I’m talking about parents who mistreat their children, who scream at them, humiliate them, hit them. They know for a *fact* that if the other person were a friend who was older, bigger, independent, and could leave, they wouldn’t scream at them like that. I’ve seldom seen abusive parents treat their friends the way they treat their children.
Abusive parents have full knowledge that what they’re doing is horrible, because they reserve their abuse for the most vulnerable, weak, and dependent people in their lives. People who had neither the choice to be with them in the first place (for unfortunately children don’t get to choose their parents), and who have no ability to leave them. For a child, and the younger they are the truer this is, leaving means death. And that’s the person in their lives that they choose to abuse.
The cowardice of this is unimaginable.
The Discipline Defense
Some of these abusers will claim that their abuse is not abuse at all, and that they’re merely teaching their children a lesson. “I wish I didn’t have to hit my children, but how else will they learn?”
Bullshit. If you can’t relate to another human being without using violence, you need to get into therapy, right now.
Change that sentence to “I wish I didn’t have to hit my wife, but how else will she learn?” and now in the minds of most people your abuse is quickly revealed. Unfortunately, wives, who choose their husbands and can leave, are seen as far more deserving of protection from abuse than children, who have no choice and cannot leave. This double standard, in which for many people the first sentence is perfectly fine, is a large part of the problem.
As a parent, it’s your job to find another way. And in fact, you already have.
When you disagree about something with your spouse or your friend, you don’t scream at them and abuse them. At least, not as a solution. If you do, you know that they’ll just end up growing to hate your guts, and that the disagreement will never be resolved that way.
And if screaming matches are what characterize your relationship with your spouse, the absolute last thing you should be doing is bringing a child into that mess.
Dysfunctional families know full well that abuse never leads to any kind of reconciliation or understanding. It certainly doesn’t lead to friendship and love. What it does lead to is a lot of hate.
You know that if you want to communicate well with someone you don’t scream at them. What do you do when you want a promotion at work? Do you scream at your coworkers, hit them, and call them names? No, that would be a fast way to get fired, because when you act like that around people who can remove you from their lives, they do, unless they have no self-respect and tragically grew up in an environment where abuse is all they knew.
Look at people talking to each other in stores. And then look at people talking to their kids in stores. Indeed, the kids are not treated as people. Their needs are disregarded as an inconvenience, their emotions are looked down upon as an annoyance. They’re called names, pushed around, hit, and shouted at. They are treated as sub-human.
The Defense from Ignorance
Is the defense of an incurious coward. Someone who does not have the courage to even research what it is that they’re getting into.
Yet in any other matter they know that this is the path to success. When it comes to driving a car, everyone knows that there’s a theory and a practical aspect that needs to be learnt before it can be safely done. When talking about exams, everyone knows that if you want high grades, you need to study a lot. There’s no denying that preparation as a key to success is widely known. Yet I’ve seen few parents prepare to take care of their children’s emotional needs or to break the cycle of abuse that they were subjected to, going back hundreds of generations.
Language gives away abusive parents
‘Don’t treat them like children.”
A phrase that quickly evokes the double standard present here. You see, children deserve a special kind of treatment. To not treat someone as a child means to not take away their responsibility when they’re able to handle it and need it to grow; to not scream at and be mean and sadistic to them. If you want your kids to grow up to be independent humans beings, treat them like that as early as possible. If you want your children to grow up to be respectful, treat them with the same respect you treat your friends.
“I’m your parent, not your friend.”
Because you know full well that if you treated your friends the same way you treat your child, with a blatant disregard for their feelings and wishes, that they would leave. You don’t treat your child like a friend, you treat them much worse than that, and yet they can’t leave. You know you’re not being friendly. You know the mask of niceties you wear around your friends has been taken off and you’ve been revealed to be a brute tyrant. And you take pride in that.
