The Silent Treatment Is a Damaging Way to Punish Children

The silent treatment is often thought of as a harmless way of punishing a disobedient child by parents. In several families, parents believe the silent treatment is one of the best ways of punishing their children. But as said by the psychotherapist Richard Zwolinski, The silent treatment is an abusive method of control, punishment, avoidance, or disempowerment”.

Parents believe the silent treatment is a peaceable way of punishment since no verbal or physical abuse is exchanged. What parents do not realize is the harm they can cause in their children’s mind. As parents seek to gain control again after being disobeyed, they believe they are handling the situation the best way possible. They think that since it isn’t physical abuse or verbal fighting, it will not affect their children enough to cause any damage. But they are wrong. The silent treatment is manipulation, a twisted way of regaining authority over someone, making the victim feel powerless, intimidated, guilty, and insignificant.

Parents need to realize the silent treatment is not an insignificant subject, it is a real issue. In some cases, the abuser is not conscious of the damage they are causing the victim, by simply not being aware the silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse. Abuse is not always physical, it can be verbal or in this case, emotional. A silent punishment can affect a person emotionally as much as verbal abuse can. Psychologists consider the silent treatment a form of mental and psychological abuse. It affects the victim mentally, often making them feel unwanted and insignificant. As the silent treatment is being used, forced upon the victim, it damages the child emotionally to the point they cannot bear it and give all reason to the parent, to avoid any conflict. Giving to anyone in such a way is certainly not healthy for the victim. They lose their will, letting people step over them to avoid being ignored and rejected. As the child grows, they will let themselves be told what to do and what is wrong and right.

Parents find the silent treatment as a way of gaining control by not speaking to their children, making them feel guilty. But guilt is not the only feeling that overpowers children who receive the silent treatment. A massive wave of frustration and rejection washes over the child, not letting them escape the circle of harsh silent. Usually, the child does not know how to react. At first, they respond with more silence, but when the parent does not end the silent punishment they feel trapped. Most of the time, the silent tactic works, “Often, the result of the silent treatment is exactly what the person with narcissism wishes to create: a reaction from the target and a sense of control”. More importantly, the victim ends up stuck to the ground, insecure and fearing their own actions.The silent treatment is associated with anxiety and aggression as well as other physiological effects. They do not want to anger the parent again, which makes them feel anxious and unsure of what they do. It is not healthy for a child to be afraid of parental disappointment to the point they are unsure of how to complete a certain task and scare of committing small mistakes.  

Any kind of abuse has consequences, and the silent treatment is not the exception. Not only does the silent treatment affect the victim’s emotional state. In addition, the silent treatment breaks the bond between child and parent. A victim of the silent treatment tends to draw away from the abuser. They do not feel comfortable sharing with them. When the parent has overused the silent punishment method, the parental bond can be broken beyond repair.

Civilized people talk problems out, listening to both parties and coming to an understanding and solution is the best way to solve problems. Using the silent treatment is emotional abuse that can affect the victim as any other form of abuse. The silent treatment can be a traumatic experience for children of all ages, mostly when it is coming from parents. Children think they can trust their parents to stand by them, even when they make mistakes or fail. Having their parent ignore them is taking away the last thing they can rely upon.T hey feel left out and unwanted. The silent treatment should not be used as a punishment because it affects children emotionally and strains the relationship and trust between parent and child.

Photo: Cristian V. / Flickr

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