The Harmful Impact of Using the Word “Crazy” with Children: A Call for Change

Friday, November 10, 2023


Dear individuals who work with children,
Please stop using the word “crazy”. I am saying this from a place of love. My intention in bringing this forward is for us to create a future where we no longer use the word.
As a foster mom and biological mom of children with and without disabilities, I have spent a lot of time around professionals who work with children. From occupational therapists, CASA workers, speech therapists, CMH workers, Early On, etc., it seems this word has been okayed by someone as an acceptable term to call children, but please know it is not. I have heard almost every one of these amazing individuals say to my child “Are you being crazy”, “That’s so crazy”, and “You crazy, laugh, crazy”. Every time it cuts through the air and hits my body like a punch, It is usually said as my toddler is being super adorable, being silly, being excited, being enthusiastic, being extremely happy, breaking through new boundaries, exploring,  dancing, and moving their body like an acrobat, and that is what we should say. Let’s say what we mean and stop using the word “crazy.”
Most of the individuals I have interacted with are creative, passionate, caring, and thoughtful people. Individuals who truly care about the outcomes for children. Please, use that creativity to find new ways to communicate with children, and don’t limit yourself to an oppressive term like “crazy”.
Google will provide you with many fantastic articles written by people with disabilities about why “crazy” is an ablest* term. How it creates stigma for people with mental health disabilities and can stop individuals from seeking support when they need it. The word “crazy” is also used as a weapon to gaslight individuals. To make people question their truth. It has been weaponized against people to discredit them when they come forward with their truth. It is used to ignore harm and to disregard individuals passionate about causes. “Crazy” has been used as a weapon of racism, xenophobia, sexism, etc. The ability to use the term “crazy” as a weapon relates back to ableism, the belief people with mental health disabilities can’t be trusted, that they in some way are less than, their wants, needs, and humanity can be questioned, and historically and presently that they should be locked away.
I am sure when you look at my child and see them sticking their tongue out at you, giggling, and you drop the word “crazy” into the room, you are not intentionally causing harm. But I have a sad truth for you, it does cause harm, and you are teaching children that they can also use a word that is used to discredit survivors of violence and dehumanize individuals with disabilities. May we all learn to do better every day. I hope we can end the use of the word “crazy” together.
*Ableism- discrimination against people with disabilities
ID: drawing of a plant in a pot. There is a drawing of a watering can pouring hearts on the plant. In the corner, there is the text “stop harming”