Nonverbal communication experts say that body language includes facial expressions, tone of voice, and noises made by mouth (sighing, grunting, etc.) Nonverbal messages substitute for words that people are afraid to use because of the consequences. Even though body language is as potent as spoken language, we allow people to offend us with it when we would not let them do it with actual words. The same thing applies sarcasm that’s used instead of a direct attack.
Most of us would punish a child who looked at us and said, “Fuck you.” But when the child rolls his or her eyeballs, sighs, and turns away, we might let it pass. Let’s face it. The child’s body language is saying, “Fuck you.” If we won’t tolerate spoken disrespect, we shouldn’t allow kids to use body language to get the message across.
Not many mothers would put up with comments like, “Your cooking sucks, Mom. I eat this stuff because I have to.” But we let the child make comments like, “Ugh, what is this, anyhow?” The message is the same.
Body language should be treated like spoken language. True, the child (or adult) is likely to deny any bad intent. But we both know the truth. And since we are the grown-ups, we should act on the truth we know, not the truth the child (or adult) is trying to disguise.
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