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whitenoise's avatar

How do you think emotional punishments compare to corporal punishments?

Asked by whitenoise (14126points) July 3rd, 2011

Talking about corporal punishment earlier today, made me think back to my childhood. Confronted with someone referring to my likely having endured corporal punishment.

Although I have never received a single spanking, my mother did different things that I would call emotional punishments or even emotional harm, for lack of a better word.

Anybody having seen “Das Weisse Band” (The White Ribbon) will know what I mean, but let me give some personal examples:
* She would for instance say things as ‘you are just like your father’, if I forgot something I promised. (Mind you that my parents were divorced and she hated my father.)
* Or she would not speak to my sister for a period of over two weeks when my sister had failed a grade.

I personally think that these kinds of mind games are extremely dangerous to the well being of children. What do you think?

Do you ever play them, do you know people that do?

How should you deal with parents that play these kinds of games. My mother still does, for instance, and I am quite a grown man already.

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33 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

This kind of treatment is also abusive. It is not the “opposite” of corporal punishment. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse, and often worse.

Punishment for children is a small part of instilling discipline, as in disciple, as in follower of the parent’s good behavior and judgment.

If your mom still does that stuff, you need to stand up to her and tell her it is not acceptable. Easy for me to say; you may need some therapy to get to the point where you can do that.

White Ribbon was one of the creepier movies i have seen. Talk about a warped society.

MilkyWay's avatar

Emotional punishments are just another form of abuse.
I agree with what @zenvelo said.

WasCy's avatar

Everything that we do to (and for) each other by turns elevates and harms, nourishes and destroys. I try to avoid doing some of the things that I’ve been able to recognize in myself as counter-productive, unhelpful and deliberately harmful – for the most part – but even when I mean well (which, believe it or not is more often than not) I can do harm, so I try not to worry about it too much.

It could be, for example, that your mother refrained from speaking to your sister because if she had spoken, she might have been angry to the point of saying something really damaging and destructive. And when you think that she’s putting you down by saying that you’re “just like your father”, it might be helpful to recall that at one time she was probably in love with him, and maybe you remind her of that sometimes, too.

I try to look at “other sides” to most behaviors and questions, when there’s an opportunity to do that. You know, the “if I say something that can be taken in a really awful way or a really good way, then I meant the latter”. It’s not always possible, but it sure does help to look at some of the alternatives sometimes.

So let’s say that, yes, your mother said and did some things that you have taken “in the bad way”. She could have been doing that instead of acting “in a worse way”. Can you give her the benefit of that doubt?

whitenoise's avatar

@zenvelo i totally agree. They’re not each others opposite. They are akin.

I am however wondering if you have examples in your own environment and how you suggest to deal with it. It leaves no physical scars so it is not always so clear.

And where does one draw the line?

And yes White Ribbon portrayed a very creepy environment. World War I almost came as salvation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Just like with anything else, too much and it becomes abuse. I swatted my kids. That doesn’t compare to beating them. I chided my kids. That doesn’t compare to talking to them like I hated their guts.

I think both forms have their place…as long as it is within reason.

My Mom was a bit like yours…man she could be harsh and caustic. One time I remember she said, “I wish you kids had never been born!” That hurt. A lot of things she said hurt. I would rather have gotten a spanking (because they didn’t really hurt!) But..I never doubted that she loved me.

whitenoise's avatar

@Dutchess_III Same here, never doubted her loving us either.

Love hurts, every now and then I guess.

whitenoise's avatar


Thank you for that alternative point of view, although I don’t think that it was the case. My mother knew perfectly well what she did and I think asking a 6 year old to look at it from a different perspective is a bit too much. But mind you that I don’t blame my mother, nor do I recent her for anything. They were just examples of a wider topic I find interesting.

zenvelo's avatar

@whitenoise My ex has been emotionally abusive towards the kids, mostly my son. He is a great kid and his teachers and scout leaders talk about how he is a good kid. But she often calls him names, tells him he is stupid, calls him selfish, etc., when he is actually just a good but typical teenager. Through therapy he actually has the courage to stand up for himself; he wrote her last year and told her he would not put up with her abuse anymore.

It has taken a lot of love and support for my son to be as emotionally balanced as he is.

