As parents, we often tell ourselves, that our criticism, of course, is well-intentioned. We criticize because…
- We are anxious about our child’s future
- We want them to be their best selves
- We want them to reach their potential (whatever that means in our head)
- We want the best for him
- We want them to have a great life and career
- We are setting high standards for their lives
- We know better
We wholeheartedly believe that of our criticism is constructive. We might even think it is not criticism at all, but rather necessary nagging and well-intentioned, unsolicited advice. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
As I very well know first hand, children raised by an overly critical parent often suffer from long-term negative effects from this type of childhood. These are some of the many negative effects that constant criticism has on children. When frequent criticism persists, all efforts to improve our family dynamics will surely fail.
1.Damaged Self-Esteem and Low Confidence
Children of overly critical parents will spend most of their lives wondering what’s wrong with them and why they can’t seem to do anything right. They will not be able to understand that the problem lies within the parent, and will believe it lies within themselves. They will be left with the constant and uncomfortable feeling that there’s something fundamentally wrong with them.
They will become overly critical of themselves, because their inner image is damaged. They will have a constant inner critic ready to tell them all that’s wrong with them. This will lead to a very low self esteem, low self-confidence and a feeling of worthlessness.
2. Damaged Parent-Child Relationship
Children of an overly critical parent will often grow up to resent that parent. Children will certainly tend to distant from us when we display this behavior. Being constantly criticized will make them not want to be with us, not trust us, and not want to share anything with us. They know that regardless of what they share, they will be criticized or questioned, we will find something wrong with them, and they will be made to feel inadequate.
Who would want to have a relationship with someone who makes them feel that way? Not me! The problem is that children can’t really escape from this relationship until they reach adulthood, so they have a sense of being trapped. Additionally, they love us, with all their heart, so their feelings make them feel even more insecure and inadequate, because they realize they love a person who’s inflicting pain on them.
Constant criticism will most likely lead to anger and defiance, or secretiveness and withdrawal; which will then lead to even more criticism then more defiance or withdrawal, and so on. This cycle will repeat itself over and over again, creating a completely toxic relationship.
3. Long-Term Mental Health Issues
As I very well know for personal experience, an overly critical parent can create an anxious or depressed grown up. Unfortunately the effects constant childhood criticism don’t stop at childhood. The effects often carry through into adulthood, often requiring therapy to heal the inner child and stop the destructive inner voice created during our childhood.
Children of overly critical parents, spend their adulthood trying to be “perfect” while fully believing they never will be; trying to figure out what’s wrong with them; wondering whether anyone will ever love them just the way they are; and questioning and testing anyone who dares to do so. Therefore, they will spend a big part of their adult life trying to recover from their damaged childhood.
4. Self-Sabotage, Addiction and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
According to many studies, children with overly critical parents are more likely to fall into addition patterns as they get older. Addition can be in the form of illegal drugs, alcohol, obsession with physical appearance, sex or food among other things.
In my case, food was my go-to drug. Whenever I felt inadequate, which was most of the time, I would turn to food to soothe and calm my inner child. This obviously led to obesity and other health problems, that I have slowly overcame. The road to recovery from this type of childhood is difficult and never ending.