5 Ways Name-Calling Hurts Children

5 Ways Name-Calling Hurts Children

Verbal abuse involves using insulting words or abusive, derogatory language, which can affect a child's sense of self, cause psychological distress, and affect a child's mental well-being.

Unfortunately, many children experience name-calling from peers, strangers, and parents.

While derogative bullying behavior is often excused as "teasing" or "joking," it is essential to know that name-calling hurts children in many ways.

For one, name-calling can cause a child emotional and mental stress, which will, in turn, affect their physical health.

Verbally abused children may find it challenging to manage their emotions and ignore the pressure to fit in, especially if they are made fun of for their body size.

In order to stop verbal abuse, children might take drastic steps which will have a negative effect on their health.

Also, name-calling affects a child's mood.

Children are usually happy, playful, and fun-loving.

However, children who are constantly verbally abused are exposed to all sorts of negative emotions and may develop mental health disorders.

Similarly, calling a child names forces them to compromise their beliefs, values, and self-worth.

Children who are called insulting names in school may face constant pressure to change their values and fit in.

Unfortunately, children tend to give in to the pressure when they can no longer bear the situation.

To support your child, consider this overview to learn ways name-calling hurts children:

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Cassondra Chagnon, LPCC

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Margot Bean, LCSW

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Lauren Wilkerson, SWC

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Melissa Peterson, LPC

Melissa Peterson, LPC

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Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

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Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Jenifer Seas, LCSW

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It Instigates Toxic Self-Criticism

One of the ways name-calling hurts children is that it instigates toxic self-criticism behavior.

While self-criticism can be a good trait that helps children improve, the extreme form can be dangerous for their mental health.

Repeatedly using derogatory words on a child forces them to believe it as the truth and become overly self-critical.

Self-criticism causes negative self-talk, which can affect a child's self-confidence.

Such a child may believe they cannot achieve anything, so they'd rather give up than make more mistakes.

This attitude can discourage a child from setting goals and cause them to lose favorable opportunities.

If you notice your child overly criticizes themselves, you can encourage them to counter their negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

Reaffirm your child on their abilities and let them know you're cheering them on.

Similarly, when advising your child, place more emphasis on "making efforts" rather than "succeeding. "

The fear of failing can cause a child to overanalyze, over-criticize, and abandon their plans.

Teach your child that failing is an opportunity to gain new experiences, and they can always try again. 

It Affects Their Moods

If you are "teasing" your child by calling them names and you notice a sudden change in their mood, you are hurting them with your words.

Mood changes are an obvious way to tell when name-calling hurts children.

A happy and energetic child will suddenly become sad and depressed and may choose to withdraw from everybody.

Also, name-calling can go beyond affecting a child's mood at that moment.

Constantly calling your child names can lead to an overall change in their behavioral pattern.

Repeated referring to a child as "fat and ugly" can affect their eating patterns and habits and lead to eating disorders.

Similarly, children endeavor to avoid interactions with people who constantly call them names.

In cases whereby those people are their siblings or peers at school, their involvement at home and academic performance can be negatively affected.

In addition, name-calling affects a child's mood by causing them to experience anxiety and depression.

Verbal abuse causes emotional pain for a child and can also lead to several mental health disorders.

It Can Cause Harm to Their Physical Health 

One of the ways name-calling hurts children is by harming their physical health.

There is a link between verbal abuse and the physical wellness of a child.

In the world today, children deal with stereotypes and often feel immense pressure to fit in.

Not fitting into society's image of the perfect body type can be stressful; however, constantly teasing them about it can cause them to make drastic lifestyle changes that will affect their physical health.

Because children find it difficult to manage emotions, they may react to anger, frustration, and emotional pain in unhealthy ways.

For instance, if a slender child is called a "stick" or laughed at for their body figure, the child might try to stop the bullying by overeating to change their body figure.

Sadly, overeating affects a child's physical healthy by disrupting hunger regulation, increasing disease risk, causing binge-eating problems, impairing brain function, and causing bloating.

Similarly, verbal abuse causes post-traumatic disorder and other stress-related conditions in children.

The verbal abuse causes constant fear, anxiety, and depression, which can be mentally and physically draining for children.

Children who are verbally abused often relive the experience through nightmares and intrusive thoughts, making it difficult for them to sleep.

As a parent, if you notice your child is afraid of sleeping, wakes up constantly at night, or is going through an abrupt change in sleeping patterns, it might be a cause of concern.

It Can Push Them to Physical Violence 

Verbal abuse, especially at school, often doesn't stop at name-calling for children.

The bully may proceed to become physically violent with their victims.

This causes a child to harbor feelings of pain, frustration, anger, and hatred and lash out physically.

Thus, name-calling hurts children by prompting them to be physically violent.

Whether through hurtful words, physical harm, or both, a bully causes pain to their victim, affecting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health.

The internalized effects of being a victim of name-calling can end up causing externalized symptoms such as aggression, anger, and self-harming behavior.

This sort of aggressive behavior of victims is often a defense mechanism that escalates into bullying behavior and may stick with the child.

At first, the child may push, scream or throw tantrums to protect themself from being hurt; however, as time goes on, such behavior becomes part of them.

Such a child may begin to enjoy being physically violent toward people.

If your child tells you they are called names in school, it is crucial for you as a parent to take it very seriously.

Inform your child's teacher, school counselor, or principal so they can look into the matter immediately and stop the verbal abuse.

It Makes Them Doubt Their Beliefs and Values 

When children are called names, labeled, and verbally harassed for having certain values, they begin to doubt their values and change them to wear off bullying.

Name-calling hurts children by causing them to lose their sense of self and forcing them into compromising their beliefs, self-worth, and value.

For instance, if a child is constantly called "good two-shoes" for their good behavior, the name-calling forces them to believe there's something wrong with being good and influences them to want to act the opposite way.

Likewise, children who are called names experience lots of pressure to fit in, particularly in school.

When children are verbally harassed by their peers for being nerdy or boring, the child may react by doing things they usually wouldn't do in order to fit in with the "cool kids."

They might change their dress sense, insult authorities, or even hurt people around them just to fit in.

Children forced to change their personality and morals to fit in may lose their sense of self and ability to think for themselves.

As parents, rather than reprimanding your child harshly for their behavioral change, empathize with them and gradually help them restore their values and beliefs. 


Children called derogatory names at a younger age tend to grow older with poor self-image, anxiety, fear, and other mental and physical health problems.

As a parent, you can support your child and improve their mental well-being by teaching them how to handle verbal harassment and seek help when bullied.

Name-calling hurts children by compromising their beliefs, prompting them to be physically violent, harming their physical health, instigating toxic self-criticism, and impacting their mood. 


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July 24th, 2024

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