When we talk about abuse in the context of parenting and dealing with kids, we often think more about physical abuse. However, emotional abuse is a much more common experience, and many parents may not even recognize that they are guilty of this simply because they identify as “good parents” and have come to normalize such behaviors.

Regardless of how widespread these actions are in today’s society, it doesn’t change the fact that they constitute emotional abuse and can damage the psychological wellbeing of your kids. Here are 3 actions from parents that can qualify as unintentional emotional abuse.

  1. You withhold love and affection from them as punishment.

Some parents seem to believe that withholding love from their kids when they disapprove of their behavior is one way to get them to behave right. That’s totally false and only serves to reduce their self-confidence. Parents should actually show unconditional positive regard to their kids, letting them know that even if you don’t approve of their behavior, you still love and accept them.

  1. You compare them to other kids.

All kids are different and have different strengths, and by comparing them with other children, you are constantly highlighting their weaknesses. While I understand that this is done in an attempt to get them to strive for greater success, it can be extremely damaging to their self-esteem. A better tactic would be to affirm their strengths and work with them in developing new ways of overcoming their weaknesses. So the next time you are tempted to ask them if the person with 7 As has two heads, pause and ask them how they think they can do better next term.

  1. You constantly put them down with your words.

If you constantly berate your kids with derogatory and abusive words that devalue them, you are building negative thought patterns in them that will limit the extent of their achievements later in life. Instead of verbal abuse, learn to speak words that build up and encourage your kids, they will thank you in future.


I understand that this may take some learning and unlearning on your part, especially if they are behaviors you deem normal. But when you consider that your actions now can affect the lives of your kids in decades ahead, changing your behavior is very much worth it.

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