Parental Abuse Is Very Real, An Emotional Bullying, A Consistent Denial Of Personal Freedom & Choice

Parental abuse is normalised in our society in the name of "discipline", not recognised as domestic abuse having long term repercussions.

As a counsellor, the sheer number of clients I have treated for who have severe abuse at the hands of their parents is mind boggling. Parental abuse, which must be classified as a kind of domestic abuse.

I don’t classify behaviour as abuse easily. It’s not just being occasionally rude or bossy.

How to recognise parental abuse?

Abuse is a consistent denial of personal freedom, choice, emotional bullying, calling names, self destructive/addictive tendencies that hurt others and then the denial and pretence around that, gaslighting children when they say it impacts them. An every day erosion of self by parents where your feelings are pushed aside routinely, or you’re called to become the parent and handle an emotionally immature parent repeatedly, or the minute you express hurt, your hurt is overshadowed by how the parent is feeling.

All these kinds of daily minimising of how children experience the world along with a refusal to work on persistent issues, take responsibility for parental behaviour, and of course violence, is parental abuse.

And guess what? In my experience more mothers than fathers are guilty of gaslighting, casual name calling, expecting the child to act as an adult and go between and suppressing a child’s thoughts and desires. Perhaps that is because of the systemic trauma that women experience and their lack of agency in choosing spouses or becoming a mother. The fact that more mothers than fathers are expected to fulfil parenting duties adds to that burden. Mothers are also now expected to bring in income along with all the visible and invisible work that running a household and raising children entails. All of this put together can turn women into monster mothers but that doesn’t take away the child’s pain.

This parental abuse can have a long shadow on a child’s life

The impact of such parenting that is emotionally and physically violent is often all pervasive, brutal and life long. It can change the way we love, work, see ourselves and treat others. It can make adult kids hit or kill abusive parents or want to do that. It can wreck their bodies and minds for life, destroying their ability to self regulate and manage stress.

And yet, in most families children attempt to love the parent as best as they can. They repeatedly forgive, try to care for them and keep seeking parents’ love and validation try because that is what children do. That desire to be loved comes as naturally to children as the desire to be cared for by children comes to parents. These cycles of effort collapse against each other creating seas of pain that can feel endless and it often is, endless.

To any child suffering this, I would say this

Try and work hard to have financial independence, leave when you can or at least put some distance between your family and you. This is not easy at all and in most cases people don’t leave or are forced to maintain connection at some level. That is the twisted nature of these families. You’re entrenched, drowning, but you’re also hard wired to swim. Only it’s like swimming against the current. I wish more for parents take responsibility to heal themselves from generational trauma and rebuild their bonds with hurt children. But that takes more willingness and self awareness than most people have.

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So if you can, swim. Find other swimmers so you can create your chosen families. Stick together. And swim very far away where you can repair what remains of yourself.

Take it from someone who has been there, is still there in many ways. Living with a parent like that is like trying to be a plant under tonnes of rock.

#unparenting #consciousparenting

Image source: a still from the film Taare Zameen Par

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About the Author

Reema Ahmad

Reema Ahmad is a relationship and trauma counsellor and author of Unparenting- Sharing Awkward Truths with Curios kids (Penguin 2022). read more...

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