General Question

01101101's avatar

Do you think an emotionally-abused person is going to be a good parent?

Asked by 01101101 (252points) April 2nd, 2016

As a person that has been emotionally-abused all my life, I’m afraid I might not be a good parent someday. As kids, my brother and I were physically-abused by our father, telling us it’s discipline, after smashing a toy on my brother’s head making it bleed. I was also raped by a relative as a kid and I did not know I was raped until I turned 10. As a teen, my parents have been neglectful, they never bring me to the hospital unless I’m peeing blood or dying. They also control me using money. They do not want me to move out of the house and take a job. These experiences made me extremely depressed and anxious about myself, I don’t even feel like I’m human. I also asked them for help for the nth time so I can see a psychologist/psychiatrist but I’m just ignored again.

I’m a young adult now, and I’m afraid I might be abusive to my kids, too, like my parents. I’ve been dreaming of a good and loving family, I want to listen to them, to support them, to love them genuinely and unconditionally. I want to be friends with them. I want to be whoever my parents never became. But there’s also a big part of me that is scared I might be like them, and if that happened I know I’ll probably hate myself. Are there people here who came from the same family that has now their own families? How is your family now? Do you sometimes see yourself like your abusive parent/s?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

21 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

If you have been emotionally abused by your parent(s), and you are aware of it, then be aware to parent differently from the way you were parented. My mother was extremely emotionally abusive, and I looked on that as a template of what not to do.
It means that I parented my children very deliberately, and I rarely relaxed my guard. I have been a good parent, I believe, because of this.

Seek's avatar

I’m a survivor, too, and I have a seven year old child.

I cut off contact with my mother and stepfather and his family in October of 2007, one month before I found out I was pregnant.

I bear in the back of my mind at all times, the nature of the family I grew up in, and the fact that my little one deserves the best parent I can be. On the upside, I have a fantastic example of what not to do. On the downside, figuring out what to do has me making stuff up as I go along.

I haven’t always gotten it right. Leaving my stepfamily meant leaving my church at the same time, so I was left a scared 21 year old pregnant woman with no support system and no friends other than my husband. I was basically gift-wrapped for the “woo” movement. After practically-religious-midwifery almost killed me it still took me 3 years to recognize I really should vaccinate my kid. Fortunately that’s all over with now.

The hardest part of all is discipline. I simply don’t know the healthy way to go about it. I know I’m on a hair trigger, and sometimes I yell when my child really doesn’t deserve that kind of excuse for communication. I make a big point to apologise when I do. Mostly when the little one acts out I take him aside and discuss with him what the situation was, and why he thought that behaviour might be acceptable. And usually the answer is “I don’t know” or “I was frustrated”, and we can discuss better ways to act in the future. I hope that’s closer to the right way to do things than throwing a toaster at the kid. Haha.

I don’t hide the fact that I had a hard upbringing from my child. When asked why we don’t see my mother and father, and I’ve said that “my mother doesn’t know how to love people the right way, so we don’t spend time with her’. I leave my stepfamily out of it entirely.

Sometimes my kid will come up to me out of the blue and say, “Mama, you’re the best mama a kid could have”, and shower me with affection.

I’m sure he’s not entirely subjective, but taking his word for it is a great confidence boost.

ibstubro's avatar

I wouldn’t rush into anything.
Make peace with yourself and your place on this Earth before you consider kids.
Ideally you’ll start a relationship with someone that has a basic understanding of your concerns, and after a few years of maintaining a healthy relationship you’ll consider children if that’s what you both want.

The easiest thing to do is to jump into a relationship and have kids right off the bat, thinking that you know how not to do things, and that your ready-made family will heal all.
Chances are, it won’t.

You’ve been abused. You need to address that demon, first. Than move forward.
There’s absolutely not reason you can’t have a happy and loving family life, but starting a family isn’t going to set you up for a happy life.

