Abusive Parents Learning

25 Common Excuses Used by Parents to Abuse Their Children

Abuse Excuses by Abusive Parents | Hopeful Panda

Many abusive people use various excuses to abuse others. And this is no different for abusive parents.

Many abusive parents don’t notice or want to acknowledge their abusive behavior. They may use various excuses to try to justify their abuse of their children.

And unfortunately, many abuse victims start to believe those excuses. They may start blaming themselves, believing that the abuse they’re facing is their fault.

Part of healing involves learning to recognize those excuses and seeing them as ways for abusive parents to keep their children compliant, confused, and vulnerable.

The rest of this post discusses various excuses that abusive parents often give to justify their abusive, manipulative, or toxic behaviors. They might use these excuses when confronted by the victim or someone else about their hurtful actions.

If you had an abusive parent, you likely heard some of these excuses or variations of them. But please remember, NO amount of excuses justifies abuse, especially towards a child the parent is supposed to protect and care for.

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“Because I’m your parent”

Unfortunately, this is many parents’ logic, abusive or not. They believe that because they’re the parent, their children need to do as they say and tolerate their treatment no matter what, even if it’s hurtful. It’s like being a parent means being a dictator.

But phrases like “because I’m your parent” or “because you live under my roof” do not justify abuse at all. It is also completely irrelevant.

Being a parent means caring for your child and meeting their needs. It means doing everything you can to assure they grow up happy, healthy, and independent.

It does NOT mean dictating their every behavior and controlling their lives, especially not through abusive means.

“At least I’m better than my parents”

“You’re lucky I’m not your grandparent”, “Other parents beat their kids”, “It could be worse”, or “My parent was the abusive one,” are similar phrases that claim that their behavior isn’t bad, at least compared to someone apparently worse. Therefore, you should be grateful.

Let’s say they actually are somehow better than their parents. That still does not mean they aren’t abusive. And it definitely does not mean that it’s okay.

There are varying severities to abuse. Just because theirs is maybe less severe doesn’t mean it’s okay. It’s like saying hitting you with a belt is okay because their parents used to hit them with a bat. Both leave marks and both hurt. Does it matter if one’s worse than the other?

A parent claiming their abuse isn’t that bad is like saying, “Hey, I only beat my kids. At least I didn’t shoot them.” Regardless of how severe it is, abuse is still abuse.

“You triggered me”

Abusive parents tend to have unresolved issues based on their own trauma.

Many parents treat their children likely how they were treated by their parents. So those with abusive parents may repeat their parents’ patterns without being aware of them.

While the statement “you triggered me” may be the truth, it is still not an excuse. Having been abused or having been traumatized does not mean they can abuse others.

In fact, it’s even more problematic because they should know exactly how it feels to be abused or to go through something traumatic. Why would they want their own children to experience the same pain?

This “excuse” also shows that they acknowledge having triggers, which means they acknowledge they have issues stemming from their past trauma. However, instead of working on managing them and healing, the parent instead uses it as an excuse to abuse their child.

“You don’t respect me”

Once, my mother was complaining to my father about my lack of respect towards her. My father asked her, “Well, do you show her any respect?” My mother scoffed, “I’m her mother”. So because she’s my mother, she doesn’t need to respect me. Yet, I have to respect her? And if I don’t, I apparently deserve to be abused.

Respect is a two-way street. It’s not something to be commanded or forced. It doesn’t matter if the parent is the authority here. Children deserve respect just as much as anyone else. And if that’s not given to them, is it any surprise if they don’t return the favor?

Besides, parents being abusive is the least effective way to earn their child’s respect. Even if their child pretends to respect them, inside, their child just fears them and respects them even less.

“I was beaten and I turned out fine”

What’s sort of almost funny about this statement is that no… your parent most certainly didn’t turn out fine, because if they did, they wouldn’t be abusive.

Many physically abusive parents often throw around this statement as a way to justify beating, hitting, spanking, or slapping their children. They believe it’s the right way to discipline kids and use the fact that they endured it and turned out fine as a reason to continue the cycle.

But no, they did not turn out fine and their kids likely wouldn’t either. Even if they did turn out fine doesn’t mean their children would, which further shows how egocentric this statement really is.

