9 Things Toxic Parents Say to Their Children

Children Always expect From their Parents Love and Care. But what if those Parents are Toxic?

How would you feel if I tell you that in 2008, the administration of children and families in the US department of health and human services reported that more than 50.000 children were officially counted as victims of child emotional abuse?

Toxic words either are intended to cause pain or not, can leave marks in memory from a short time to a lifetime. These abrupt remarks can come from the loved ones such as parents. The damage can be life changing for a lot of people, so imagine if it were a child. The way parents raise their children and behave around them set up the basic ground which builds their personality and self-esteem.

Side Effects of Childhood Emotional Abuse:

Childhood maltreatment can cause serious emotional repercussions for children down the line. In fact, according to a society called “Prevent Child Abuse America”: ‘Child emotional abuse is an often misunderstood form of trauma that can cause damage to a child’s developing brain, leading to long-term learning difficulties, problematic behaviors, and increased incidences of physical and mental health issues. The emotional abuse of children may be the most damaging form of maltreatment, affecting their emotional and physical health as well as their social and cognitive development.

To persuade that research, a study was done by the University of California Los Angeles Health Science which examines the effects of abuse and lack of parental affection across the body’s entire regulatory system. They found a strong biological link for how negative early life experiences affect physical health. A significant link was found between psychological damages, resulting from childhood abuse, and the increase of the risks for health problems in later life. For instance, this “toxic” stress has been linked to elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and other physical conditions posing a significant health risk. While on the other side, people who had higher amounts of parental warmth and affection in their childhood had lower health risks.

In addition to that, based on a number of studies done by Martin Teicher, M.D., Ph.D. who is a developmental neuropsychiatrist and director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and his colleagues: the results suggest that the psychological impact of childhood abuse may cause changes in the brain, and some of these results are also buttressed by other scientists’ findings.

How to Know if Parents are Toxic?

There is a numerous number of things toxic parents might say, but based on a personal experience of my childhood and other people’s, I can cite some things toxic parents say.

Image by Hans Kretzmann from Pixabay

9 Things Toxic Parents Say that Can affect a Child’s Life

       1- Offensive words toward the appearance:

You are ugly/fat/short/skinny. You have ugly hair”

Calling a child with discourteous sentences like these will only increase their physical insecurity and worry about their body image which is one of the signs of serious emotional issues such as an early eating disorder.

Parents are supposed to teach their little ones how to love themselves no matter what shape and color they have, and they should focus more on their inside.

       2- Provocative questions toward actions:

Why do you act so weird, why do you walk/chew/move/ talk like that?”

Since it’s normal that children believe anything their parents say, sarcastic questions like these make the child feel weird and different than the other kids. Not only they won’t feel free to be themselves anymore around people, but they may be trapped by discomfort, fear and trepidation that others will laugh at them or notice their non-existent weirdness.

Parents should rather boost the kid’s self-confidence not their insecurity about pure harmless physical actions.

       3- Toxic wishes:

“I wish you were never born, I wish I had an abortion, I regret having you, I wish you were a different child”

Parents should never say something like this to a child. It only shakes their belief in life. Kids would feel they weren’t supposed to be living in the first place; they don’t deserve to be. One wish like these might cause an eternal scar in the little one’s life and diminish the whole sense of identity which can lead to self-harm and early depression. Instead, parents should make them feel special and valued.

       4- Making a kid feel like a burden:

You cost me a lot of money, it’s so hard to take care of you, having you exhausts me”

Because of that, the kid feels like a burden, and then decides to hide their needs; feelings and problems just to see the parents relaxed. However, this issue stimulates feelings like sadness, anger, envies, and jealousy toward the other kids who are spoiled.

Considering that, “Nemours”, a nonprofit children’s health system, reported that lack of love and affection or materialistic things are some of the causes for some children to lean on stealing and being abusive.

