4 Parenting Behaviors That Damage A Child’s Self-Esteem

Parenting Behaviors That Damage A Child's Self-Esteem

4. Speaking With Sarcasm

You are using sarcasm if you say things you don’t mean and imply the opposite of what you’re saying through your tone of voice. An example would be saying something like, “Oh, aren’t you bright,” when your child makes a poor choice. The use of sarcasm hurts children because it feels shaming. Putting a child down through sarcasm creates an obstacle for parents trying to communicate effectively with their children

There May Be More Lost Than Self-Esteem

In addition to negatively impacting self-esteem, each of the negative parenting behaviors described above can increase defiant behavior in your child. Children who bottle up their feelings as a result of being exposed to the parenting behaviors discussed above may lash out later on in ways that are emotionally hurtful and upsetting. Many children and teens have confided with me about negative emotions and behaviors they engage in after feeling hurt by their parents.

Read What Type Of Parent Are You? QUIZ

Own Your Behaviors To Get Control Of Them

It’s easy to say, “I just won’t do that anymore,” and still fall into the pattern of repeating these problematic behaviors. Occasional slips may occur. When they do, address these negative behaviors with your child.

Sal, a single father I worked with, shared with me a recent breakthrough he had made with his 13-year-old son, Anthony. Sal was a self-proclaimed “hard ass in recovery.” He had a history of yelling at Anthony around the house and at soccer games.

Sal had made very strong progress in relating to his son in a far less critical manner—until one night when Anthony and Sal were at a soccer awards banquet, and Sal sarcastically mocked him for looking down when he received his award. I coached Sal not to beat himself up, and he was determined to continue to be less controlling and more open.

With this in mind, Sal approached Anthony and said, “Anthony, I apologize for being so sarcastic and critical of you. Seeing you up there, getting that award, made me feel honored to be your father.”

Anthony later told me, “Dad really seems to get it now.”


Your ways of interacting with your child play a huge influence in shaping how she or he develops self-value in their life. The more you communicate in positive ways, and model being accountable for your negative behaviors, the more you can influence your child to do the same—and gain self-esteem in the process.

Bernstein, J. (2015) 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child 2nd Ed., NY: DeCapo Press.
Written by: Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D.
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today
Republished with permission
4 Parenting Behaviors That Damage A Child's Self-Esteem
4 Parenting Behaviors That Damage A Child's Self-Esteem
Scroll to Top