The speaker, Hank Smith, held up a, bright yellow and red bag of chips for the audience to see. Then he closed his hands around the cellophane crushed it several times. Afterwards he held it up again. The bag looked the same on the outside, but as he shook it, everyone could hear crumbs rattling inside. He explained that something similar happens to people and children when they are verbally abused. They look the same on the outside, but are bruised and broken on the inside.
I liked this illustration and tried it with a family I was counseling. The father shook his head, as I handed him two bags of chips and explained that each time his son and daughter said something mean to each other, it was like crushing a bag of their favorite chips–in this case the son liked classic Lay’s potato chips and the daughter liked spicy Doritos. I continued, “The bag looks the same after squeezing it, but not the chips inside.” I asked him to crush them once each time his children said something hurtful to each other and then report back. He credulously took the bags and agreed. Then I told the siblings that next week I would give them their bag of chips, and warned them, “It’s up to you what condition they are in.”
The following week, to the father’s surprise, he said that it worked. He only had to crush the bag of Lays once and the Doritos twice.
This is a fun way to help families members visualize what happens when they say cruel things to each other. But there is nothing humorous about verbal abuse.
It is so serious that when children hear verbal abuse, it is similar to witnessing domestic violence and it can alter their brains’ structure.
Adolescent and adult victims report they wish that they had been hit so the bruises and broken bones would show and others would know.
Few understand the emotional pain and often ignore the damage caused by abuse. Victims are frequently told to “just get over it, and move on.” This is comparable to telling someone with a broken leg to “Quit whining and get moving,” or telling the Doritos to stop rattling and piece its crumbs back together.
If cruel or critical remarks are said in your family, you might try this experiment. Get each member of your family their favorite chips, and see if they can go all week without getting them crushed.
Next time you are tempted to say or hear something harsh remember, more than chips are crushed.