Impact Of Silent Treatment On Children

Silent but Deadly


8/11/202316 min read

man in white and black jacket beside man in white and black crew neck shirt under
man in white and black jacket beside man in white and black crew neck shirt under

Parenthood is an incredible voyage of self-discovery and personal growth.

As I navigated through the challenges and joys of being a father, I unwittingly brought along a baggage of intimidation and silent treatment to handle conflicts, especially with my loved ones.

Regrettably, this default coping mechanism had found its way into my relationship with my wife. Over the years, I made efforts to temper my sudden bursts of anger, tone down the use of aggressive voices, and shorten the duration of silent treatment.

However, it wasn't until my parenting journey involved my children that I truly realized the profound impact of silent treatment on their emotional well-being and behavior.

Indeed, parenting shapes the foundation of a child's life, profoundly influencing who they become as individuals in the future. As parents, we play a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation, and our actions and choices significantly impact our children's development.

Over the past seven years, my evolving role as a father led me to confront a troubling pattern in my parenting approach: the use of the cold shoulder as a disciplinary measure.

As time went on, I couldn't ignore the detrimental effects it had on my family, especially on my young daughters. Their innocent eyes reflected fear and uncertainty when they were alone with me when I applied silent treatment, and it struck me as a wake-up call to reevaluate my parenting style.

My wife's honest feedback about how my cold shoulder treatment affected our relationship spurred me to introspect and make gradual changes. I committed to initiating conversations within a day or two, shunning the week-long silences that had previously characterized my conflicts.

Reflecting on my early days as a father, I realized that the coping mechanisms of silent treatment and intimidation had been deeply ingrained in me through my upbringing.

As my eldest daughter grew older, I observed her hesitance to express herself and her tendency to avoid conflicts, which led me to question how my parenting style might have contributed to these behaviors.

Through further exploration, I delved into the concept of silent treatment and its potential to inflict profound damage on parent-child relationships. It became apparent that the uncertainty it creates in children's minds, leaving them to guess the reasons behind their parents' anger or disappointment, sows seeds of fear and confusion.

In this article, I share my journey of self-realization and growth, shedding light on the ramifications of using silent treatment as a disciplinary tool.

My aim is to inspire other parents to embrace open communication and empathy as they nurture healthy and loving connections with their children.

Together, let us unravel the power of effective communication in parenting and cultivate an environment of understanding and support for our families.

What Is Silent Treatment?

It's when someone purposely ignores or avoids talking to another person, kind of as a way to control them or show that they're upset, angry, or frustrated.

It's like a passive-aggressive move that can happen between partners, family members, friends, or even parents and kids.

During the silent treatment, the person who's upset just shuts down, refusing to respond to any communication attempts, not even making eye contact, and basically cutting off emotionally.

Now, here's the thing: it can be super hurtful and confusing for the person on the receiving end. They're left wondering why they're being ignored and what they did wrong.

Sometimes, people use the silent treatment to punish the other person or make them feel guilty for something they might not have even done. It's a way to gain control in the relationship, where the person giving the silent treatment holds the upper hand.

Examples of silent treatment:

  • Withholding affection and love, while treating the other person coldy.

  • Treat the other party as invisible.

  • Ignoring any attempt from other person to communicate.

  • Avoiding confrontation or any form of discussion

The Psychology of Silent Treatment

a neon display of a man's head and brain
a neon display of a man's head and brain

Silent treatment is more than just clamping up and not saying anything. This whole thing is like a psychological puzzle that messes with relationships. So why do people use silent treatment so much?

Control and Power Play:

When someone gives you the silent treatment, they're not talking to you and you're left wondering what you did wrong. That's when they're trying to control things.

By cutting off communication, they feel like they're in charge – like they've got the upper hand in the relationship.

It is basically intimidation and taking advantage of the fact either the other party cares a lot about you or there is a discrepancy in power.

Keeping Emotions in Check:

Back when I was furious, I had this habit of giving people the silent treatment, and I'd convince myself it was a way to cool off.

I'd shut down and push aside everything, just to keep a lid on my emotions.

But you know what's funny? When someone's really angry or upset, they might believe that going silent is the best way to avoid a big emotional blowout. It's like hitting the pause button on a rollercoaster of feelings.

But let's be real here – this approach doesn't exactly save the day. It's not like the problems magically disappear because you're bottling up your feelings. In fact, all it does is put a temporary band-aid on the real issues.

Sure, you're not dealing with the emotional tornado at that moment, but guess what? It's still looming over you, waiting to burst out at some point.

Playing the Guilt Card:

Imagine this scenario: you make a mistake, and out of nowhere, the other person clams up.

It's like they've thrown you into a guilt trip labyrinth. They're playing a psychological game, leaving you to ponder what on earth you did wrong.

