How To Raise Your Children To Be Abusers.
I think it's a fair generalisation to say that no one goes out of their way to try to raise an abusive adult.
Yet it happens. More often than people would like to admit. We hear parents of domestic abusers lamenting that they did all they could.
I believe them.
We parent to our best ability, don't we? We parent how it was role modeled to us throughout our childhood, and sometimes we use that role model as the "anti-parent": the person to avoid being at all costs. We all have our wounds and our scars and sometimes we don't even know they exist.
Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are tougher than our wounds and scars.
We pretend they never happened. We almost convince ourselves. We convince others that our hurts mean nothing, and attempt to assure them that they can be like us: pain fighters. Block it out. Pretend it never happened. Pretend it didn't hurt. Pretend I'm fearless. Pretend I'm coping. Pretend I'm happy...
Parents who pretend often raise children who pretend. We despise in others what we most despise about ourselves, and if we can pretend we're OK with all that has happened, then they must pretend too, or face our disgust.
Patricia Evans, in her book, Controlling People, tells a story of a little boy named Jack. He's three years old and his parents take him clothes shopping. After a while, he gets a bit tired as three year olds tend to do. He falls and hurts his knee and is crying, obviously upset. Jack's parents get annoyed. They pull him up and say:
"You're not hurt. You have nothing to cry about. You're just trying to get attention, wasting time and causing a scene."
Jack has parents who pretend. Who try to get him to pretend too. They tell him the opposite of what is true as if it were the truth, and an impressionable three year old will believe it. They learn about emotions from parental mirroring. His knee is hurting, but they tell him it's not. Do you think that will confuse him? Who will he believe? Most likely those who he relies on to teach him. It's obvious to me Jack has something to cry about, but then I'm not three, and I haven't been trained to disconnect with my emotions.
Jack's parents were probably great parents by today's standard. He likely had all of his outward needs met, and toys and friends and education, and he probably wasn't spanked and maybe he behaved very well.
But if he consistantly, or even much of the time, had his emotional self squashed and negated in that way, he'd grow up having trouble with empathy. And he wouldn't realise he was pretending.
He could terrify his wife and then tell her she wasn't scared. And he'd believe it true.
He could hit her and tell her she wasn't hurt, and worse, that she was trying to make a scene. And he'd believe it true.
He could blame her for making him angry, like he made his parents angry, by feeling genuine emotions. And he'd believe it true, all the while thinking he was a wonderful husband. How lucky is his wife that he loves her through all of her erratic behaviour? He would believe it true.
Nobody wants to raise abusive people. All parents get frustrated with their children from time to time. Disbelief and their emotional reactions, tantrums and meltdowns can be overpowering and we may desperately want to tell them to just shut up! But it's important to realise that all their emotions are for a reason and they don't have as much experience with them as we do. Maybe they can't really explain what's going on for them because they don't have the vocabulary.
It's our job, as parents, to teach them. To validate their emotions and help them through. Not to squash that very fragile part of them.
We model this behaviour in the same way we model every other.
Children are not second class citizens.
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Inspiration from these authors:
Patricia Evans, Daniel Goleman, Alice Miller, Nathaniel Brandon.
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