The above is all proof that abusive parents know they’re being abusive. That a person selects exactly the most vulnerable and dependent person in their lives to be abusive towards because they can’t leave them, is absolute cowardice. In fact, I would go further to say that in such situations, the parents probably had their child just for that reason. They didn’t have anyone else in their lives who would put up with their crap, so they made someone for whom leaving would mean death.
How many parents have their kids in mind when they have kids?
Do they ask themselves: “Well, what’s my kids experience of me going to be like?” Based on the kind of “role-modeling” I see so many parents provide for their children, it’s pretty obvious that they don’t. Abusive parents want children not because they think they can do a great job and raise some wonderful kids, but for selfish reasons.
They want children because they want a retirement plan, or because they’re lonely, or because they want the power and control they never had as a child, and that they can now have over their own helpless, defenseless, and dependent children. And sometimes the reasons are much worse. Not being able to leave is precisely the whole attraction to having children for such parents.
“Let’s have kids, that’ll solve our problems!”
Right… You can’t maintain a healthy relationship with your partner, so bringing more people with unmet needs and unheard feelings into your life is going to make your life easier. The selfishness of such thinking is mind-boggling.
The way you dysfunctionally relate to others around you (which you role-model for your kids), and the way you dysfunctionally relate to your kids, are all going to be how they grow up to dysfunctionally relate to the world, their friends (or lack thereof), their partners, and eventually their children.
It’s been my experience of talking to people that many of those who would become the best parents, don’t want to have children. They understand that meeting all the needs of children is very hard work, and they choose not to have kids. It’s the people who don’t even empathize with their child’s perspective, who most readily run off and have them unprepared. This is tragic.
Newsflash: parenting is not mandatory. In fact, parenting is very costly, both in time and money. You could be trekking through a forest, backpacking in Europe, jumping out of airplanes, and still have money left over for the cost of a year of parenting. Here’s a simple rule: if you don’t think you can do a good job of it, don’t have kids. Wait until you’re ready to be a good parent, because for all the problems our species is facing right now, extinction due to underpopulation is not one of them.
I’m not ready – not even close, so I’m not on some kind of high horse here. I have all kinds of dysfunctional behaviors that I need to figure out before I’m ready to have kids, and it’s going to take years. And yet I don’t drink, smoke, or take drugs. I don’t scream at people or hit them. I’ve got plenty experience of working with and looking after children that are not my own, and they seemed to enjoy being with me, and I have an enormous amount of empathy for children. But I’m not yet emotionally healthy enough to be a parent, nor do I have enough money saved up or enough knowledge about parenting. Perhaps one of the reasons I have such high standards for parents is to make sure that I don’t become one myself until I’m ready.
Forgiving abuses by other people is a convenient way of forgiving our own. Sometimes even preemptively.
There are two very simple tests for good parenting
These are the questions every child and adult should ask themselves about their parents:
- If you could choose any parents in the whole world, would you still choose your parents?
- If you weren’t related to your parents, and by chance met them somewhere, would you want to be friends with them? Would you seek them out and spend your free time with them?
And this is the set of questions reserved for parents to ask of themselves:
- If your child could choose any parents in the whole world, would they still choose you?
- If your child wasn’t related to you, and as an adult met you somewhere, would they want to get to know you better and hang out with you as a friend?
These questions are all the more critical because this choice does not exist. When you grow up, you can certainly move away and even cut ties entirely, but for your entire formative years in childhood, you’re stuck with whatever the parental lottery served you up.
So if as a child, your answers to the above questions are “No”, then you need to get sad, and then you need to get seriously angry, because your parents failed you. And it is only when you get angry at your own parents’ abuse, that you will ensure you will never allow yourself to repeat it.
Forgiveness of such abuse is the path to repeating it. Repudiation of that abuse is the first step to breaking the cycle.
This, in my experience, is the only reason I’ve seen people defend abusive parents. Because they don’t want to take a closer look at their own parent’s abuses.
Or worse, because they’ve already become a part of the club, and replicated those abuses themselves.