My ex’s mom would proclaim ignorance of any abuse, but when the kids were little (like under 4 years of age) she’d call them stupid if they so much as dropped something off the side of the plate or off a spoon. She wonders now why the children don’t want to visit for more than a half hour..

whitenoise's avatar

Thank you for sharing that and although it isn’t punishment per se, calling your four year old stupid for being a (ever so slighlty) messy eater is certainly something cruel that hurts. I am happy for your son to have found that courage.

My wife and I made a rule to never ever tell he kids they are something bad, but always talk about what they do.

marinelife's avatar

I think punishing someone with the coin that they care about has a more lasting effect than corporal punishment.

wundayatta's avatar

Interesting question. What kind of punishments are appropriate for raising children? We used time out and taking away privileges.

Emotional battering seems horrible. I was the victim of some more subtle emotional abuse. It had the effect, intended or not, of making me feel very insecure about what love meant and whether I was loved. I don’t know if this was intended, but I learned that love is something to be earned—every day. I still think that’s the case—or act as if that’s the case.

I was spanked in addition to being made to feel like I was on shaky ground. Not very often. It was odd because my parents had both been brought up without spanking.

I think emotional abuse is pretty bad though. I think that physical abuse also goes along with emotional abuse. They can’t really be separated.

whitenoise's avatar

I don’t truly understand your stance, would you care to elaborate?

Well said… Physical and emotional abuse do seem to go hand in hand as well, I guess. Luckily most of us turn out all right.
(Although I am likely only a shadow of what I could’ve been ;-) )

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Emotional and verbal manipulation has deep affects. Lots of kids grown into adults can look back on physical abuse and reason it down due to their parents’ emotional defect but verbal and emotional abuse goes deep, has all kinds of linkages and tendrils that easily taint new experiences and relationships.

whitenoise's avatar

I agree. I also think our minds are the strongest weapons one can raise and emotional abuse leaves harder to treat injuries. Any kind of abuse is horrific, though, since being beating up by a loving parent is likely to cause emotional trauma as well.
(talking about abuse, not occasional spanking)

Ajulutsikael's avatar

I think emotional abuse is worse than physical sometimes. I’ve experienced a lot of realms of abuse and I think the one that has affected me the most is my emotional abuse. It has crippled me a great deal and prevented me from achieving a lot of things in life.

MilkyWay's avatar

Physical abuse damages you emotionally as well. Emotional abuse scars you in a way in which it cannot ever heal properly. They are both the same.

rooeytoo's avatar

I occasionally received a swat on the bottom and am not aware of any deleterious effects from it. I was and still am permanently scarred and altered by growing up in the same house as a vicious, violent, emotionally and physically abusive alcoholic older brother.

This is what always comes to my mind when I hear people avowing never to spank or physically discipline a kid. Better a swat on the bum than the verbal abuse any day!

Dutchess_III's avatar

And I think that might be our final answer @rooeytoo. Was your brother much older than you? How could your parents let him stay?

TexasDude's avatar

I’d rather get whacked a time or two than suffer emotional torment.

Speaking from experience here.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Dutchess_III – He was 15 years older than I and I wasted a lot of my life blaming my parents for not keeping me safe. But I finally outgrew that resentment and realized that they too were hostages of his brutality. The local police did not like to be involved in family matters so they were useless. Our family doctor had him committed numerous times and my parents had him privately institutionalized as well. He was in jail several times for incidents that occured outside of our home. My dad would tell him to leave and he would laugh and break a chair, my mom would tell him to leave and he would say okay but first he was going to kill everyone. It was hopeless and makes me sometimes feel sorry for families who have a child who is not right and they don’t know what to do. This was in the 50’s and 60’s, there were fewer avenues for help than there are today and there are not many today. And truthfully I don’t know if it is the job of the government to intercede.

Anyhow to me the question is no longer how could they let him stay, it is more what could they have done, short of a contract on his life. Thankfully he drank himself into a major heart attack when he was 50 or so. I did not feel an ounce of grief, I rejoiced. Unfortunately my mom was already dead so she never had a peaceful old age, my dad lived on for another 12 years so he did have some peace.