“Discipline made me better”

Similar to the previous excuse, abusive parents might further justify being abusive by claiming their own experiences with abuse or discipline made them “better” – it turned them into a man, a successful adult, or whatever else.

Some parents believe that putting pressure on their kids to the point it becomes hurtful is necessary for their success. However, even if all that pressure did help them academically or professionally, it significantly damages them emotionally. And by pushing their children too hard, they push their children away.

Sure, there are abused individuals who end up as overachievers, accomplishing a lot on paper. But internally, they constantly struggle with the lasting effects of the abuse they faced.

And interestingly, research shows that children who were given unconditional love are more likely to be successful since they tend to have more resilience, higher self-esteem, and more confidence in themselves and their abilities.

Meanwhile, children who were pushed too hard or learned that they’re only loved for their accomplishments tend to burn out or self-sabotage due to the fear of failure.

“It’s normal in our culture”

There’s no doubt that there are cultural differences in raising children. Some cultures are known to be more authoritarian. However, that doesn’t make it okay.

My mother tried to justify beating me by claiming it’s normal in our culture. However, just because something is “normal” doesn’t make it right. It’s surely not an excuse to be abusive. If that’s a valid argument, then you can do any horrible thing and claim it’s “common” in some cultures, so it’s okay. But no, it’s not.

Studies have shown that there is nothing helpful about corporal punishment regardless of cultural perceptions. Even if the child personally doesn’t view the treatment as harmful, it still leaves lasting effects on them.

“Everyone in my family is like this”

Even if everyone in the family acts like this does not make it okay. Like with the cultural excuse mentioned before, just because it seems normal or is accepted as normal does not mean it is.

In fact, it makes it so much more problematic, demonstrating that the abusive patterns have been passed down through generations.

It also shows that the abusive parent acknowledges that this persists in the family, but refuses to do anything about it while it should be their responsibility to try to break the cycle.

“You have food, clothes, and toys”

Abuse isn’t just physical.

Many emotionally abusive or neglecting parents claim they’re not abusive because their child is fed, clothed, and are given material things. Outwardly, the child looks totally fine. But that doesn’t mean abuse isn’t present.

Just because your parents bought you things and didn’t leave you hungry or cold doesn’t mean they weren’t abusive. In fact, all of that is irrelevant.

Also, emotional abuse can be much more damaging because it leaves invisible scars that take a lifetime to heal.

Parents that claim they’re not abusive because they feed their kids and buy them stuff are doing the bare minimum in raising their children. The part where parenting matters the most – giving their children the love, attention, and care they need is the hardest part. And it’s likely the part they fail to do.

“It’s just tough love”

Tough love is another common phrase used by parents to excuse their abusive behavior. They dress their manipulative and toxic tactics up into what they call “love”.

But love isn’t supposed to be tough, especially when it comes to one’s own children. Just the phrase “tough love” is an oxymoron.

While some parents genuinely believe “tough love” raises good kids, some also just use it as an excuse to abuse. Either way, using tough love does more harm than good to the child.

As Kohn said in his book, Unconditional Parenting, “In terms of impact on our children, what we think we’re doing doesn’t matter as much as their experience of what we’re doing.”

So while parents might think tough love works, their children might not be feeling the same way.

“Because you didn’t listen to me”

Some parents feel the need to punish their child for disobeying them. They might believe that it’s the child’s job to comply with their every demand. They’re the same people that use the excuse, “Because I’m your parent, that’s why”.

If your parents’ excuse for abusing you was because you didn’t obey them or listen to them when they told you to do or not do something, that isn’t on you. You are not obliged to obey your parent’s every command. You are your own person.

Punishing you for not listening to them is their way to maintain control over you. Them abusing you is them abusing their power.

“You made me do it”

Phrases like “you made me angry”, “you provoked me”, or “you asked for it” all demonstrate one thing – the abusive parent putting the blame on their child.

This excuse by an abusive parent denies all responsibility for their behavior and shifts all the blame to their child.

But no one can make anyone do anything. Everyone’s actions are their own, especially when they’re the adult in this situation.

“You deserved it”

First off, you did NOT deserve to be abused.

