13 Signs You Have An Emotionally Abusive Parent
Our parents are supposed to love and care for us unconditionally. Parents provide us stability, they are our nurturers, carers, and they are there to help us grow and become a better person. They teach us how to be confident and strong.
A parent-child dynamic can be complex and it can have a lasting impact on you and your future. Many a time, I read news reports about parents being physically abusive to their children and any kind of physical abuse can leave scars on the body but emotional abuse is that kind of abuse that leaves more scars, albeit invisible, than physical abuse does.
There are instances where people don’t realize that their parents are emotionally abusing them. Sometimes, we write off emotional abuse as our parents had “a bad day”.
However, it is not a healthy parent-child relationship where the parent constantly undermines you and makes you feel unworthy. It is not a healthy parent-child relationship where the child has to feel like they have to earn their parent’s love.
Here are 8 signs you need to know to understand if you have an emotionally abusive parent:
13 Signs Of An Emotionally Abusive Parent
1. They Belittle You
Negative remarks, name-calling, and verbal reprimands are common when it comes to emotional abuse. Parents, if they call you hurtful names in the guise of “tough love” can be a sign of emotional abuse. When a parent belittles your efforts, your achievements, your personality, or your appearance, they are being abusive.
A parent raising their voice or teasing their child isn’t wrong, per se but constantly undermining and belittling is. This kind of behavior can severely damage a child’s confidence in themselves in the future and can leave them feeling unworthy and undeserving of love.
2. They Criticize You
Criticism is a part of growing up. It is how we learn to grow and learn from our mistakes. All healthy relationships involve a degree of constructive criticism which is okay but in an emotionally abusive relationship, criticism can become a tool and can destroy a child’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth.
If your parents are overly critical of you and your behavior, all the time, it is a sign that you are being emotionally abused. Parents are known to provide criticism when needed but when that criticism overshadows your positive achievements, then it is not constructive criticism. This kind of behavior can lead a child to develop negative self-talk and a poor perception of their self-image.
3. They Invalidate Your Emotions
Parents try their best to help us when we are in need, but when a parent refuses to acknowledge your emotions or refuses to validate them as important, then it is another sign that they are emotionally abusive. For example, if your parents tell you that “you’re too sensitive”, it is them invalidating your emotions.
This can lead a child to develop commitment issues in the future and it can diminish their self-worth along with their emotional skills and intelligence.
4. They Guilt You In Doing Things
An emotionally abusive parent will use ‘guilt trips’ to manipulate their child into doing things. This tactic may appear non-threatening and can make you feel guilty like not doing what they said is somehow your fault. If your parent is not communicating with you clearly and is using your words against you, then it is a sign that they are emotionally abusing you.
Emotional manipulation, in so many ways, is wrong and can impact how your future relationships – personally and professionally – work.
5. They Give You The ‘Silent Treatment’
Another sign to look out for is when your parents give you the “Silent Treatment”. If your parents are unsatisfied with something you did or are upset with you for some reason, they will resort to not talking to you.
Giving the silent treatment is another way of emotional manipulation, guilt, and abuse. They will make it so that you’re compelled to make the first move to fix things – even if you did nothing wrong.
This kind of behavior can affect a child and their ability to find and maintain a healthy personal relationship in the future.
6. They Are Emotionally Unavailable
Another sign of emotional abuse is when your parent is physically present but emotionally absent. You live under the same roof but your parents are not there for you? This can negatively affect your communication skills and can make you feel disconnected and aloof.
Being emotionally available as well as physically present is important in any relationship and not doing that can affect your self-confidence and self-worth negatively.
7. They Are Over-Involved In Your Life
Keeping and maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for every relationship whether it be a parent-child relationship, spousal relationship, or work relationship. In a parent-child relationship, maintaining boundaries means letting your child explore the world and giving them enough space to learn and grow on their own without the fear of judgment.
In an emotionally abusive relationship, a parent refuses to give a child enough privacy and is overly involved in their personal life. This could mean – in childhood – one or both parents rifling through your personal belongings and – in adulthood – it could mean asking inappropriate questions about your personal life, finances, or work.
