Emotional blackmail is a form of psychological violence deeply rooted in society, especially in parenting. Blackmailing phrases with children have escaped us all at some point , and although we do not always realize it , it is necessary to reflect and recognize those harmful messages that we must avoid if we want to educate with respect and love.

Today we analyze what it means to communicate with our children through blackmail , how to recognize these types of phrases in our conversations and what we can do to avoid falling into them.

What is emotional blackmail?

Emotional blackmail is a very powerful form of manipulation by which close and affectionate people threaten us, directly or indirectly, with punishing us in some way if we do not do what they want.

Adults use blackmail with children very frequently and it is even more than likely that they used it with us as children as well . But although some phrases may seem innocent (or at least we do not get to see the seriousness they imply), blackmail is another form of emotional violence, in which we force the child’s will through threats (some with a very strong psychological background) .

Phrases involving emotional blackmail

There are many phrases that we can give as an example and that implicitly carry an important emotional charge that can negatively affect the child. Sometimes we are aware of them when we pronounce them, but other times they just come out on their own and we do not realize the consequences they have.

Here are some examples:

  • The emotional blackmail at Christmas ( “have you been good?”, “the wise men and Santa Claus see everything”, “if you behave badly, they will not bring you gifts” …) We begin with one of the most typical blackmails in childhood : threatening the child that these magical characters that he adores will not give him a gift if he does not do what we want him to do.
  • Threatening the child that someone important to him will stop loving him ( “if you do this, mom or dad won’t love you” , “as long as I tell grandpa what you’ve done, he won’t love you anymore”, ” I just want well-behaved children” …) Children need to know that their parents love them unconditionally and that they will stay by their side no matter what they do. Threatening a child to withdraw our love if he does something we don’t like is cruel and can leave a deep mark on his self-esteem.
  • Scare the child by notifying the police ( “Do you want me to notify the police so that they can put you in jail for misbehaving?”, “The police will come and take away the bad children” …) This type of blackmail grants to the figure of the policeman negative connotations that frighten the child , which can also cause very serious consequences.
  • Scare the child by taking him to the doctor ( “as long as you don’t put on your coat you’re going to get sick and they’re going to have to give you an injection”, “I’m going to tell your pediatrician how badly you behave, so he can stick you in the ass “ …) Among other things, this type of blackmail can end up making the child afraid of going to the pediatrician .
  • Mealtime is full of blackmailing phrases and performances ( “if you don’t eat, you’re going to get very sick”, “if you eat everything, we’ll go to the park later”, “granny will be upset when she finds out that You haven’t eaten what he prepared for you” …) that can harm the child and turn the moment into a real ordeal for the whole family. We use these phrases in order to make the child eat, but we do not realize the lack of respect they imply.
  • Another type of common blackmail: “If you misbehave, you don’t go to the movies on Saturday”, “if you don’t do your homework, I’ll tell the teacher so he can punish you”, “if you misbehave, I’ll call the man in the sack” …

How emotional blackmail harms children

The most direct consequences in the child’s behavior derived from emotional blackmail are the damage to their self-esteem and confidence, as well as causing humiliation, guilt, insecurity and shame.

On the other hand, blackmail causes the child to act out of fear and submission , because with our words we are forcing him to obey us submissively and immediately , which has fatal consequences in the short and long term. And it is that the child who modifies her behavior or does something for fear of the consequences is not learning or acting based on internalized learning, so in the long term he will not know how to make decisions, assume responsibilities or act with his own judgment.

Finally, habitually communicating with blackmail makes our son unconsciously learn that it is legitimate to manipulate others through the language of threats and psychological fear, so that in the future he will act in the same way, affecting his relationship with others.

What to do to stop using emotional blackmail with children?

If you have seen yourself reflected at any time in any of the aforementioned phrases, do not blame yourself. We have all fallen into it at some time, but it is good to criticize ourselves, reflect and fight to change our communication with children to make it more positive and respectful.

When we talk about education and upbringing, it is normal to lose your temper at a given moment. Raising a child can be exhausting and requires all our patience and love. Therefore, if you feel that you are about to explode, my advice is to stop, take a deep breath and avoid saying something that you may later regret .

Discuss how you can address your child so that your message is constructive , educational, positive, and respectful. Also remember that children need to make mistakes to learn , but good learning is not achieved under threats, coercion or punishment , but with accompaniment, encouragement and learning to accept the consequences .