Parents might justify their abusive behavior by claiming their child deserved it or they asked for it because the child is too difficult, troublesome, hard to handle, or insert-whatever-negative-adjective-here.

But regardless of how a child misbehaves or acts, abuse is NEVER okay. A child’s misbehavior does not excuse abusing them.

Claiming the child deserved to be abused only shows the parent’s lack of self-control and ability to come up with a more appropriate way to discipline their kid.

“It’s all your fault”

Blame shifting is a common tactic abusive people use to deflect their behavior. Claiming it’s all your fault puts the blame on you, thus absolving them of any responsibility. But as I’ve said time and time again, abuse is NOT your fault.

Your behavior is irrelevant. No matter how you acted does not justify being abused.

Besides, abusing a child fosters more misbehavior, aggression, and trouble in the child. So really, it’s the parent’s fault the child is difficult.

Mistreating their children and using excuses like that only reinforces the child’s problematic behavior. Therefore, they just get stuck in this cycle where they “punish” the child, the child misbehaves as a way to protest the punishment, then they “punish” the child for misbehaving, and on it goes.

“You started it”

Even if the child was the one who started it, as in, they hit the parent first or called them a name, that does NOT make it okay to “get back” at them.

The parent is the adult in this situation. No matter what, resorting to physical or verbal abuse, regardless of the reason, is still exactly that – abuse.

As the parent in the situation, it is their job to de-escalate the situation and find a way to discipline their child WITHOUT resorting to abuse. Claiming “you started it” is not an excuse.

“I wasn’t myself”

“I was drunk”, “I was sick”, “I wasn’t myself”, and every other similar phrase is no excuse for being abusive.

If being drunk or whatever else makes the parent abusive, then it’s up to them to well, stop being drunk or go somewhere else far away from their children. Again, their actions are their own.

Rather than try to make up an excuse to justify their behavior, they should apologize and try to assure that it won’t happen again.

Making up an excuse just shows that they aren’t the least bit remorseful. It also shows that whether they were themselves or not is irrelevant – they’ll abuse nonetheless.

“I’m under a lot of stress”

Everyone goes through stress. Everyone has hard times.

“It’s been a rough day”, “I’m going through something”, or “I have a lot on my plate right now” are not excuses to be abusive.

If the parent is under a lot of stress or is going through something difficult, it’s up to them to find healthy ways to cope, not take it out on their child.

Sure, children can be difficult sometimes. And they can make a difficult situation more frustrating. But it is still up to the parent to keep their stress, anger, and any other overwhelming emotion under control. Taking it out on their children, regardless of how difficult they may be, is not okay.

“I didn’t mean it”

Intentions mean nothing if it ends up negatively affecting the child. This phrase, like many others, once again, denies all responsibilities. Because the parent “didn’t mean” for something to happen, doesn’t mean it hasn’t.

The best course of action for them was to apologize, not double down with an excuse like this.

“I can’t help it”

Some people claim they can’t help but be abusive, that it’s in their nature, genes, or caused by a mental disorder.

While psychological issues might make certain things harder to cope with, which could make someone more likely to act in hurtful ways towards others, it is still not an excuse. Having bad genes, a mental illness, or another condition does NOT make it okay to hurt other people.

It is up to the person to get treatment to get it under control. And if they still “can’t help it”, it’s up to them to keep their distance or do their best to remain accountable for their actions.

Claiming “I can’t help it”, “I do it because of my mental illness”, “It’s just who I am”, or “It’s in my blood” shows no instance of remorse or wanting to change. They’re just excuses to justify their abusiveness.

Again, everyone is in charge of their own actions. And if certain issues make that hard, it is their responsibility to manage it. Just claiming “I can’t help it” is not enough and not an excuse.

“I’m doing this for your own good.”

Many parents do hurtful things to their children with the belief that it’s for their own good. But the problem here isn’t their intentions. Again, intentions mean nothing if it ends up hurting the person. What matters is how their child perceives it.

For example, my mother claims calling me fat all the time was supposed to motivate me to lose weight. But did that motivate me to do anything? No. All it did was destroy my self-esteem.

The same thing can be said for almost any hurtful thing that parents claim is for our “own good”. If it hurts us and they know that it hurts us, then it isn’t any good.

