How to distinguish between the parent concerned about education and the future of his offspring, from the abusive one, who is almost a psychological executioner?
Before we start, let’s remind ourselves that children make life seem so much more beautiful. Treat your child to the mini cars for kids, he or she deserves it.
Here is a question posted anonymously on Ciao.fr, a Swiss discussion forum for struggling youth: “In my case, my mother very often slapped me, insulted me, despised me when I was little, and I always wondered if it was normal. What I mean is I do not know where the line between strictness and abuse is. How can you know?” someone asks.
Excessive Authority with Harmful Influence
For Grégory Michel, doctor in clinical psychology and the author of the book “Personality and Development,” the definition of abusive parent is very clear — it is a parent who exercises excessive authority inducing harm and creating a climate of emotional insecurity that impacts health, well-being, and the development of a child. Disgusting comments, moral harassment, repeated humiliations, manipulation, degrading insults, disproportionate punishment — the abuses observed by specialists take various forms, and the child doesn’t even always understand the link between their actions and the violence laid on them by parents. We will also speak about a form of cruelty when parental love is conditioned by the child’s successes and performances. Some parents can only love their children when they do well.
A typical story is when parents constantly compare their children with other kids.
You come home and tell your mom what grade you got. Your mom instantly starts asking how much that classmate and this friend, and someone else got. And when you tell her how your friends did, she would show disappointment, because you were graded six out of ten, and they received better notes. It can be very harmful if done systematically. Children will feel that they are never good enough, that they are a walking disappointment. When now adults speak about this type of abuse, they always say that they remember it like yesterday.
When it is not the intellect being questioned, then it is very the physical development of a child that becomes the subject of inappropriate, hurtful, or stigmatizing comments.
“According to my mother, I was always scruffy, badly combed. My gait was either too loose or, on the contrary, too confident. After adolescence, it was my outfits that were too suggestive, too ‘hippie’ or too tomboy. My butt and my breasts were too much or not well enough highlighted. In short, there was always something wrong with my appearance,” recalls Justine, 29 years.
“My weight was always a concern. Admittedly, I did not have the physique of a prepubescent supermodel, but I wasn’t obese or anything like that. But for my mother it was clear as day — i was fat! Because of that, I will remain alone for all my life, unemployed and without children. At least that’s what she said,” ironically comments Penelope, 25. Some parents even interfere with the privacy of their children, often when they enter the precarious teenage years.
“At the turn of yet another argument, I realized my parents were reading my diary while I was in class. Being angry, they allowed themselves to make fun of what I said there: my sorrows of heart, my fantasies; it was really humiliating. They took the opportunity to forbid me any relations with boys until i was 18, without really explaining why. Obviously, my younger brother never had this, let’s say, preferential treatment, says Sophie, 34. Others, as we found out, go so far as to control the sexuality of their children, leak their intimate details to the general public, or force them to follow university courses or even careers without even a discussion.
Narcissism and the Psychological Hold
Behind these reprehensible behaviors, you can generally find the proxy success syndrome that makes parents use their child to raise their self-esteem. “They push them to perform better to make up for their own shortcomings, the child becoming their object of satisfaction,” specifies Dr. Gregory Michel. “We then often find the conduct of physical, emotional, verbal abuse, because the child’s achievements are never big enough.”
Because of the often trivialized and internalized violence they endure, this abuse has significant consequences on the psychological development of the child. Indeed, despite their anecdotal appearance, these verbal harassments contribute to a feeling of insecurity in the children. When these insults come from the most important people in your life, it becomes very hard to get rid of them. “The child will feel uninvolved, devalued, and lose self-esteem,” says Dr. Gregory Michel. A child is unable to verbalize their ailments, so this distress will result in depression, difficulties in integrating socially, academic failure, or even aggressive behavior. Or, on the contrary, it can lead to excessive obsession with education, sports or arts. Kids can also develop a feeling of inferiority.
Often concealed, the abuse of a parent towards their child is all the more difficult to detect as it happens behind closed doors.
Isolated, the victim will find it difficult to protect themselves from mental health consequences. Most often, adolescence will play an essential role in reacting to the abuse with oppositional behavior or through a pathology that will inevitably move the child away from the family. For example, a young girl who has been on a drastic diet imposed by her parents might get anorexia, requiring the intervention of a third party or even hospitalization. Estrangement from parents after something like this is more than probable.
Awareness of abuse and working through psychological issues are essential for breaking the cycle of cruelty for the next generations.