Asking the Toughest Question: Am I An Abusive Parent?
Abuse is frightening, and it is hard to discuss. Especially, if you are the one who is causing the abuse.
While we have done our best to raise awareness about abuse and how to get help for the victims, it is also important to talk about what it is like to be the abuser. One of the hardest reality checks is realizing you are abusing someone. Facing and accepting that you need help is one of the bravest things a person can do for themselves and their children.
Today we want to share ways to identify yourself as someone with abusive tendencies or habits and give you the resources to get help. Whether you were abused yourself, or you feel that your behavior is the only way to keep things in control, there are ways to stop the cycle. You are not alone, and you are not forgotten.
How to recognize if you are an abuser:
Abuseville.com is a website that serves as a resource center for those facing abuse. The website is “for everyone who wants to stop abuse, prevent abuse, recover from abuse, get away from an abuser, protect someone who is being abused, or simply wants to make the world a safer, kinder place.” We have used their website to pull together this list of indicators of being abusive.
Abuse is systematic and addictive: According to Abuseville.com, “It’s not a rude episode, or being gauche or ignorantly doing something someone else doesn’t appreciate, though abusers will claim that’s all it is, and that it’s just an isolated incident. It is repetitive and cyclical.”
It is hard to take responsibility: Taking responsibility can be hard. Abuseville.com shares that, often those struggling with abusing someone have a hard time taking responsibility for their behavior. They use excuses like “they lost control, blew up, went off, didn’t mean to, weren’t thinking, etc.”
When your environment changes, your behavior changes: Context matters when it comes to abuse. Someone who has abusive tendencies tend to act out in places where there is secrecy and a victim available. They do not tend to abuse people who they perceive has more power than they do.
Selective memory: Abusers often have no recollection for the cruel or oppressive acts they have committed. Abuseville.com states “They can express apparently genuine outrage at the abuse behaviors of others while not recognizing the similarities to their behaviors.”
Abusers often were abused themselves: It is no secret that often those that abuse others were abused themselves. Abuseville.com shares that “If you’ve been abused, you’ve learned how to do it. You have a choice as to whether you will continue the passing down to the next generation of the abuse system.”
Here are a few things to think about or ask yourself:
These indicators of an abusive situation are shared by Abuseville.com.
- How do you deal with emotional discomfort? Do you use addictive behaviors to change your emotional/physical state? (gambling, shopping, food bingeing, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes.)
- Do you come home to a happy family, and find that your children are crying within five minutes of your arrival, or someone is “in trouble?”
- Is your family dinner table a place where children are regularly punished or reprimanded, and you find it necessary to send them away, or make them unhappy during or after the meal? Are there other repeated events or activities where similar trouble happens: trips, outings, holidays, bedtime, shopping, etc.
- Are your spouse or children afraid of you?
- Is there a cycle of building tension, blow up on your part, denial of responsibility on your part, admission of guilt, repentance, and then a “honeymoon period” afterward, that repeats in your home or relationship?
- Do you have rules and regulations for your significant other or children that causes them to fear you or fear displeasing you? Do you withhold or deny them privileges or opportunities unnecessarily? Do you get satisfaction from doing so?
Characteristics of an abuser:
Here are some specific characteristics of abusers. If you find yourself having these tendencies, or if you know someone who does, it is time to get help. Find more, here.
- Keeps track of what you are doing all the time and criticizes you for little things.
- Regularly accuses you of being unfaithful, untrustworthy, etc.
- Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family, or going to work or school.
- Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
- Humiliates you in front of others.
- Destroys your property or things that you care about.
- Threatens to hurt you or the children or pets, or does cause hurt (by hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting).
- Uses or threatens to use a weapon against you.
- Forces you to have sex against your will.
- Blames you for his/her violent outbursts.
How to get help:
The best answer with this type of situation is to get help. Admitting that you need help may be scary but it is brave. Here are some things you can do to start down a new path. Find more at TheStir.com and on DrPhil.com.
Go to a local support group: Your child’s pediatrician or a therapist may know of some local support groups. You can also find information at your local schools, YMCAs or even church groups. Ask a trusted professional and they can point you in the right direction.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: “There are different kinds of therapy. Most therapists do a combination of techniques. However, one, in particular, focuses on changing your behavior — cognitive behavioral therapy. Most of the time, this therapy goes beyond talking (because you already know what you’re doing is wrong) and delving into your past and focuses more on your triggers and doing the active work of change.”
Be honest with your child: “You don’t need to get into detail and burden your child with too much information. But your child should know that they are not the one at fault. You have a problem, and you are working on it. Most of all, you love them.”
Remove yourself: According to Dr.Phil, “When you’re in a stressful situation and you begin to feel yourself snap, remove yourself. At that point say, ‘I’m going to get out of this situation so I don’t lose control.’ You can send your child to his/her room to watch TV, to read a book — whatever it takes to give you a few moments to yourself. Or you can leave the room yourself. Go for a walk, take a shower — just remove yourself.”
Express yourself: Dr Phil’s website explains, “People get physical when they run out of ways to express themselves. Learn to express your rage in a non-violent way. Write down everything you are feeling. This is a good thing to do after you have removed yourself.”
Call for support: Dr. Phil advises, “You can’t always handle everything on your own. Be accountable to someone else, and lean on that person when you’re on the verge of harming your children. Your support person could be a parent, spouse, friend, pastor or another mom.”
We hope these resources have been helpful. Anyone struggling with abuse should not have to face it alone, get help today.