Emotional Blackmail in Children and Its Consequences

When parents and children don't communicate well and people want to get their way, some resort to emotional blackmail. Why does this happen and what are the consequences?
Emotional Blackmail in Children and Its Consequences

Last update: 06 March, 2019

Using emotional blackmail with children to try and get them to listen is one of the cruelest things you can do. In the long run, it psychologically affects them.

Telling children that you don’t want them, that they’re bad, or that you’ll leave them if they don’t stop crying are some of the things parents do to get an immediate response. It’s definitely wrong and a very harmful way to deal with children.

The worst thing about emotional blackmail is that it starts a vicious cycle where the children start to manipulate their parents. They do this because they copy what their parents do.

Finally, communication and demands between parents and children stop being respectful. Find out all about this delicate topic below.

Characteristics of emotional blackmail

Emotional blackmail is without a doubt a form of domination. It’s using power or superiority against someone else who is at a disadvantage. 

It’s a game of power with the weak pitted against the strong. The weak one has a lot to lose, therefore they feel like they need to immediately give in to the demand.

However, one of the most notorious aspects of emotional blackmail is that the person who suffers it, in this case the child, needs to respond immediately. He can’t rationalize why he’s being treated this way or why he must obey. He just does it, full of fear that he’ll lose something precious.

Due to emotional blackmail, children feel the need to obey an order based on fear and pressure without understanding why. Of course, this will just make them feel irritated and afraid, and lead to resentment and disrespect towards authority figures.

Emotional Blackmail in Children and Its Consequences

Why parents and children resort to emotional blackmail

People who use emotional blackmail know they’re trying to force someone to do what they want. Additionally, they know that they’re lying to achieve it. Obviously, parents won’t abandon their children if they don’t stop crying or behaving badly.

On the other hand, children only a year and a half old commonly pretend to cry to get attention and whatever they want.

Of course, emotional blackmail, although it’s based on a lie and isn’t very moral, is usually done without being aware of the long-term consequences. 

When parents threaten their children, they aren’t usually aware of the bad example they’re setting. They don’t know the fear and resentment that they start to create in their children.

On the other hand, children don’t know that by emotionally blackmailing their parents, they start to lose credibility towards what they want.

As a general statistic, it’s important to clarify that families with the most emotional blackmail are usually the ones going through divorce or where the parents have some other serious problem.

For example, in these cases children use emotional blackmail by comparing how quickly each parent responds to their demands. Adults respond with similar viciousness, conditioning their love based on how the child is behaving towards their partner or new spouse.

“Emotional blackmail is a game of power with the weak pitted against the strong. The weak one has a lot to lose, therefore they feel like the need to immediately give in to the demand.”

How to prevent emotional blackmail in children

We must clarify that emotional blackmail isn’t just learned by imitating what their parents doIn addition, it’s almost an instinct for human beings. However, one of the best options to combat this action is with constant and firm communication with your children.

Emotional Blackmail in Children and Its Consequences

There isn’t an easy way out. It’s obvious that young children won’t understand parents’ demands and why they should agree. However, repetition, leading by example, and being respectful can be very helpful.

It’s also important for you to notice if you or your children are victims of emotional blackmail. Some characteristics that victims suffer from this are:

  • Need for constant approval
  • Afraid of bothering the people closest to them
  • Going through situations where they need to feel calm immediately
  • Always give in quickly to what others need

Finally, remember that setting limits and rules with love and respect, along with constant and healthy dialogue, are the best tools. That way, you can be sure not to resort to emotional blackmail.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.