Many of the emotionally abusive phrases that parents use are phrases that they do not realize are a form of child abuse. Emotional abuse is a way to sabotage another person’s feelings of self-worth and undermine their independence. It is as harmful to a child as physical abuse, but it affects their mental health rather than their body.

Studies have shown that telling a child emotionally abusive phrases can be as damaging as a spanking. Not only does it only interfere with a child’s view of himself and the world around him. It can also lead to aggressive behavior and depression.

15 emotionally abusive phrases parents say

Your words are just as important as your actions, and they affect your child equally. Since parents often say emotionally abusive phrases without realizing it, it is essential to know some of the most common mistakes. By knowing these phrases, you can be more careful with your children.

1. “I wish you were like …”

When you compare your child to another, it ruins his view of himself. It will cause a distorted image of themselves in your mind. So they will always view themselves negatively because of it.

Saying things similar to this phrase can also cause siblings to confront each other. It can cause unhealthy rivalry and can irreparably ruin the bond between siblings. This phrase can also make a child feel like they have to earn love from you.

2. “What would I do without you?”

This phrase may seem completely innocent and harmless, but that’s not really the case. When you say this to a child, you force them to become a responsible adult figure. Since you are supposed to be the caregiver, the child shouldn’t feel like he has to take care of you.

3. “Get over it”

When you tell them this, you invalidate the child’s feelings. You also minimize what happened to the child who upset him. This phrase is a way of asserting power over the child, which is not something you should ever do.

Saying this also gives the child the impression that you don’t care about his feelings. Over time, it will make them question whether they are overreacting in all situations. This will damage their self-esteem and make them lose confidence or avoid defending themselves.

Instead of saying these words to a child, try something else. If you give them space to feel their emotions without judging or criticizing, they will accept the situation more quickly. In addition, it gives them the opportunity to learn about emotional regulation and to have their feelings validated.

4. “Why aren’t you better at …?”

When you question your child’s abilities in this way, you can make him give up. If you ask them why they are not better at a sport, an instrument, or any other activity, they will lose confidence. While you may think that this phrase will make them try harder, it will have the opposite effect.

When you make them feel like they’re not good enough, they’ll think they can’t do it. This is true for activities, as mentioned above, but also for school subjects, housework, and anything else. It causes insecurity and serious self-doubt, and can lead to anxiety and depression.

5. “I never said that”

This should only be said to a child when it is undoubtedly correct. If you say it at any other time, it will have serious consequences for the child. When you tell a child that you did not say something you said, it is a form of gaslighting .

Gaslighting is a way for abusers to make their victims question their reality. When you do this to a child, they will start to wonder about everything. It can ruin your perception of the world around you.

6. “You only say that to get attention”

When you tell a child that they are just saying something to get attention, it invalidates their feelings. It makes them feel like their opinions don’t matter and that they should hide their thinking.

7. “I love you, but …”

The more a child hears this, the more he will think that he is incapable of being loved. While they may know that you love them, this will make them feel like you’re the only one who will. Telling him that you love him, but then following up with criticism, is not beneficial for a child’s emotional development.

8. “No wonder everyone thinks you’re stupid.”

You can replace the word ‘silly’ with any other negative insult, and it would have the same effect. When you say things like this, you can cause years of mental damage that can lead to more problems. This damage is likely to start out as insecurity and self-loathing, but it can manifest itself in much more.

While children are taught that bullies’ words should not hurt them, this does not apply when it comes to a parent. A child cannot simply ignore the hurtful words spoken by a parent, and it can cause psychiatric or personality disorders.

9. “Can’t you do anything right?”

This phrase will make a child believe that he cannot do anything right. Abuse of this type is aimed at making the child try harder, but it doesn’t work that way. Once a child hears something along these lines, they will stop believing in themselves.

It will ruin your self-esteem and can lead to self-loathing. When a child hears something about himself, he begins to believe that it is true. Then they will go out of their way to exceed your expectations of them, which they think they can’t do anything right.

10. “You are always so difficult”

As with some of the emotionally abusive phrases above, this one will lower your self-esteem. They will begin to see themselves as a difficult child and their actions will show it. When you tell a child that it is a certain way, this is how they will start to behave.

They listen absorbed to what you say and learn from what they hear. If they learn that they are challenging, it will only make the situation worse, both in the short and long term. Instead of saying negative things to them, try saying positive things about them and see how their behavior adjusts.

Saying this to a child can make them think they have to give them their full attention. They may think that they will not be accepted and loved by you unless they do. When this happens, you take time away from learning, playing and developing.

12. “It is silly that you think …”

This is another way to override a child’s feelings. They will become insecure about how to express their feelings and will instead learn to suppress emotions. By telling them that you think their opinions are silly, you are also trivializing the things that bother them.

13. “I gave up many things for you”

When you have children, you have to sacrifice in many ways. This is true of all parents, and a child should never feel like they are being bothered by it. It is not their job to give you a good life and they should never feel like they have made your life worse.

14. “It’s not perfect”

Teaching your children that everything must be perfect is detrimental to their minds. They will begin to think that you will not be proud of them or love them if they are not perfect.

This can make the child overly critical of himself, damaging his confidence. They will begin to question their self-esteem and may believe that they are not capable of doing it well.

It can also cause an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety for the child. They will always believe that no matter how hard they have tried, they must go ahead and achieve perfection.

15. Don’t tell them anything (you give them a silent treatment)

Staying silent is a form of mental abuse, and this is especially true when it comes to children. When they feel ignored, they will wonder why they are not good enough to get your attention.

If they had done something wrong and the silent treatment is a form of punishment, it is still harmful. They will not learn to self-regulate their emotions or to talk about problems. This will negatively affect your mental health and self-esteem well into adulthood.

Final thoughts

Knowing that emotional abuse is a form of child abuse can help you remember to avoid these emotionally abusive phrases . Emotional abuse has serious consequences for children, and studies show that these consequences can last a lifetime. However, parents are not perfect and they all say things that they should not have done.

You may not realize that the things you are saying are emotionally abusive phrases. However, it is essential to think about what you say to a child before saying it to avoid emotional damage. Since children are still developing emotionally, it is essential to avoid these negative phrases and stay positive.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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