Coloma's avatar

You can choose to be the kind of parent you never had, there is no hard and fast rules that all abused kids will grow up to be abusers. You are aware of how you’d like to be different and you, absolutely, have the power to do things differently. I had a less than idea childhood and was very committed to be a better parent to my daughter, and I was.

Jak's avatar

Having been abused as a child puts you at risk of being an abusive parent. You can know intellectually what you shouldn’t do but you may not be able to help yourself. It isn’t as simple is just choosing not to sometimes. It’s good that you’re aware of it, but you might want to think about therapy before you go ahead with any life-changing decisions like becoming a parent. Good luck.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I had the same worries when my son was born. I was also abused as a child (mostly physical); and like you, the facts about it were kept from me for a long time. I had clear memories of the abuse that everyone around me (including my first therapist) insisted were false. And when it was finally acknowledged, they acted like they had never denied it.

It’s going to be harder for you, but you can do it. You have two advantages: your desire to be different, and your fear of being the same. The desire shows that you are self-aware in the way that people who repeat the cycle often are not. The fear helps to keep you in check (but keep in mind that word is “helps” and not “guarantees”). The fear is not pleasant. Every time there’s an accident, I wonder—I worry—about my subconscious. But if it keeps me from being the same, I’ll take it.

Like @Seek said, you won’t be perfect. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be an abuser. I’ve yelled louder than I should have over things that don’t really matter. I’ve been too insistent that my son do something in a certain way. But these are things that all parents do sometimes. It sticks out for us because we don’t know if these minor lapses will yield to major lapses. We have to be more conscious of the small slips to prevent the large ones.

The last thing I want to say is to not assume your relationship with your child will be like any other relationship you’ve had. People who have been abused do not necessarily repeat the cycle with everyone around them. So even if you never feel even the remotest tendency to abuse a romantic partner, you still might have to exercise more self-control when it comes to your children. Or perhaps you will have to restrain yourself when it comes to your romantic partner, but you will have no problem when it comes to your children.

The point is just this: don’t assume that because you don’t have a problem in one area of your life (or because you’ve solved the problem in one area of your life) that you won’t have a problem in any other area of your life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. And that’s one of the reasons it is important to talk to someone if you can. Your feelings towards a partner might be totally different than your feelings towards a child, which can be surprising and confusing. Working through that with someone else can be extremely helpful.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Listen to @Seek. And there are others. I don’t think I was “abused,’ but I definitely knew I didn’t want to raise my kids the way my mom raised us. It is hard though. When my oldest was about 7 I berated her for something, and, with tears in her eyes she said, “It’s OK to be mad but you don’t have to hurt my heart too.”
Talk about slap me upside the head and yank me around. That was exactly the kind of thing my Mom would do. Not only be mad, but become very insulting and belittling. I think I changed after that….but I’m still awful critical I think. It’s an on-going thing.

I made an appointment with a counselor for the first time in my life, just last week. I suggest that, just to have someone to talk to, someone to suggest different ways.

There are others here who have been abused, and went on to become really good parents, like @Seek. So no. It’s not a foregone conclusion that you will be a bad parent. It will just take more work than someone who had a good role model.

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, you can break the chain. It takes work, but you have made the first part to recognize that there is a need for you to be different from how you were raised.

You recognize the need for doing therapy work. I don’t know all the circumstances of your life, but if you can find a pro bono therapist (if you have no money) you can start working on how to deal with the issues of your childhood in a way that you won’t repeat the pattern.

And once you are a father, remember, no one really knows how to be a parent until they have a child. The answer is to find people who you admire to ask advice. There are a lot of resources for parents of children of all ages.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I assumed the OP was female..

augustlan's avatar

First of all, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this. Hopefully you’ll find a way to get the help you need and to move out. Are you in college? There may be mental health resources available to you there, if so.

