Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guest Post: The Good Enough Parent: How Children from Abusive Families Sometimes Do Not Seem To See Their Own Abusiveness

Today's guest post is by Sara Dawkins. This is the second post in which a writer recounts his or her own experience in a family with a problematic history. She addresses the confusion a child can feel when parents who have themselves been abused by their own parents do unto others what had been done to them. ~ D.A.

This is a topic that is very close to my heart so it is difficult for me to write about. Let me start with something that is a little easier. First of all, I will talk about my partner. His father, to be precise. My partner’s father was abused as a child. As was his father. I am sure the cycle continued for many generations. However what got me to really recognize this idea in my own life was something my partner said to me the other day:

“My father is proud of the fact that he is a better father than his father was, but that’s not very hard to do.”

Wow. He was so right. Just because the father came from an abusive home, that did not mean that his own abusive behavior was better in some way. As a matter of fact, my partner’s father can’t even see how abusive he is, as a father and as a spouse.

That brought me around to thinking about my own family. Both my mother and grandmother were from abusive homes, as was my father.

My father was practically abandoned for most of his life and when his parents were around they were verbally and physically fighting with one another. Although he was not hurting in material things, he did not get any instruction about how to behave, and was left to his own devices. He turned into a very selfish individual. Instead of trying to avoid repeating his history of abuse with his children he simply gave up. He stayed home for much of my young life, yes, but withdrew to his bedroom as soon as he got home and only left it to go to work. He did not interact much with my brother and I;  when he did it was only the minimum required so that he could feel as if he had “done his duty.” 

Eventually the stress of even that much involvement got to be too much for him and he left. He never did seem to see that he was falling into the same cycle of abuse that he had suffered through. After all, he could tell himself, he didn’t leave… for a while.

Likewise, my grandmother came from a difficult home. Her father was an alcoholic and the family lived in basements and with relatives because he would drink away his paycheck or simply not go to work at all. From this lifestyle my grandmother learned to work hard and try to keep everything as perfect as possible so that she, hopefully, would not have him get angry at him when he got home. 

She later married a man who was much like her father, and as her children grew up under his verbally and physically abusive hand, she cleaned and kept everyone looking good. To this day she defends her father and is in denial about the abuse she lived through. By keeping everything whitewashed in her mind, she was simply repeating the process of enabling abusers and was keeping the process going.

Needless to say my mother grew up feeling abandoned by her mother and abused by her father. Shockingly, she chose to fight the trend. Although she could not fight off the effects completely, she did not give into the same habits that had plagued the generations before her. Don’t get me wrong. She still had many issues. She was prone to rage and verbal abuse. However, she decided that her children were not going to suffer like she had. 

She was determined to break the cycle. I have to admit, she works really hard to do so. She is not perfect by any means, but when she does fall into those bad habits she always makes sure to apologize for them and tell us what she should have done instead. By thusly changing the pattern, she has been successful at breaking most of the bad habits that plagued our family. Although we are not completely unaffected, my brother and I are moderately well adjusted. I believe that the most important thing she taught us is to be mindful of our actions.

Sometimes people that have been abused do not seem to see the abuse that carries on in their lives. They have many of those same habits and ways of thinking. Sometimes they just assume that they are better parents because they do not do exactly the same thing or do not do everything their parents did. Being a ‘better’ parent does not make you a good parent or even a non-abusive one.

It really hurts me to see that my uncles are not as cognizant of this as my mother is. They have many of the same abusive behaviors in their homes and yet they act as if they can’t understand why their children are acting out, being rebellious, running away, or just giving up. They don’t see that they are just continuing a cycle of abuse.

I know how difficult it is to break habits that you have grown up with and I am thankful that my mother was able to give me some understanding and insight into her mind. This has helped me to break the cycle within my own relationships and live a healthier, more balanced life.

Author Bio

Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of  Learn more about her at

No comments:

Post a Comment