In the heat and frustration of the moment, it is easy to yell at children. Often, parents find themselves getting very angry at their kids. When does this yelling cross the line into emotional abuse? When parents consistently belittle a child and make the child feel bad, this behavior has crossed the line into emotional abuse. As parents, we yell at our kids in anger and fear, usually when we feel powerless to change the situation. It can be as simple as yelling, “What are you doing? YOU ARE MAKING A MESS!” Often, we do not we realize that anger is actually ineffective and causes more harm than good. In the short term, the child feels awful that the parent is yelling. In the long-term, the parent’s anger can cause emotional scars for life and decrease the child’s self-esteem.
Emotional abuse includes when a parent or authority figure places “unreasonable, excessive or impossible demands on the child, uses intimidation and aggressive methods or uses verbal attacks…Verbal attacks may include belittling, rejecting, cruel teasing, constant criticism and insulting” (Partridge). There are many different types of emotional abuse, and it is important to be aware of them.
According to the American Humane Society, there are six different types of emotional abuse:
- Ignoring-The parent/caregiver is not present, either physically or psychologically to respond to the child.
- Rejecting– Parent belittles child, making the child feel worthless. Parent does not meet the child’s needs of love and attention.
- Isolating-Parent does not allow child to interact with friends or peers and restricts child’s movement.
- Exploiting or corrupting-This includes teaching a child criminal activities
- Verbally assaulting-Parent makes child feel worthless and calls child names i.e. Stupid, lazy, etc.
- Terrorizing-Caregiver bullies and threatens child, or instills any kind of fear in child.
- Neglecting the child. This neglect includes emotional, educational, physical, etc.
As parents, we need to treat children with the respect they deserve. Remember to always complement your children and instill that they are competent and capable in what they do. When we criticize children, they may begin to internalize the abuse and feel they deserve it. When you feel the urge to yell at your children or feel you will lose control, walk away from the situation.
Effects of Emotional Abuse on Children: (ESchooltoday)
1.) Stunted development, mentally and physically
2.) Mental-health problems and problems with memory
3.) Emotional problems, included child having excessive anger
4.) Risk of aggressive and violent behavior
5.) Not being able to trust anyone and difficulty in maintaining relationships
6.) Drug/alcohol abuse
7.) Sadly, if a child is abused, they have a higher likelihood of abusing their own families as adults.
Andrew Vachss, who has spent his life defending children, writes that “Emotional abuse can be verbal or behavioral, active or passive, frequent or occasional. Regardless, it is often as painful as physical assault. And, with rare exceptions, the pain lasts much longer. A parent’s love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a “failure to thrive” condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition” (Parade). As parents we need to take emotional abuse seriously, as the effects are often as bad, if not worse, than physical abuse.