The sneaky part? They're hoping this silence will push you to change your behavior just to break the silence spell. Tricky, right?

The problem is, most of the time, you're left in the dark.

You're supposed to magically understand what went haywire, but the puzzle pieces aren't exactly clear. And here's the kicker – you're too afraid to ask. You worry that asking might set them off even more or that their silence might hurt you all over again.

So, you're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either you're guilt-tripping yourself for a mistake you can't fully grasp, or you're getting ticked off because this whole guilt-inducing silence thing is driving you crazy.

You're left wondering, "What's wrong with them? What's wrong with me?"

Skipping Conflict Resolution 101:

Some folks like me who are just a bit clueless when it comes to dealing with conflicts.

So, instead of tackling issues head-on, we reach into our bag of tricks and pull out the silent treatment or even try intimidation tactics. And yeah, we might think that silence is the gentler option, so we end up using it way more than we should.

It's like we're trying to dodge the whole conflict scene. Instead of sitting down and hashing things out, we prefer to shut down. It's like we're saying, "I'm going to step out of this ring and let the problem duke it out with itself."

So, we sweep the real problem under the rug, hoping it'll disappear like magic.

In our minds, we're hoping that if we freeze the situation, time will come along and sort things out. Or we're secretly betting that the other person will eventually cave in, just to break the silence.

Here's the thing: our little strategy isn't exactly a lifesaver. In fact, it's more like tossing a wrench into the works. Ignoring the problem doesn't make it vanish; it just lets it fester and grow.

So, what are we doing?

It's not exactly a masterclass in conflict resolution. It's more like a masterclass in making things way messier than they need to be.

Childhood Memories and Habits:

Sometimes folks end up giving the silent treatment because it's what they learned back in the day. And where did they learn it? Well, often from watching their parents handle disagreements.

Think about it: if your family's go-to move during arguments was to hush up, you might unknowingly carry that strategy into your own relationships. It's like you've got this silent treatment blueprint engraved in your mind.

When you grow up seeing that silence is the answer to conflicts, it's no wonder you might pull it out when you're in a tight spot.

It's almost like you're on autopilot, replicating the behavior you saw as a kid. And guess what? It might happen without you even realizing it's happening.

Safety in Silence:

There are folks like me who believe that silence is like a shield against arguments. We figure if we zip their lips, we won't accidentally say something we’ll regret later.

But let me toss in a curveball – while we're busy building this verbal fort, we're inadvertently causing an entirely different kind of damage. It's kind of like trying to stay dry during a rainstorm by hiding in a tent that's full of leaks.

What's the catch? Well, here it is: when we opt for silence, we're often brewing up a perfect storm of assumptions and resentment. We're not resolving the issue; we're just letting it simmer beneath the surface.

Sure, in the heat of the moment, staying mum might look like the best way to prevent a heated showdown. But the truth is, once the silence curtain lifts, things can spiral into a mess that's messier than the argument we tried to sidestep.

The tension, confusion, and lingering hurt that linger in the aftermath of silence can leave scars deeper than any argument ever could. It's like trading a short-term squall for a long-lasting emotional tempest.

Problems With Silent Treatment

The silent treatment can truly wreak havoc on relationships, leaving both parties feeling bewildered and intimidated.

When one person chooses to ignore instead of engaging in open communication, it creates a wall of silence that leaves the other person in the dark, questioning what went wrong and why they are being shut out.

In the past, I must admit, I struggled with this damaging behavior, especially in my relationship with my wife. Instead of expressing my feelings and concerns, I would bottle them up until they reached a boiling point, resulting in explosive outbursts.

The use of the silent treatment only made matters worse, as my wife was left trying to decipher the reasons behind my anger, unable to understand what had triggered such a reaction.

I naively assumed that if she truly loved me or understood me, she would instinctively know what was bothering me.

And when parents pull the silent treatment on their kids, it's even worse. The kids start getting scared about what might happen next, and that can lead to anxiety or acting out.

As a parent, I witnessed the detrimental impact of the silent treatment on my eldest daughter. There was this one occasion where I became frustrated with her, yet I couldn't even pinpoint the exact reasons for my frustration.

This left both of us feeling confused and tense, as she couldn't comprehend why our joyful playtime suddenly turned into an atmosphere of frustration and tension.

The silent treatment not only damages relationships but also breeds confusion and misunderstanding. It fosters an environment where open communication is stifled, leaving the other person in a state of constant anxiety, fearing the next episode of emotional withdrawal.

It's crazy how the silent treatment can make kids think that love is conditional. Like, they'll only be loved if they do everything right. It messes with their self-esteem and how they interact with others.

What’s worse is that we tend to use the silent treatment to control or bully others, even the ones we claim to love. It's like we want to force them to change, no matter if they're ready or not.

