Children should always expect care and love from their parents. But what if the parents are toxic?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2008 over 50,000 children were officially counted as victims of psychological abuse. Whether painful words from parents are meant to cause pain or not, they can leave children with psychological and emotional damage, and memories which can last a lifetime. The way parents raise their children and how parents behave in their presence build the foundations of a child’s personality and confidence.
Here are eight things that toxic parents say which can affect a child’s life.
- Criticism of a child’s appearance. “You’re ugly, too fat, too small, too thin.” “You have ugly hair.” Humiliation of a child based on his or her appearance can increase levels of insecurity and concerns about their body. This can lead to serious emotional problems such as eating disorders. While setting standards can be helpful and healthy, parents should teach their children how to learn to like themselves, no matter their outward appearance.
- Criticism of a child behaving like a child. “Why are you acting so weird?” “Why are you walking that way?” “Why do you chew like that, why do you move like that or talk like that?” Children have the natural tendency to believe everything their parents tell them. Sarcastic or critical questions can give a child a mistaken impression that something is wrong with them. This makes it very difficult for children to be themselves around other people, even during their adulthood. It teaches them to feel trapped by discomfort and fear that others will make fun of them or notice their shortcomings.
- Expressing selfish wishes. “I wish you were never born.” “I wish I had an abortion, I’m sorry to have you.” “I wish you were different.” Parents should never say things like this to their child. Remarks like these make the child feel as if they shouldn’t be in the world and don’t deserve to be alive, and can lead to lowered self-confidence, premature depression, and self-harm. Instead, parents should make their children feel loved and valuable.
- Complaining about the hardship of raising a child. “You cost me a lot of money.” “It’s so hard to take care of you, it’s very exhausting to have you.” A child who is made to feel like a burden tends to mask or hide their true needs, feelings and problems just to avoid the anger of their parents. This avoidance has been shown to lead children to grow up theft prone or even violent.
- Making unhealthy comparisons. “Why aren’t you like your siblings, cousins or other children?” “Other children are better than you.” Comparisons of this kind can erode a child’s self-confidence and make them think they’ll never be good enough, no matter how hard they try. At the same time comparing siblings he only cultivates an unhealthy relationship between them, breeding envy and resentment.
- Using offensive words and statements. “You’re stupid, useless, you’re a zero!” or “You’ll never do it!” Absolute remarks like these will undermine a child’s self-confidence. It is important for parents to be a source of encouragement.
- Making threats of leaving. “I’ll leave you, set you aside.” “You’ll wake up and you’ll never see me again.” “I’ll just disappear.” These sentences will cause the child to have abandonment issues, growing paranoid that people they love will leave them because of who they are. When the child matures, this idea it will be subconsciously rooted in their minds. They will not be able to trust their future relationships because of the fear of being abandoned.
- Making empty promises. “If you do this, I’ll buy you this.” Or “I’ll take you there next time.” When parents make promises they don’t keep, this breaks the child’s trust. It makes the child feel cheated. False promises teach a child not to trust other people, even when they should.
We’ve all heard the “sticks and stones” philosophy, but the truth is words can be very hurtful, mentally and emotionally, especially to a child. Childhood is an essential chapter of every person’s life. In childhood, we build our personalities, our behavior and trust.
Have you experienced any of these forms of abuse?