Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Emotional Abuse: The Effects on Children
All parents become frustrated with their children at one
point or another. Sometimes parents say things to their
children out of anger and frustration. When parents are
angry, they can unintentionally send messages that their
children are worthless, flawed, or unloved. Most parents do
not realize that such behavior is considered emotional
Some examples of emotional abuse are:
- Name-calling (for example, "you're stupid" or "crybaby").
- Labeling children as bad instead of labeling their
- Letting children know they are a burden (for example, "I
wish you were never born.").
- Blaming children for causing problems the family may be
having (for example, "It's your fault mommy and daddy are
getting a divorce").
- Discounting children's feelings (for example, making fun
of a child if he cries when hurt or sad).
No one denies the difficulties of raising children. Here
are some examples of appropriate actions you could try when
you feel angry or frustrated:
- Leave the room and take a break until you feel more
comfortable talking to the child.
- Make it clear to the child that you do not like her
behaviors but still love her.
- Set clear, consistent limits on behavior (for example,
time-outs, sending your child to his room).
- Discuss your concerns with a pediatric health care
Giving children praise, attention, and respect are crucial
in fostering healthy self-esteem. Some examples of things
you can do when a child behaves in ways that you like or
approve of are:
- Praise your children at least once a day (for example,
"You did a good job of putting away your toys").
- Tell your child at least once a day why you love him.
- Listen to your child.
- Ask your child about his day.
When feeling frustrated with your children remember:
- Don't take children's behaviors personally. Children get
- Children are not little adults. They express feelings
differently than adults. Adults can verbalize their
feelings. Children express their feelings through
behaviors (like crying or tantrums) and through play.