What’s the Difference Between Making Parenting Mistakes vs. Being Emotionally Abusive? [Video]

A good friend and I were having a discussion about the lack of awareness in society regarding emotional child abuse and reasons to why that might be. My friend commented that one reason may be that many parents have bad days, moments when they have less than stellar parenting, and they say things they regret to their children.

“No one wants to think of themselves as emotionally abusing their child,” my friend said. “And parents just have bad days sometimes.”

In her comment, I see the difference between emotional child abuse and parenting mistakes. Yes, parents do make mistakes… but emotional child abuse is not a moment, it’s a pattern.

To better explain the difference, I’m sharing this brief video from Dr. Gregory Lantz, author of Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse. The video is only about four minutes long, but he touches well and clearly on:

  • intentional vs unintentional child abuse
  • the importance of imprints
  • name-calling
  • the difference between making mistakes now and then vs. a prolonged pattern over time
  • the invisibility of emotional scars

4 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Making Parenting Mistakes vs. Being Emotionally Abusive? [Video]

  1. Pingback: National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Understanding the Different Types of Emotional Child Abuse | The Invisible Scar

  2. “It’s a PATTERN” of abuse, of negative messages.
    None of us were “emotionally abused” because we didn’t “get a pony for Christmas.”
    We were told in *every* way, over and over again we were not worthy of unconditional love, we were “Bad To The Bone.” By age 3 or 4. Or you expected US to “Parent” YOU.
    Emotional abuse is NOT about mistakes” or not being “Perfect Parents.” It’s about inculcating over and over again in every way we were not worth your time, energy or effort, that we were somehow inherently defective, that no matter what we did it was never “enough” or “good enough.”
    I knew what Magna, Summa and Cum Laude were by third grade in the late 1950’s. I also knew about my father’s “impotence” at the same age, long before commercials with “Dueling Bathtubs” and ED. Any idea how hard that word is for a kid to look up? And WHY was my “Mother” disclosing such personal stuff to me, her kid in Catholic school during those years? There are some topics we NEVER want to know about regarding our parents and sex is RIGHT AT THE TOP. We’re NOT your “BFF.”
    We’re KIDS. Allow us to just BE kids.
    Bruises fade. Broken bones mend. Burns scar over. It is the psychological abuse that leaves the longest Legacy.
    If you as a parent are willing to look up information regarding “Emotional Abuse,” you know you’ve crossed the line and please know, FWIW, you have this old widow’s respect. Maybe you grew up with the same stuff, and YOU want the Legacy to stop with YOU: More likely than not, it WILL. As kids we are are beyond belief forgiving. We are born hard wired to bond with you. We do love you absolutely unconditionally as only an innocent child can.
    And if you’re criticizing this site, maybe it hits too close to home. Most likely your Adult Child has told you realities you’re not ready or willing to accept.
    Otherwise, check out Alice Miller’s work. There is hope-but ONLY if you as the parent are willing to do it.
    Our’s is DONE: We were way too old, way too soon.


  3. Pingback: Six Basic Blogging Rules I Should Have Followed When I Started This Blog | Veronica Maria Jarski

  4. Tundrawoman, I’m sorry for what you went through. I can relate in many ways, and what you write helps me feel less alone. I too grew up Catholic, and knew about my father’s impotence. One of the reasons I knew is because as a teenager my mother, on at least one occasion I distinctly remember, treated me like a counselour and told me some of their sexual issues. I had already been exposed to his porn for years, being there when he bought it etc, and never was there a thought or care about the effect this had on me. When I told my mother I knew why my father was locked in the bathroom all night she laughed. She also routinely threatened to leave, alone, and “go back to her people” whenever they fought. Many other things, threatening to take the toilet paper away from me and my sister and we could use our hands, etc.
    Emotional abuse isn’t about a bad day or expecting perfection or getting everything you want. It’s a way of relating to your children that they are lesser than human beings not worthy of respect or love. One day as a teenager I asked for a fashion magazine from my parents and when they came home my father took it out of the bag threw it on the floor and said, “Here’s your magazine”, so I had to pick it up off the floor like some lower human being. I can’t remember not believing something was wrong with me and I wasn’t lovable.
    But no one seemed to take emotional abuse very seriously, seems to me, until the internet came along. A couple of teachers knew something was wrong by my withdrawn demeanor but in the 70s and 80s my experience was nothing was done. The teachers looked at me, stared, but left it at that.

    I am 50 and fighting to break out of my lifelong pattern of isolating and fear of connecting with others. My mind still tells me, “It wasn’t abuse it wasn’t that bad get over it already” and it is damn hard work to challenge that. I still don’t trust my own feelings and think they are only correct if others agree with them. And I still feel so deeply that something is wrong with me, that I am different from others in a bad way. My counselour is gently encouraging me to attend a church I’m interested in, and I’m scared people will “see” me, see this bad/inferior thing about me.
    It’s brainwashing your child into a world view that supports and normalizes the sickness of the parents. The worst thing you can do is crush your child’s self esteem, and you don’t have to touch them to do it. The work I have to do is so hard but I am grateful there is much more awareness today of this serious form of child abuse. Thanks for this site and to all who share.


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