Language and Words

I am often struck (and not impressed) by the language used to refer to the children caught in the cross-fire of a divorce and custody battle (and frequently, “battle” is unfortunately the best word for it).

I cringe at phrases like “That is my weekend to have the kids”. To have them? Would you ever refer to your adult family members or your friends in that manner? “Hey, I’m having you on Friday night.” Sounds cannibalistic, at best.

Underlying language like this seems to be a belief that kids are property, things, not people.

Why are the kids almost always referred to in the passive? “I have the kids”, instead of “The children are spending time with me.”

“I will have the kids to you at such-and-such time.”

Again, it sounds like the delivery of a package or freight, not like human beings.

When the chest-pounding and power-tripping really begin, children are suddenly “my kids”, not “our kids”, as if one party was single-handedly and miraculously able to sprout children like potato buds or Chia Pets from their wondrously fertile body.

I’m sure there are many more examples than that; are there any phrases or words that get under your skin?

It most definitely rubs me the wrong way to run into ongoing and repeated disrespect to the kids’ dignity, worth, and rights.

Children are not property. They are not things. They are not belongings. They are not tokens or poker chips or tools to be manipulated or used. They are not currency or weapons or prizes.

If you need to be reminded of that, if that is not first and foremost in your mind and heart, then you truly have no business pretending to parent.

About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in children's rights, custody, divorce, language, respect for children, wording. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Language and Words

  1. you know.. i've not really ever thought of it like this.. but how right and true you are..

  2. Smirking Cat says:

    I have seen so many examples of the kids being referred to like things that it simply angers me. They are people to me. They deserve more respect than to be talked about like they are being passed around like objects.

  3. furiousBall says:

    i also love when my ex refers to “having” them as “babysitting”. it's not babysitting if it's your own kids.

  4. I couldn't agree with you more, we often hear “my son” never our son or just the son's name which is what the BF says. The son is a person and should be referred to by name. One of the best ones is on birthday cards or xmas presents instead of just signing the son's first name, she puts both first and last name. The last name is hers, again another way to hurt the BF. the son is simply a pawn in his mothers game to hurt his father and in her words “make his life hell”

  5. Smirking Cat says:

    Children also don't visit their parents. It's insulting to the kids' relationship with their father to call that “visitation”.

  6. Syn says:

    Possession is one meaning for it but I don't think it's the only one. You could say, “she is going to get pregnant and give birth to a baby” but “she is going to have a baby” says the same thing to me.

    I never really thought about it before. It's just a word to me.

  7. Smirking Cat says:

    It would be just words, if so many actions didn't reinforce disrespect for the kids or the attitude that they are not truly people.

  8. I completely agree…the whole visitation thing drives me crazy! He spends 4 to 5 days a week at our house…has his own room…we got this house for him…to be another home. No matter what, his mom insists it is a “visit” because she has full custody. She makes a point to always say “visit” because she knows it hurts my husband. But you're right…it would only be just words if there were no accompanying actions of disrespect.

  9. Amy says:


    They're children. They're not furniture or toys. They have thoughts and feelings and opinions.

    I am so sick of watching people use their children as pawns in some sick game.

  10. I hate when parents talk about “watching” the kids for the other parent, like a babysitter. It isn't babysitting or “watching” when it is your own child!

  11. The “my children” thing is a pet peeve for me, too. I hate it when she calls them “my babies,” too. They're not babies. They're children who are growing into young adults.

    It seriously bugs the hell out of me that my hubby's ex thinks he has NO RIGHTS whatsoever to the kids, that they are her possessions solely and irrevocably- and his only involvement should be in the form of lots and lots of money given freely to her to finance her lifestyle.

    UGH. That really pushes my buttons.

  12. I love this one, directed at my DH from his ex-wife: “The kids are allowed to come with you Monday evening.”

    Allowed? His OWN children are ALLOWED to come with him? Seriously?

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