The Unexamined Life

Parental Advice: Should Parents Manipulate Children Into Obeying Orders?

Parents lacking involvement in the lives of their children are the underlying reasons for emotional and psychological turbulence in adulthood as many psychological case studies have revealed.

Invalidating feelings and being unresponsive to the emotional needs of your own children forces them to seek help for symptoms of post-traumatic stress order (PTSD) and trauma, according to psychologist Bruce Perry.

Sometimes, this happens in a parent-child dynamic even while being an overbearing parent. An all-out caring approach has an equally negative impact on sound psychological development in childhood and continues to be a problem well into adulthood.You can behave negligently as a responsible caretaker with the usage of unintentional language, peppered with toxic words, skilfully employed as tools of manipulation.

This is true for parents trying hard to tame recalcitrant children into obeying orders to attain a sense of control over them for either selfish or selfless reasons. Avidan Mikevksy, prominent researcher with 100 peer-reviewed papers and armed with years of research in parenting and child mental health, has scientifically studied these scenarios.

He found underlying thought patterns of parents that cause irreversible damage to the self-confidence of their kin. Such children may display an inability to function on their own later on in life. 

Negative statements repeatedly made to children, either young or old, ultimately results in them depending on parents for feedback and counsel in every little predicament. Psychological intervention is needed to repair the damage inflicted on the psyche that was continuously created by parents who either suffered from the empty nest syndrome or were just plain old fashioned when it comes to parenting.

Some of the most damaging patterns of thinking passed on to children, consciously or unconsciously, that finally produces a gaslighting effect on their mind are the following:

Invalidation

A sense of self-doubt is inculcated in children who are told repeatedly that they are a disappointment and are not up to the mark. Comparisons made to siblings and friends have the same effect. Expressing disappointment over every little hiccup stops children from looking inward for validation and they tend to look for external factors to give them self-worth, especially for parental approval.

Children become dependant in this process when parents reinforce disappointment over the smallest of things while completely invalidating autonomous decisions taken.

Childhood stress Negative childhood experiences, such as illness or divorce, were linked to faster maturation of certain regions of the brain during adolescence. Caleb Woods/Unsplash

Anxiety

Telling children that you worry about them constantly makes them worry about you instead. They always stop to pause and reflect on what the parents might feel about certain actions taken without approval.

This enforces control over children in an emotional and unhealthy manner, which makes them feel uncertain about making their own choices. It makes them feel guilty, worried and anxious about the reaction of their parents, who should be supportive. 

Fear of the unknown  

Children who are constantly and repetitively told to be careful, become doubtful of their surroundings and do not have an internal safety mechanism to protect themselves in difficult situations.

They may have problems controlling the fight-or-flight response in problematic scenarios. It tells the children that they desperately need their parents in order to be safe, when this is only a manipulative tactic to control their moves.

Emotional Abandonment

Unintentional emotional abandonment in parents is similar in a way to the tactics of manipulation. 

For instance, if the parents act dependently, the child might start feeling needy and responsible. Contrariwise, when parents act in a superior manner, it can make the child feel inferior.

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