Is screaming and cussing at your child considered emotional abuse?

My dad is always, and I mean always, cussing and screaming at me for no reason at all. He makes me feel stupid. He also compares me to my other siblings in a negative way and demeans me. Is this abuse?

Tamara Powell
Tamara Powell
Anything But Ordinary!

Oh my goodness, my heart goes out to you!!  I pray you have other strong and supportive loved ones or friends surrounding you. If you are in school, please consider speaking with a counselor on site who can help give you some good coping mechanisms as well as other resources.

I believe most therapists would agree that this type of behavior is indicative of emotional AND verbal abuse. And quite often the two overlap because someone who is being yelled at and demeaned is also frequently having his/her emotions preyed upon as well. 

Healthy Place offers us some great examples of emotional abuse which certainly fit the criteria of what you describe:

  • Yelling or swearing 
  • Name calling or insults; mocking.
  • Threats and intimidation.
  • Ignoring or excluding.
  • Isolating.
  • Humiliating.
  • Denial of the abuse and blaming of the victim.

And abuse survivor and author, Kellie Jo Holly, offers some other great examples of verbal abuse:

  • Emotionally Abusive Statements

    • You’re so cute when you try to concentrate! Look at you trying to think.
    • I can’t believe I love a stupid jerk.
    • Aw, come on, can’t you take a joke?

    Sexually Abusive Statements

    • You should know how to please me by now.
    • I hoped you were less experienced.
    • Stop acting like a whore.

    Financially Abusive Statements

    • You are going to nickel and dime me to death!
    • In what world does buying that make sense?
    • Fine. You handle your finances. Let me know when things go to hell.

    Societally Abusive Statements

    • How dare you spread around our private business!
    • Let me do the talking; people listen to men.
    • You took a vow in front of God and everybody and I expect you to honor it!

    Threatening and Intimidating Statements

    • If you don’t train that dog I’m going to rub your nose in its mess.
    • I will take our kids if you leave me.
    • You’re scared?! This isn’t angry! You will KNOW when I’m ANGRY!

    Spiritually Abusive Statement

    • Keep your stupid beliefs to yourself.
    • God will find a way to get you back, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
    • I can feel myself being pulled into hell just listening to your nonsense!

It's been my personal clinical experience that children who are experiencing the types of things you describe often say they feel misunderstood, lonely, or scared and don't want to make things worse by standing up for themselves. 

Even if you feel you can't defend yourself outwardly, that doesn't mean your father's awful and toxic behavior is something you should ever internalize (i.e., believe to be true) which is why I hope you are surrounding yourself with people who will speak life and positivity back over you.  

We are ALL worthy of respect, love, and kindness. Don't ever forget that!

My love and light to you hon.

Tamara Powell, LMHC

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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