        5- Toxic comparison:

Why aren’t you like your sibling/cousin/the other kids?  The other kids are way better than you”

This reduces the child’s self-esteem and induces them into thinking that they’ll never be good enough no matter how hard they try. Parents should teach the kid how to be special in their own way. Also, prizing a child and leaving the other behind only promotes an unhealthy relationship between the kids, loaded with jealousy and resentment that can continue on the long run. Therefore, siblings should be equally given the right to build their own independent identity. Everyone deserves to be special in their own way.

        6- Verbal abuse:

You are stupid/ failure/loser/you will never make it”

Maltreated children have measurably lower levels of self-esteem than children who are not abused (Sturkie and Flanzer 1987; Oates, Forrest, and Peacock 1985).

It’s imperative that parents encourage their children into believing in themselves. They are ought to be careful with the language they use for communication. Instead of being abusive, they are obliged to provide care and love. On other side, instead of being abused, kids need to learn from their parents how to be generous, determinant, brave and patient to build a steady ground for a healthy life.

        7- Lies:

A lot of parents treat their kids as if they aren’t reasonable. Kids are very smart, therefore they can find out if the parent is either lying or not. We should always have an honest conversation with children as long as that truth is suited for their age and won’t cause them any harm in order to build a deep trust.

        8- Warnings:

I will leave you, I will put you outside, you will wake up and never find me, I will disappear”  

This will make the kid live terrified and always afraid that one day they will end up alone. It is also one of the causes for the inability to trust later on in life. Kids should not be warned. Their innocent mind would take it seriously and that feeling of threat might sustain during their entire life.

        9- Empty promises:

If you do this, I will buy you that” or “I will take you there next time”

Do not make promises you feel you may not be able to keep. The child would feel very disappointed and betrayed. Making a fake promise is an excellent way to teach a child how not to trust and to show them that giving one’s word isn’t taken for granted. This is a matter of ethics and it should be respected. Meaningless promises can definitely shake the parent-child trust.

Every parent should be careful to every word they say to their children

To conclude, child emotional abuse is very toxic on the long run mentally and physically. Therefore, Parents should be aware that they must pay attention to every word they say. This issue is as serious as physical abuse. More research for solutions on how to prevent this dilemma and how to increase public awareness and acknowledgement of child emotional abuse must be done. Childhood is the basic chapter in every human’s life which builds personality, behaviors, and emotions. It is very sensitive and requires so much care, love and affection in order to bring up a healthy human being.


Oakley, Nicola. “18 Adults Reveal the Most Damaging Things Their Parents Ever Said to Them” Mirror, 5 Dec. 2018. At: www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/family/18-adults-reveal-most-damaging-7180465
University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences. “Abuse, lack of parental warmth in childhood linked to multiple health risks in adulthood.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2013. At: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130926205005.htm
AREHART-TREICHEL , JOAN. “Psychological Abuse May Cause Changes in Brain.” Psychiatric News, American Psychiatric Association, 2 Mar. 2001. At: psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/pn.36.5.0036
Davies, Janey. “Things Toxic Parents Do and Say That Have a Lifetime Effect on Their Children.” Learning Mind, July 16th, 2018. At: https://www.learning-mind.com/toxic-parents-things
D’Arcy Lyness, PhD. “Stealing.” Kids Health, Nemours, The Nemours Foundation, August 2015. At: https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/stealing.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2010). Child Maltreatment 2008. At: www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm08/cm08.pdf
“Preventing Emotional Abuse.” Prevent Child Abuse America. At: https://preventchildabuse.org/resource/preventing-emotional-abuse/
Bhatti, Bonnie. Derezotes, David. Kim, Seung-Ock. Specht, Harry. “The Association Between Child Maltreatment and Self-Esteem” The Social Importance of Self-Esteem, University of California Press, UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004 formerly eScholarship Edition. At: https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft6c6006v5&chunk.id=d0e840&toc.id=&brand=ucpress

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  1. My mother is like that I didn’t want to acknowledge it but she’s exactly like that


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