There is an increasingly common thread in parenting that is huge to admit to ourselves, let alone talk about publicly. We’ve come a long way in recent decades to expose a level of abuse and domestic violence in homes between adults and that is to be acknowledged. But it is the tip of the iceberg, as so much abuse in the home goes unspoken and accepted as normal interaction. But who is talking about the level of abuse that is occurring from children in homes towards parents? It is very hard to admit that we may have normalised a level of abuse in the home from our own children.
In a very practical way, what does this look like?
Being afraid of a child can play out in many ways, from the small dismissive gestures, words and actions, to out-and-out violence, physical, psychological and emotional intimidation. It includes manipulation and controlling behaviours, whether coercive or not. There is the subtle control of teens refusing to come out of the bedroom, refusing to eat the food provided, demanding their own ‘special’ food and drink when it suits them, and refusing to take part in family life and family responsibilities. In addition, there is the overt intimidation, with teens yelling right into the adults’ faces leaving them shaken, crushed and disempowered, even being physically hit and punched by children of any age from toddler to adult child. Oftentimes, there is a holding back in addressing the behaviour for fear of ‘making things worse’.
The sense of feeling powerless can be overwhelming. Yet at every turn, we have an opportunity to stop and ask:
What is going on? How did the child become a bully and the parent start jumping to this tune, to avoid having to address the behaviour?
It is an uncomfortable stop moment when we come face to face with the reality of the abuse that is going on in the home and has been accepted as normal everyday behaviour. We all want our families to be loving happy places, to admit that ours is far from that can be a real stinger. Child-to-parent abuse is as horrific as parent-to-child abuse, there is no place for either in our homes.
Parents feel overwhelmed, ‘I can’t tackle that’ is a common response. Yet, the abuse thereafter entrenches and grows, which is to everyone’s detriment. Becoming aware of the detail of how the abuse plays out is a much-needed step to take to call a halt to abuse.
Where to start
Establish basic standards of decency in the home and consequences for not living to those standards. Check out ‘Rules Standards and Boundaries’
Take the pressure off perfect parenting. Check out ‘Parenting doesn’t start with the child’
Refuse to accept abuse as ‘normal’ and reset your own marker for respect and decency. Check out ‘Saying ‘NO’ to bullying’
Like parent-to-child abuse, child-to-parent abuse is equally common. It is a world-wide problem that no-one talks about. We do not need to live like this. Bullying and intimidation should have no space in our home whoever it comes through.
Abuse does not need to be a lodger in our home