For the record, he too never received more than a swat on the bottom as my other brother and I and we are responsible, reasonably sane members of society, so please, let’s not blame his madness on that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@rooeytoo I had a feeling it was something like that. It’s so much easier to sit on the outside and say, “How can you let that happen,” but it’s a whole different thing when you’re IN it. Because I’ve been IN situations and it’s not easy to fix.

I don’t blame his madness on anything or anyone but himself. Sometimes people just…turn out that way….I wonder how things could be different today. Do you think the resources we have today would have made any difference?

marinelife's avatar

@whitenoise Suppose your child values computer time more than anything else. Then that is what you should withhold as punishment. Whereas, with someone else it could be TV time or time with friends or whatever.

linguaphile's avatar

Abuse- the Math

__Formula for attention and support from Society/Media/Justice system/Crisis centers/community:__
Physical > Verbal > Emotional > Nonverbal

__Formula for degree of destruction/long term impact/frequency:__
Physical < Verbal < Emotional < Nonverbal

Something’s wrong, you agree?

For an intense insight into emotional abuse, read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It was printed in 1892 and is a beautiful example of nonverbal/emotional abuse through minimizing, non-validation, manipulation and insults and one result of that abuse. This story was based on a real person.

I agree wholeheartedly with those that said they’d rather be battered than given the silent treatment. When I went to the battered women’s shelter, I felt like a total idiot but they were very understanding when I told them I preferred to have bruises and cuts, a bust lip, a black eye than to become a shadow of myself from emotional abuse. The wonderful thing is, you CAN recover from it and learn patterns to avoid.

Plucky's avatar

For me, both types of abuse went hand in hand. I am one of the extreme cases of child abuse. It is hard for me to compare the two types of abuse because, many times, the physical abuse equalled physical torture accentuated by mind games and insults.

The act of physical violence can often, in itself, be emotionally traumatic. When one person hits another, especially a child, that person has no idea what that child is thinking in that moment. They do not know how that physical act will act out, and live, in the child’s brain. People are affected by physical violence in many different ways (just as they are with emotional and sexual abuse).

linguaphile's avatar

@PluckyDog I can see what you mean—I was not an extreme case, but your comment made me remember being slapped, then told not to cry, then slapped for crying, then ridiculed, so I’m glad you brought up a good point. Often physical/verbal/emotional/nonverbal do happen concurrently so it can’t be isolated into either/or, it overlaps. Thanks for bringing that up.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I think at times we forget (as children) that our parents are human too. My mum could be very emotional hurtful (I wouldn’t say abusive) at times and some of the things she said are still with me. I have never doubted her love for me but she isn’t a very strong woman and there are times when parenthood was too much for her. I used to find that, when I was smacked after misbehaving, that was it. I got a smack and then no more was said or done and I wasn’t punished further. When my mum would emotionally punish us, her grudges could last for weeks. That was harder to deal with for me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@PluckyDog You just amaze me. Seriously. Many others on here do too. I don’t know how someone can live through something like that, and like others have, and still be so thoughtful an intelligent.

@Leanne1986 Yeah..that “STOP CRYING’ thing is such BS.

Plucky's avatar

@Dutchess_III Thank you kindly. I amaze myself at times. This is the type of thing that really shows the strength of the human spirit I think. People can go through some really traumatic enduring events. Yet, some of them can pull through with all odds against them. I still have work to do, and always will, but I’ve come so very far from that cowering child I once was.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t understand what you meant by that.

Plucky's avatar

@Leanne1986 I think her remark was actually at @linguaphile, if I am correct, and she accidently put your name instead. :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Leanne1986 Well, you have a kid who is crying because you swopped them or whatever….then you want to yell “QUIT CRYING!” That’s what they’re supposed to do when they get in trouble! What did you expect to happen when you swopped them?

@Plucky prolly saved me AGAIN!..I’d have to check the comments. And I don’t wanna. And I’m a grown up. So I don’t have to. So I won’t. So there!

whitenoise's avatar

Thank you all, for your posts!!!! ^^^

kara97's avatar

I think mind games like not talking to the kid for weeks are very dangerous. I personally have a very nasty stepmother and she is punishing me a lot with silly things like writing lines or doing situps and stuff like that but to be honest it would be a lot worse for my dad whom I love to be upset with me and give me the silent treatment.

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