I read somewhere that experts consider silent treatment emotional abuse. It's heartbreaking because it makes kids feel unwanted and afraid to express their feelings.

And guess what? It doesn't just end there. Kids who grow up with this kind of treatment might end up using it on their own partners and kids later on.

The worst part is that it breaks down the bond between parents and children. When kids feel like they can't share their feelings with their parents, they start pulling away and confiding in someone else, like friends.

I get that we want our kids to understand the consequences of hurting others emotionally, but there's a better way to teach them. We can show them through interactions with friends, teachers, and coaches.

Parents need to be the ones who always show love and affection, no matter what. Sure, we can set boundaries, but love should never be one of them. We've got to be that rock-solid source of love for our kids, no matter the circumstances.

The Long-Term Effects of Silent Treatment on Mental Health and Well-Being

brown concrete building during daytime
brown concrete building during daytime

On surface, the silent treatment might seem like no big deal at first, but it can really mess with our emotions over time.

When someone gives us the cold shoulder, it leaves us feeling confused and anxious. We start wondering what we did wrong and why they won't talk to us.

And you know what's even worse? This emotional distress can stick around for a while. It's like a never-ending cycle of uncertainty and hurt.

The lack of communication breaks down trust and leaves us feeling powerless. It's like we're left hanging, not knowing how to fix things or even express our own feelings.

This whole mess can lead to depression and a whole bunch of negative thoughts about ourselves. We start doubting our worth and questioning if we even deserve love and attention. It's a real blow to our self-esteem, let me tell you.

Not only that, but it messes up our ability to form healthy relationships too.

The silent treatment becomes a pattern, making it hard for us to open up and connect with others. We might even start avoiding relationships altogether, just to protect ourselves from getting hurt again.

The silent treatment can mess with our physical health too. The stress and anxiety from all this drama can cause headaches, stomach problems, trouble sleeping – you name it. It happens to both the instigator and victim.

I remembered how poor my sleep was when I cold shoulder others. Not to mentioning how those I cold shoulder cried themselves to sleep. I should have known better since I was the victim in the past too.

It's like a snowball rolling down a hill, gathering speed and growing bigger as it goes. The more we use it, the more it pushes people away emotionally, and before we realize it, there's this vast emotional distance between us and the people we care about. Eventually, we find ourselves emotionally detached and steering clear of any sort of intimacy.

Take me, for example. I've been avoiding getting close to people for the longest time. It's like I built this invisible wall around myself, and I rarely let anyone in. I mean, I didn't even have a girlfriend until I met my wife when I was 25. That's how much I struggled with forming close relationships.

I never really put in the effort to maintain friendships when I was younger either. In fact, I only have two close friends now, and that's mainly because they were the ones who made the effort to connect with me.

I've come to realize that my tendency to use the silent treatment and emotionally distance myself has impacted not only my romantic relationships but also my friendships.

It's a tough pattern to break, but acknowledging it is the first step. We have to recognize how our actions, like the silent treatment, can isolate us from the people who could enrich our lives.

The Lingering Impact of Parental Silent Treatment on Adult Life

Ever experienced the silent treatment from one of your parents when they weren't pleased with you?

Well, here's the scoop – it could be casting a shadow over your adult life in ways you might not even realize.

You see, when parents withhold love and attention, ignore their children, or push them aside, it might seem harmless in the moment. But the effects can be like invisible ripples that go on to shape the adult you become.

As you grow up, these hidden scars might start revealing themselves through certain traits. So, what are these telltale signs that the silent treatment has left its mark?

  • Approval-Seeking: You could have this knack for seeking validation from others to feel good about yourself.

  • Attraction to Detached Personalities: You might be drawn to people who are emotionally distant or even narcissistic.

  • Deep-Rooted Insecurities: Those feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy might be sneaking into your life.

  • Easy Triggering: You might find yourself getting worked up more easily than others if someone doesn't reply to your messages or calls.

  • Excessive Concern About Impressions: You might be a bit too preoccupied with what others think about you.

  • Fear of Rejection: Asking for what you want? That might terrify you, for fear of being rejected.

  • High Self-Imposed Pressure: Setting unrealistically high standards for yourself? That could be a result.

  • Neediness: You might unknowingly exude a sense of neediness.

  • Peculiar Jealousy: Jealousy might pop up even in situations that don't logically warrant it.

  • People-Pleasing Expertise: Ever found yourself going out of your way to please others? Bingo.

  • Personalization: Not getting a response from someone might feel like a personal affront.

  • Relationship and Work Insecurities: Feeling unsure in relationships or at work? The silent treatment might be the culprit.

  • Sensitivity to Ignoring: Being ignored can hit you harder than a ton of bricks – it's like a sore spot.

