When Parenting Goes Too Far

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While everyone has a different style of parenting, and there are different ways different people express themselves and structure their families, there are certainly lines that, when crossed, are undoubtably abusive situations. If you grew up in unhealthy situations to begin with, it may be harder to know where these lines are, but with help, you do not have to continue in the same patterns.


Obviously, children do not have the ability to take care of themselves, or their things, as properly as adults should be able to, but giving a growing child little to no privacy is actually very detrimental. Not allowing a child to change by themselves, forcing them to shower with their siblings at an older age, opening their mail, not allowing them to have a private diary, etc. are ways a child might need some privacy in ways that should not be a problem if given to them.

Emotional Validation

When a child expresses emotions or a point of view about a situation, and their parents participate regularly in invalidating those emotions or even denying reality, this turns into mental and emotional abuse. Children need validation from their parents, and reassurance that what is going on around them is something they will have the support to handle. Trying to alter the facts in order to control behaviors may seem like a solution in the moment, but it degrades trust and does not teach the child resiliency or coping skills.

Silent Treatment

If you become upset and give a child the silent treatment, avoiding them and avoiding talking to them anytime there’s a disagreement or you are displeased with them, you teach them that you are inaccessible if they make a mistake or bad choice. Instead of dealing with the issue, at least after a cool down, giving the silent treatment just shuts your child down, robbing them of their voice and any opportunity to learn from you how and what to change. It can also be quite neglectful depending on how long this goes on.

Playing the Victim Card

Some parents turn every situation into how it affects them, hurts them, or why things they did were actually not their fault; they play the victim card constantly. This ensures the child cannot have a voice regarding how situations might affect them, hurt them, or how to work through those hurts. Shifting blame means the parent doesn’t take responsibility for any part they had in a set of circumstances, and so they cannot be confronted. They may convey that the child owes them certain respect, actions, or words because the parent is feeling the way they are, regardless of how the child feels.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

Plato Greek – Philosopher


Gaslighting is basically spinning your own version of events to meet a certain goal or need when reality is far from how the story is being told. Perhaps a parent wants to minimize bad choices they made and avoid taking responsibility or wants to control their child to get them to act a certain way or say something to some end, and they reframe an entire set of events to meet their needs. This leaves the child confused, doubting their senses and perceptions of reality, and even hurt by what has happened but unable to deal with it because they are being told it wasn’t actually that way.

Threats of Violence

Telling a child, you will hurt them in specific ways that are over the line, even if you do not follow through, is detrimental to the child. This is going to be in their minds, in their vocabulary, and in their fears even if you control yourself and do not engage in the actions you’ve threatened. Children learn that this is a way of speaking to others to get them to do things they want and may mimic this behavior when they would like to accomplish something.

Favoring a Child Over Another

If you favor one child over another, it will not go unnoticed. You may have justified why you are doing what you are doing in your own mind, but there are negative effects that can last a lifetime in giving significantly more attention, better gifts, more engagement, more affection, etc. to one child than another.

Overly Critical

There are times when constructive criticism from a parent is definitely necessary but building an atmosphere where you constantly criticize every little thing about your child and your child’s actions and words will make them unable to function at their best. They may lack the confidence to try new things, feel worthless when they try their hardest and it still isn’t good enough, feel that their best efforts are unacceptable to others, and withdraw or become depressed. This is emotionally abusive.

Taking Complete Control of Finances

If you take all money that comes your child’s way, or believe your children owe you for everything, you are probably not in a good mindset. Teaching your children about money and having them pay for some things is normal, but preventing your child, especially an older child, from having a bank account, a job, or knowledge about financial basics is detrimental.

Emotionally Absent

Shutting down isn’t something a parent can do without neglecting their children. If you are going through things and need to deal with them, seeking counseling and carving out space for yourself is helpful, but avoiding participating in your child’s life, providing emotional support, or investing in time with them is neglectful.

When you are healthy mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – when you’re doing well, you’re likely to do good things in life.

Andrew Cherng American – Businessman

Using Guilt

Constantly using guilt to manipulate your child’s actions can cause them to constantly think in negative ways about themselves. It can erode your child’s sense of self-worth and confidence and make them second-guess everything they do or say. While you want to foster feeling responsible for your own actions, teaching a child to respond to what others say they should be guilty about just sets them up for people pleasing behaviors, poor boundaries, anxiety, and internal struggles that may hold them back in life and relationships. Guilt can’t be a tool in the parenting toolbox to try to force a child into anything.


Similarly, you cannot use humiliation as a tool, as it is never ok. Humiliating your child in front of their peers, other family members, or even strangers can make your child feel shame and maybe even change something they are doing or saying but using humiliation purposefully will not create lasting positive change or healthy feelings about the child, or the relationship between the child and you.

Earning Love

Love is something that should be freely given because your child exists; if you think that your child has to earn your love and your expression of it, or you treat your child in ways that strongly suggest these things, you are taking away a basic need of a child to feel they are loved unconditionally. Perhaps you learned these behaviors during your own childhood, but this is not ok to teach a child and can hurt their future relationships as they seek the love, they so deeply desire.

Taking Away Independence

Children are supposed to grow, and grow, and eventually be grown up. There are “horror stories” out there about parents who lock their kids up in a room chained to a bed, but there are many more parents out there who more subtly do not allow their children to take age-appropriate steps toward independence. If you find there are many conflicts in your home with a child who wants to learn to do things for himself or herself, consider whether this is a reasonably safe activity and allow your child to learn from you and then try. A 19-year-old who cannot make a sandwich, wash her laundry, or load a dishwasher because she cannot do it perfectly your way would not be a functional adult; driving, speaking for themselves to various entities, handling bank accounts, learning to choose clothes, and doing household chores are all a part of growing up.

Reference and citation:

  1. When Overparenting Goes Too Far
  2. What attitude should parents have towards their children’s future flourishing?
  3. Adventures in parenting
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