8. They Blame You For Their Problems
Another sign of emotional abuse from a parent can be them refusing to take responsibility for their behavior and instead, blaming you for their stress and problems. An emotionally abusive parent will place blame for their actions on the feet of their child or other family members.
9. They Are Passive-Aggressive
Being passive-aggressive is a sign of emotional abuse too. Passive-aggressive people don’t come out and say what’s bothering them, however, they’ll continue to seethe on the inside. On the surface, your parents might look calm and collected but on the inside, they are quite the opposite.
10. They Don’t Apologize For Their Behavior
Even if your parents had a bad day and snapped at you in anger, they would later apologize for their behaviors. Emotionally abusive parents, on the other hand, would refuse to apologize or even acknowledge that their behavior was inappropriate. They would, instead, tell their child that they are being oversensitive.
Emotionally abusive parents lack the desire to recognize their inappropriate behavior and apologize for their actions. Even if they do apologize, their apology will lack sincerity.
11. They Withhold Affection And Compliments
All children want to please their parents and all parents like to boast about their children’s activities. Not in the case of emotionally abusive parents. In such cases, parents tend to hold or avoid showing affection and compliments even when their child deserves it.
As I mentioned in an earlier point, emotionally abusive parents tend to be criticizing and would rather withhold affection and use phrases to make you feel less-than.
12. They Threaten Abuse
Emotionally abusive parents might even threaten physical abuse or violence, even if they don’t follow through. This emotionally abusive tactic creates an environment that can make a child feel unsafe. This can be just as harmful as and worse than physical abuse.
For example: using intimidation as a tactic. Such actions might result in a person developing PTSD or similar issues.
13. They Verbally Abuse You
An emotionally abusive and manipulative parent will use belittling and harmful words or phrases towards you. Childhood verbal abuse can increase the risk of developing personality disorders, psychiatric disorders, relationships, and trust issues in the future.
Verbal abuse, in a parent-child relationship, can result in a child developing traumatic issues which, in the future, may prevent them from trusting others, opening up to others, or even harm their work and social relationships.
Impact Of Emotional Abuse In A Parent-Child Relationship
Emotional abuse can leave invisible scars and a lasting impression on a child’s psyche. This behavior can lead a child to develop problems such as:
- Inability to develop nurturing relationships
- Attention-seeking behavior
- Substance abuse
- Mental health problems
Emotional abuse can leave you feeling less-than and undeserving. This kind of behavior, especially from a parent can make you unable to form healthy and nurturing relationships with others in the future and can affect your ability to raise your children healthily.
It is, however, essential to put boundaries and ask for space if you’re experiencing these signs of emotional abuse from your parent(s). If you’re still facing troubles with setting healthy boundaries and require additional support from a licensed counselor, then don’t hesitate to reach out. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org as well.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Is it OK to Cut off Toxic Parents?
Yes! Toxic parents can cause you to experience psychological, emotional, physical, and social distress. Having healthy boundaries in a family relationship is important even if it means cutting toxic parents and relationships out.
2. Why do Abusive Parents Deny?
Abusive parents, more often than not, have a “reason” for their actions and as a trait, they never acknowledge that they are in the wrong. If confronted, the abusive parent will view themselves as a victim. Behind the web of their manipulation, criticism, and harsh words lies denial.
3. Why do I Minimize the Abuse?
A person minimizes the abuse because for many minimizing is a coping mechanism to get through the pain of the abuse. For some, though, they minimize their abuse because they want to believe their abuser still loves them – especially if it’s a parent. Others might minimize their abuse because their abuser does.
Abuse of either kind is not okay and no one should be subjected to it from a parent, specifically. Parents are supposed to love us unconditionally and we shouldn’t feel like we have to earn that love and care.
No one – even your parents – have the authority to undermine and demean you. You are strong enough on your own. If you are a victim of emotional abuse, I’d suggest that you contact a licensed therapist to help you break the cycle.
“If the family you chose before your birth no longer supports your path towards fulfilling your true destiny, it is never too late to find a new tribe.” – Anthon St. Maarten