My Childhood Experience With Silent Treatment

orange and white horse christmas tree ornmaent
orange and white horse christmas tree ornmaent

Growing up, silent treatment was a regular part of my daily life. Whenever my parents were angry, fear and anxiety would fill the air.

It was a pretty toxic environment, and I learned to walk on eggshells, always watching my every move to avoid triggering an explosion. Speaking to them felt like walking into a wall of silence, and I dreaded the possibility of being scolded if I dared to prompt a response.

Feeling powerless, small, and intimidated became my norm.

Strangely, I don't remember feeling guilty much because I learned to avoid doing things that I thought might be wrong.

Whenever we unintentionally upset my mother, she would give us the silent treatment for days. To be fair, she was a busy woman, juggling work from home, sewing, cleaning, and preparing food for us. But emotionally, she didn't seem present, even though she was physically there.

Financial worries and my father's unreliable behavior added to her stress. He spent recklessly, rarely brought money home, and constantly started new businesses, leaving my mom to deal with the debts. On top of that, she had anxiety issues to cope with.

With so much on her mind, she became short-tempered, and we had to follow her rules to the letter. Being rowdy boys, we made plenty of mistakes, sometimes leading to corporal punishment, but mostly resulting in the dreaded cold shoulder treatment. We lived in constant fear of when we'd be caned or shouted at.

As we grew older, the cold shoulder became less effective, and we learned to ignore her silent treatment. This only frustrated her even more, as we refused to give in to her emotional withdrawal.

Unfortunately, I picked up the same coping mechanism. I, too, started using silent treatment and intimidation to control my loved ones, repeating the pattern I learned at home.

Reflecting on my past, I now realize the damaging impact of the silent treatment. I'm actively working on breaking free from this cycle and creating healthier relationships based on open communication and empathy.

Parenting Beyond Silence

Alright, let's shift our focus to something super important – parenting without resorting to the silent treatment. We're talking about building effective discipline strategies while also nurturing those deep bonds with your kids.

First off, let's ditch the idea that silence equals discipline.

Yes, it might seem like a quick fix when your little one messes up, but trust me, there's a better way. Instead of giving them the cold shoulder, let's embrace communication as our secret weapon.

When your child makes a mistake – because hey, they're human and they should be allowed to make many so they can learn from it and not afraid to make them – use it as a chance to chat.

Explain what happened, why it wasn't the best move, and how they can do better next time. This isn't a lecture; it's a dialogue. By talking things out, you're not just correcting behavior; you're teaching them valuable life skills.

Now, remember that discipline isn't about punishment; it's about teaching and guiding. So, when they slip up, focus on the solution, not just the problem. Ask questions, listen to their side of the story, and encourage them to come up with their own ideas for making amends.

Oh, and here's a golden rule: avoid the silent treatment.

I know it can be tempting – giving them the cold shoulder when they mess up – but it's more harmful than helpful. Cold shoulder is not only detrimental to your relationship with your child but the long term effects on them can be devastating too.

Kids need guidance and understanding, not confusion and isolation.

At young, in their inquisitive stage, they look to their parents for guidance and support. When you're silent, they're left guessing and doubting themselves, and that's not the kind of lesson we want to teach.

Bonding time is key.

Instead of giving them the silent treatment, spend quality time with them. Share your experiences, let them share theirs, and create an environment where open communication flows naturally.

This builds trust and helps them feel comfortable coming to you with their challenges and triumphs.

So, let's sum it up: effective parenting isn't about shutting them out; it's about opening up.

Communicate, guide, and create strong bonds.

By ditching the silent treatment and embracing dialogue, you're not just disciplining – you're teaching life lessons and nurturing relationships that'll stand the test of time.


Alright, folks, as we wrap up our journey into the world of silent treatment in parenting, let's reflect on what we've uncovered.

We've dived deep into how this behavior can mess with our kids' emotional well-being, leaving them confused and fearful. But fear not, because there's a better way forward.

Parenting isn't just about rules and discipline; it's about nurturing our kids' hearts and minds. Using the silent treatment isn't just a quick fix – it's a recipe for long-term emotional scars.

Our children deserve better than that.

So here's the deal: let's swap silence for communication and intimidation for understanding. Our little ones need to know that their feelings and thoughts matter.

They need a safe space to express themselves and learn how to handle conflicts in a healthy way.

Also children learn from our behaviour, not from what we preach.

When we handle them with silent treatment, they will in turn learn this behavior and apply it in their social life as they grow.

As we close this chapter, let's remember that our actions as parents shape our children's futures. By choosing open conversations, active listening, and empathy, we're laying the foundation for strong, trusting relationships.

Sure, it won't always be easy, but it's worth the effort.

With love.