Gaslighting as a Form of Abuse

One form of psychological abuse that a child can face is gaslighting. The effect that gaslighting from a parent has on a child is the child believing they're crazy. Gaslighting is any kind of statement that makes someone doubt their own feelings or perceptions. The term comes from the 1940's film Gaslight, where an abusive husband deliberately dims the gaslights in the house, but when his wife comments on it, he tells her that she's imagining it, that the lights never dimmed at all.

During the first stage of development from birth to eighteen months, a child learns to trust their parents to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, support and nurturing. When those needs are met, the child learns to trust; if they are not met, the child develops mistrust. When trust has been established, the child will naturally believe the parent over their own intuition. Longterm effects of gaslighting can leave the child feeling insecure, bitter, inflexible, anxious and aggressive. Gaslighting is a very emotionally manipulative form of abuse; however, parents may not always be doing it intentionally, it can be done as a way for the parent to preserve the "perfect parent" image that they have of themselves.

If you are unsure of whether or not you're gaslighting your child, here are 6 common signs that you're gaslighting:

  1. You exaggerate every conflict - there's never a small issue, everything your child does wrong causes you to react

  2. You're not flexible - you will not allow for any changes in your household routine, no matter how small

  3. You mock your kids' behaviours - making them feel humiliated for having feelings

  4. You over assert your power - continually sending the message that your child is helpless without you

  5. You insist you know your children better then they know themselves

  6. You never apologize to your kids

Gaslighting by parents can extend into adulthood, but it causes particular harm in childhood. Children have to learn to trust themselves, and when they're taught that what they see, hear, or feel isn't real, that can lead to a lifetime of self-doubt. They can lose the ability to think for themselves, or give themselves permission to exercise that ability.

Here are seven signs that your parents are gaslighting you;

  1. They tell you what you do and don't like

  2. They dismiss your unhappiness

  3. They act like your ideas are silly

  4. They like to talk about your wild imagination

  5. They insist that they're right and you're wrong without any evidence

  6. They expect you to control how you feel

  7. They deny behaviours you call them out on

If you believe that you are being gaslit by one or both of your parents, it may help to talk to a therapist, where you can start to uncover all the ways your parents' gaslighting may be affecting you.

Written By: Sydney