Negative comparisons are a common and not-so-subtle type of emotional abuse that compares a child to someone else in a negative way:
- Your sister never would have gotten a ‘0’ on a test
- Why can’t you behave more like Amy?
- Why can’t you be more like your brother?
- Let me tell you why your sister never would have done such a thing.
- Jason wouldn’t have screwed up like that.
- You’re just not as smart/attractive/competent as other kids.
Negative comparisons often include direct attacks:
- You’re bitchy, just like your mother
- If you keep acting like such a shit, you’ll wind up in prison, just like your brother.
- You’re stupid and lazy, just like your father.
- You’ll never amount to anything, just like that bum on the street.
Negative comparisons do more than insult a child and hurt their feelings. They tell them directly that they do not measure up; that they’re somehow “less good” than others around them. Such insinuations trash a child’s self-esteem and can lead to serious psychological problems. It attacks the core of a child’s social and self-identity, telling them that they are worthless whereas others are valuable.
Blaming and / or criticizing
This is by far the most common form of verbal abuse; so common in fact that most people do not even recognize it as abusive. Blaming is simply a way of life for far too many adults, (even society as a whole), and sadly, this often carries over in regards to their children as well.
In other households, hurtful criticisms are doled out by parents under the guise of parental concern; delivered alongside statements such as “I’m just telling the truth” or “stating the obvious” or my personal favorite, “looking out for your best interests.” Such conditions commonly arise in overcontrolling households or whenever a parent refuses to see the child as an autonomous being with separate likes, dislikes, and desires. Thus, the child gets criticized over every little thing they do that isnh’t done exactly how the parent would have done it.
You might recognize verbally abusive blaming and criticizing households from some of the following examples:
1. A 7-year-old is told to fix lunch and then ruthlessly criticized because there are too many sandwiches or she made them the wrong way.
2. “Now you see what you made me do!” This phrase often follows an incident where the child didn’t actually make the grown-up do anything. The adult made a mistake or was not clear on their instructions, and now it’s all the child’s fault. Whenever something goes wrong that is even remotely connected to the child, they are blamed.
3. A child is blamed for interfering with the parent’s plans in life: “You’ve ruined my life” or “You make me so cranky” or “I could have gone out with friends tonight if you weren’t around” or “can’t I just relax for an afternoon without you always stressing me out or coming to me needing something?”
4. Blaming the child for a parent’s negative behavior: “You’re the reason I get so upset and angry all the time.”
5. A child gets up for school and is criticized by her mother about what she chose to wear that day. Grabbing a pop tart for breakfast, she is reminded that food like that will make her fat, and that her butt already looks big. Walking out the door, she waves at a friend passing by. This prompts her mother to talk about how she’s never liked that girl and why can’t she pick some better friends anyway? Living with such a parent, the child endures an ongoing, almost constant barrage of criticism over numerous aspects of her life:
- Criticizing the child’s choice of friends
- Criticizing a child’s dress
- Criticizing the way she looks or how she does her hair
- Passing judgment on a child’s choice of activities
- Criticizing the music she likes or the movies she watches
Though we all engage in the blame game or dole out criticisms once in a while, many children live in environments where blaming and criticism are a way of life, and it has devastating consequences. Feelings of blame or responsibility for the abusive parent’s displeasure or unhappiness can lead to a child’s losing their sense of self; developing an abnormal sense of self-importance; and/or a core feeling of unworthiness or unloveability. (Keith-Oaks, 1990)