did really dumb things. I would never put my child down and I wouldn't accept it from anyone else.

Jessica - posted on 02/05/2010

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I think that is inappropriate language to use in a classroom but I would certainly not go in there with guns blazing. Your child has to be in her classroom for the rest of the year and you want to make nice if you can. I would call and ask to meet with her inform her of what your son reported to you and give her an opportunity to explain herself. If she acknowledges--or if she doesn't--using that language, let her know that you are very uncomfortable with hearing this from your son and that you feel that it is inappropriate. If you hear from your child again that a similar incident has occurred, I would report it to the head of the school.

Lynette - posted on 02/05/2010

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Teachers should never put down any students!!!!!!! I would schedule a meeting with the teacher so you can find out all the facts; sometimes children take things in a manner that was not really the facts, but I would definitely dig a little further and find out everything I could about the situation. If it is true, then please schedule a meeting with the teacher, principal, and counselor so that everyone knows what is going on and it should be corrected. I am a teacher and if this is really going on, then it makes me sick!!!!!!

Terry - posted on 02/05/2010

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I'm not clear here...you said she HASN'T yelled at him and called him pathetic. Did you mean that? Also, I'm wondering how she uses the word vs. how he reports it. For example, "You're a pathetic child," is a whole lot different from "Your tantrum is a pathetic try for attention." As to asnwer your question about raising a big stink, I say no. What you should do is talk to her. Let her know her use of the word is being misconstrued. Teachers are our partners in raising our children. For example, we should call the cops if our husband is abusing our child and we should call the principal if a teacher is abusing our child. However, if it's the use of phrasing that's being misconstrued...just like we talk to our spouses about that, we should talk to the teachers themselves. I've raised four kids to adulthood now and only had to talk to a principal about a teacher once. Every time I talked to the teacher personally I got results. Of course I didn't go in mad. I went in like we were in this together -- which we are.

Fiona - posted on 02/05/2010

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As a teacher myself, I agree that what your son has reported sounds inappropriate, however, before you go in there all guns blazing, ask the teacher about it calmly. Children often report being told off as being "yelled at", expecially if the teacher is strict. Raising a big stink will only cause the teacher to get defensive. If your sons account is accurate and you don't get any satisfaction from the teacher, then go to the principal. Good luck.

Kerry - posted on 02/05/2010

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It is certainly not ok to belittle children in class. I would raise it with the teacher in the first instance, in a non aggressive manner, by telling her what your son has reported to you and telling her that you don't want your children to learn that calling other people names is ok.

Lequita - posted on 02/05/2010

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i think you need to let your son's teacher know that you enrolled him in that particular school to receive a quality education not be verbally abused. you should tell this teacher that if he or she continues to verbally abuse his or her children then you will report them to the board of education. i think that it is horrible your son had to witness that and i know little kids are sponges so that will repeat what they see and hear. my advice is to transfer your son to a different class.

Dianne - posted on 02/05/2010

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If as a parent you can call your children names and expect no repercussions how can you expect other people to not expect the same

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