Is it technically abuse? Does it really matter?

A child who is told he is stupid will always believe he is stupid. A child who is told she’s a failure will always believe she’s a failure. When these insults and hostility come from the very heart of the family, they take root.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image by George Hodan (Creative Commons)

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7 thoughts on “Is it technically abuse? Does it really matter?”

  1. I can remember having conversations with other conservative Catholic families, where the parents would start joking about letting their kids “have it” when they were acting bratty. Now I realize that there was this really dangerous “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality. Even worse than that, is the way that the whole conservative Catholic movement would brainwash parents into not listening to psychologists and other professionals in the field because they were “worldly” and not godly. They not only wouldn’t listen, they thought that those worldlings were a completely different kind of human being, (not chosen), and not one of the few who would be saved–much less worthy of being listened to. Those kinds of Catholics thrived on conspiracy theories, visions, and conservative movements which fed their elite mentality–and which kept them brainwashed not to see ALL KINDS of abuse (including treating the wife as a second class citizen).

    Obviously religious fanatics (of any label) haven’t cornered the market on abuse. I know an atheist feminist who came from a large conservative family. She went from one extreme to the other. She is advanced in age and frail now, but the abuse she suffered has left her permanently closed to God. She fostered an elitist mentality in her children (religion was for fools). The sexual freedom she encouraged in her children led to terrible delusions of entitlement, abuse and brokenness.

    One thing that worries me these days is witnessing the children of some broken/abusive families. As the children wake up to the reality of their mistreatment, some boil their outrage into a fine kettle of venom and throw their parents away. It’s certainly understandable in some cases, but I also think it can be an evil temptation. There’s abuse and then there’s ABUSE. It’s important to discern the difference. Some parents just won’t be able to understand or see how they failed. (God will help them see it some day!)Forgiveness with or without an apology is the key to healing. If every young couple who thinks they are going to change the world with how evolved *they* are as opposed to their stupid, ignorant parents, they will end up just as narrow minded as their ignorant parents (and be thrown away by *their* children as well!) Most parents follow the blueprint of their own childhood, for the good, the bad and the indifferent. Thank goodness our culture is changing and corporal punishment is not as American as apple pie anymore. (My Dad used to have to pick the switch he would be punished with!)

    One other HUGE form of parental abuse is the parent that’s checked out. Parenting is not for the faint of heart Oh my dear Lord, don’t even get me going on the sperm donors that suffer with big families, and what my Mom called “freeway feeling”. I knew one who used to instruct his wife to have the children fed, bathed and asleep in bed before he would come home. He wasn’t even working either. He was at Harbor Freight or Home Depot until it was safe to come home and watch TV.

  2. I am adult with this very background, where it usually didn’t get physical, but emotionally it scarred me for life. My psychologist thinks I have a mild case of PTSD from it and definitely high anxiety and depression (although much better after years of therapy). I always wonder how my life would have been different/better if my mom was able to call a spade a spade and left my father.

  3. Thank you for this topic. But it does matter what we call abuse. Ask CPS.
    I have spruce who calls me “an abuser” and threatens to call CPS when I confront him about his own behavior and choices that hurt the family, because he knows by calling me “ an abuser” he can get rid of me even though I have never hit a child, nor in anyway hurt my children.
    This label needs to be clarified. For those who know its power, it can be a strong weapon.
    Please pray for my family.

    1. If you are not an abuser, I don’t think you need to be afraid of this. Getting someone’s children taken away is a lot harder than people imagine.

  4. Thank you for writing on these issues. It’s not talked or written about much, but it’s a very common reality and it has such deep effects.

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