“It’s discipline, not abuse”

Many parents resort to corporal punishment as a means to discipline their children. While some of these parents aren’t abusive in other aspects, resorting to any form of physical punishment is still incredibly problematic. It can still significantly negatively affect the child.

There are many different ways one can discipline a child. Resorting to corporal punishments is not it. Much research also shows that it’s not even an effective form of discipline. If anything, it does the opposite of what parents want.

However, many parents resort to it because it’s usually the quickest and seemingly easiest way to get compliance from their children. But it’s only temporary and parents soon find themselves needing to inflict even tougher punishments to maintain their kids’ supposed obedience.

Parents can try to convince themselves or their children all they want that it’s simply “discipline”. But if that disciplining method isn’t doing the job and does nothing but hurt the children, then it’s simply abuse.

“You left me no choice”

My mother often said this to me when I confront her about her abusive behavior. She claimed it was the only way I would stop screaming or throwing a tantrum. But from what I remember, her beatings only made my behavior worse. So really, was it at all effective?

However, it isn’t that you didn’t leave your parents a choice, and abusing you was the only way to get you to stop misbehaving or start complying with them. The truth is, they were frustrated with you and didn’t know any other way to deal with that frustration but to take it out on you.

Abusive people lack self-control. They don’t know how to deal with their emotions and frustrations, so it comes out in toxic, hurtful ways.

“I can say whatever I want”

“It’s freedom of speech”, “I have a right to speak my mind” and related phrases are often thrown around by people who want to sputter hurtful or offensive statements without regard for how it affects others.

Verbally abusive parents might try to excuse their abusive words towards their children as their “right” to do so. And if their child gets offended by it, it’s their fault for being too sensitive.

But no, people can’t just say whatever they want. That’s not how it works, especially when it comes to parenting. What parents say in general and to their child significantly affects their child whether they’re aware of it or not.

Constantly saying hurtful things towards their child isn’t a “right”; it’s abuse.

“It was a joke”

Some abusers tend to dress up their verbal abuse into something more “acceptable” like backhanded compliments, concerns, love, gifts, or jokes.

This excuse is another way to deflect and shift blame. It is also a form of gaslighting – making you question your reactions and reality, like “Was it that bad?”, “Am I overreacting?” or “Maybe I took it too seriously”.

This excuse implies that it isn’t them who are being abusive, it’s you who are the problem. Like, can’t you take a joke?

Meanwhile, if it was you who are “joking” about them, they’ll flip on you, call you disrespectful, or worse, accuse you of abusing them.

“You’re the one abusing me”

And it leads us to this last excuse – when abusive parents flip the script.

There are children who abuse their parents. And abusive parents use that to convince themselves and/or others that you are the abusive one.

They play the victim and claim that you’re the perpetrator in the relationship, that any abusive behavior on their part is simply just their way of defending themselves.

This excuse might make you question your own behavior, wondering whether you are abusive or maybe at least as bad as them.

Or they might use this excuse with other people where it could make others doubt your character and side with your parent. This is also known as a smear, which could negatively impact your life and relationships.

Common Excuses by Abusive Parents | Abuse Excuses | Hopeful Panda


While these are all possible excuses that your abusive parents – or abusive people in general – have thrown around as a way to justify their abuse, they are also excuses other people might have thrown around to justify your parents’ abuse.

However, as you heal, try to notice that these excuses you’ve heard growing up are not valid excuses in the slightest. They are abusive parents’ attempts to try to deflect responsibility for their abusive behavior and put all the blame on you.

Unfortunately, it’s something we internalize because we were young and impressionable. You might’ve carried this guilt and shame on your shoulders all this time. But try to start releasing at least some of that guilt.

All of these excuses for the abuse you’ve heard growing up, or even now, are just that – excuses. They are not valid arguments or statements. They are not facts or truths.

Regardless of how you acted or how your parents’ life was or whatever they were dealing with does NOT excuse abuse. They have full control over their own actions, especially as the adult in the relationship.

No matter what you did or what they claim you did is irrelevant. None of it was your fault.

As you continue on your healing journey, please know that it’s okay to reach out for help. A professional can help you process your experiences and develop tools to heal. Connect with a certified therapist here.

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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