“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We may have heard this or even shared it with our children—but it’s just not true. Words do hurt. Emotional and verbal abuse compromise the health and well-being of the entire family.
A Mother’s Leadership Role
Any family member can be the perpetrator, the victim, or both. At the risk of oversimplifying an issue as complex as emotional and verbal abuse, a mother can take the lead by setting one simple standard: forbid verbal abuse in the household. When tensions start running high, ask gentle, non-threatening questions to better understand underlying motivations. Be self-aware: own our role in any misgivings and encourage other family members to do the same. Strive to guide the family’s collective heartbeat in healthy ways.
Is Dad a Perpetrator?
With more frequency and greater severity than mothers or children, fathers commit emotional and verbal abuse. If he isn’t part of the solution, he is part of the problem. If we sense dad is feeling irrational, encourage him that he can always control his response to any situation. If he is not strong enough to do so, ask him to distance himself until he regains his composure. Moms are often thrust into a leadership role by helping dad seek and find a calm, positive mental attitude to be the good father that our family deserves.
Taking Corrective Action
When we forbid insulting, manipulative, and fear-inducing language and behaviors, we block verbal abuse from destroying our family from within. Maternal duties include keeping the peace and protecting a nurturing home environment. Why is the antagonist getting all fired up? Is there a way we can help them repurpose frustrations with a heart of benevolence? A pleasant tone of voice, expressions of love, and a positive attitude are some of the most useful arrows in our quiver. Remember, respect tends to reciprocate respect.
The Right Attitude
Families thrive on exchanges of appreciation and love. Over time, even the most close-knit families grow complacent, which can crack the door open for impatience or needless volatility. Tit-for-tat squabbles can distract us from the greater good: the emotional health of our family. We can always get back to the basics by having a genuinely positive attitude. A collaborative mindset can be a beacon for active listening, appropriate word choice, welcoming body language, friendly tone of voice, and well-communicated intent. We can often lead our family back to solidarity by inspiring antagonists to reconnect with their own good attitude.
When children are consistently exposed to emotional and verbal hostility, defeatist mentalities and suspicious inclinations can creep into their psyche, undermining social growth and development. With proper guidance and the right attitude, children tend to honor themselves, their values, and their family.
Ignoring & Rejecting
Ignored and rejected children feel unwanted, leaving them far more vulnerable to psychological problems. Sure, life happens and mothers can get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day affairs. Let’s remember to specifically carve out time for our children so they feel heard and supported. With the confidence that dad cares, kids tend to view themselves in a more positive light.
Some parents are physically present but unable to fully-accommodate their children’s emotional needs. If mom is unable or unwilling to show interest or affection, children suffer. Whether due to our own emotional unavailability, laziness, or inaccessibility, we must dig deep and find a way; children need a present mother.
Threatening family members with egregious physical harm, humiliation, or abandonment is unacceptable. Children should not have to endure these deep emotional wounds. Excessive teasing, yelling, cursing, and other intimidating behaviors can impede childhood development and lead to lifelong patterns of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Terrorization of any kind must not be tolerated.
Human nature craves interconnectedness; parents must not deprive children of social engagement. Leaving babies unattended, forbidding children from playing with their friends, and preventing teenagers from extracurricular activities are all unacceptable. Isolation causes maldevelopment.
Corruption & Exploitation
Parents must not permit children to use drugs or alcohol, view inappropriate sexual content, or participate in criminal activities. A mother should focus on giving children a life where their healthy fulfillment is paramount.
Taking a Stand
There are so many kinds of emotional abuse—including but not limited to—disrespectful verbal abuse, severe mood swings, threats to take children away, withholding affection, social isolation from friends, public humiliation, and incessantly talking all night long when it’s time to sleep.
By identifying and taking ownership of the problem, we can discuss our concerns with our significant other in the hope that he’ll respect us. Hopefully, we can continue growing in our love together. Otherwise, it may be time to give each other space or bring an end to the relationship.
If we are involved in a relationship with someone who is emotionally and/or verbally abusive, it is up to us to stand up for ourselves and do whatever it takes to remove toxicity from our lives. As always, first ensure the children’s safety. If there is any immediate danger, call 911 or the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
If scheming parents manipulate the family court system, innocent children may only be “allowed” limited or supervised visitation. Although mothers are statistically more likely than fathers to perpetuate parental alienation, fathers sometimes use the kids to hurt mom. One of the most unfortunate realities of North American society is that a tiny subset of contemptuous men relish in their power to inflict this kind of emotional abuse against their children’s mother, even at the cost of causing emotional damage to his own children. Weaponizing the courts to detach children from a present, engaging, well-equipped, and loving parent is the quintessential definition of emotional child abuse.
Emotional and verbal abuse set a horrible example for children, replacing healthy feelings of familial safety and security with counter-productive feelings of distrust and hopelessness. If every family member can agree that inflammatory language and emotionally abusive behaviors are not allowed, we can safeguard the predictably safe, nurturing, and loving home environment that our children deserve.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
-Proverbs 15:1 KJV
Sherman saw the most terrible thing happen. He tried to forget about it, but something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous and had bad dreams. Then he met someone who helped him talk about the terrible thing, and made him feel better.
A history of a childhood abuse is not a life sentence. Here is hope, healing, and a chance to recover the self lost in childhood and integrate the healing aspects of spiritual, physical, and emotional recovery into your adult life.
A useful book to read with a parent or therapist, Healing Days emphasizes that children are not to blame for what happened, and that they can get help and look forward to a happy future.
This groundbreaking, therapist-recommended book includes four separate sections that will teach you, from start to finish, everything you need to know about Narcissistic Abuse, Gaslighting, Codependency and Complex PTSD, helping readers learn to both contend with and recover from each one of them.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.