Verbal violence in childhood

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Louise Hay
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Verbal violence in childhood

Last update: May 08, 2020

Verbal violence in childhood undermines the self-esteem of the little ones. However, we are not aware of the consequences, because sometimes we tend to confuse it with the use of objectionable words. Instead, it goes much further.

Verbal violence is a direct attack on the feeling of value of the person who receives it, in this case the children. To rape through words also means to rape on a psychological level. According to data from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), psychological violence is in fact the most frequent form of abuse.



It is very important as parents to pay attention to what we say to our children. It is therefore essential to check our form of communication and, above all, the way in which we present errors to them.

Why does verbal violence in childhood leave its mark?

The reason verbal violence leaves a significant mark is that childhood is a very critical moment in the evolutionary phase. The nervous system and the brain are very vulnerable to any stimulus from the surrounding environment, so everything that happens outside affects the baby in one way or another.

According to J. Pinel, the neurodevelopmental process passes from conception to the fetal period, continuing in the postnatal period and without stopping until adulthood. So, it is natural for children to be in a phase of exposure to neuropsychological damage.

On the other hand, a study reports that verbal violence can cause attention and memory disorders, language difficulties and intellectual development, school failure.

"Functional and structural brain alterations seem to explain future neuropsychological functioning in people who are victims of verbal violence in childhood."



-Neuropsychology of child maltreatment and implications for school psychologists, A. S. davis, L. E. Moss, M. Nogin, N. Webb –

That said, How do we allow verbal violence in childhood to be more present than it should? How do we mask it by justifying ourselves by saying that we are "teaching" or "educating" as best we can?

The culprit is punishment

Many parents don't know how to educate their children in any other way than to always point out what they are doing wrong. On the contrary, when they do something well they do not emphasize it, because they consider that it is as it should be; here then is that if a child protests, they clearly state: “that's what you have to do and that's it”.

However, in such a delicate phase as childhood, focusing only on the negative aspects has serious consequences. Most of the time, not only does it emphasize what a child is hurting, it also foments guilt for angering the parents. To this, we must add the bad choice of words to express these messages.

Comparing one child to another or calling him a "you are stupid" may seem innocent, even some might justify that the parent was so angry that he lost his temper. However, it can leave an indelible mark on every child's mind, especially if implemented on a recurring basis.

If when our child is trying to solve a math problem we call him "stupid" because he couldn't solve it right away and they point out that his friend always does everything right, the child will think he is incapable in that matter. He will also believe he is worth less than his friend.


He will immediately think that there is nothing to be done, and this will lead him to have, in the future, a rejection for mathematics. This can result in him too some fear of failure and at the slightest failed attempt, in any sphere, he will throw in the towel because he will label himself as "incapable".



What kind of self-image do we expect to shape the child with these behaviors? Let's not forget childhood is the moment in which one builds one's identity. An identity full of "I'm worth nothing", "I always make my parents angry", "I don't do anything good", "I'm stupid", "I'm a mess" and "I deserve the worst" will prevent him from building solid self-esteem.

“[…] They are harmful acts, especially verbal, always telling the child that he is hateful, ugly, stupid, or transmitting to him that he is an unwanted burden. It may not even be called by name, but simply treated as 'you', or 'idiot', or in another insulting way. "

- Abused children, Kempe (1979) -

Verbal violence in childhood has serious consequences. Sometimes parents don't realize they are projecting work frustration, high levels of stress, relationship problems, or the burden of multiple responsibilities onto their children. One thing they need to consider if they want their children to be happy.


Managing emotions properly, being empathetic with the little ones and, first of all, learning to communicate with them in a positive way is essential. We do not want to turn them into insecure, sad adults who believe themselves incapable and who, in the end, will set themselves limits that they really do not have.

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