Secondly, I understand your fears but want to reassure you that overcoming childhood abuse and becoming a decent parent yourself can be done. Maybe not always, but often. I’ve done it and know lots of others who have, too. Including a young woman who was terrified she’d be a bad parent due to her upbringing and asked me for a lot of advice before she decided to have her first child a couple of years ago. Happy to report that she and the child are doing great! In your shoes, the thing I’d worry most about is your ability to manage anger. If you lash out violently now, that’s not likely to improve once you introduce children into the mix. Make sure you’ve got a good handle on that!

My backstory: I was sexually abused by a family member for the first 13 years of my life. On top of that, my mother has borderline personality disorder so she basically let me be abused, and was still quite friendly with my abuser until the day he died. I finally cut her out of my life shortly afterward, in my late 30s. It was the best decision I ever made in terms of my own mental health.

My present story: I’m 48 years old and have raised three awesome kids. They’re all doing well in life so far, at 18, 20 and 21 years old. Their dad and I have made our fair share of mistakes along the way, but nothing that came anywhere close to my own childhood.

PS: Don’t let your parents babysit.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Dear M (Sorry, I’m an engineer and can’t look at your @01101101 name without doing the conversion: 6D, 109.
You are already way ahead of most people in a similar situation. You know what is wrong and recognize how it affected you and others. Many people don’t. They are the ones who keep the cycle going. You get it!
That does not means you should run out and have a kid before you are stable. Have a loving relationship first then think about being a parent.

JLeslie's avatar

I think since you are self aware you can be a good parent. Take the time to read up on parenting techniques. What comes naturally to you to discipline, teach, and punish your children might be abusive. I don’t mean you are born with bad genes, I mean that is what you know, even if you know it’s bad. Take it upon yourself to learn better options. Also, I would say wait until you feel happy and safe yourself. That you have people in your life you trust. You should be in a safe place in your mind to provide a safe feeling for your children.

jca's avatar

The less stressors you have, the better it will be because even the most angelic children can stress the shit out of you sometimes. I get home from my 50 mile commute at around 6:30 and then have to cook dinner and deal with shower and homework, and I’m an “old” mother.

ibstubro's avatar

You need to focus on getting some help for your depression. That’s the root cause here.

There’s no reason that you can’t do and be anything you like in your life, but you have to get through the here and now.
Try to reward yourself with small successes. An outstanding paper, or a high mark on a test.
Get help, if help is available.

Yes, you have the capability of being a great spouse and parent.
You need find a way to make peace with the past and live in the present on the path to that goal.

CWOTUS's avatar

I loved @Seek‘s response, and I haven’t read much of the thread since then. I’ll get back to it later; I promise. But I thought I would offer something similar to what she did, but from a different perspective.

I’m nearly twice as old as she is, male, and my upbringing was in a stable, financially and emotionally secure household with two parents who loved each other and all of us unconditionally, and let us know it all the time. They weren’t atheists, but they weren’t religious nuts of any kind, either, so that wasn’t an issue. So, because my experience is so diametrically opposite hers, consider the response from the @Seek.-opposite

Even with that background … when we got married and had kids, my wife and I had to figure out nearly everything on the fly, too. Times change between our childhoods and our children’s, and the society around us changes, too. In addition, my wife had been abused as a child, too, in ways that took a long time for her to admit to me. Her father had been a violent alcoholic who would frequently come home drunk after a bender and beat the kids with a belt for no reason at all. (He’s never been like that during the term of our marriage; in fact, I’ve never known him to drink even a beer.)

However, neither her damage nor my cluelessness hurt our kids at all. (They’re both about the same age as @Seek now, in fact.) We made mistakes all the time. As @Seek says, the important thing is to recognize when you have, to own up to it and change your behavior, and apologize when that’s indicated. Learn – really learn – as you go, and get better.

From what you’ve written, I would expect that you’ll make a fine parent. Which is not to say “perfect”. That’s not an option. You are definitely going to screw up, big time, frequently and sometimes badly. Eh, that’s life. Since you’re approaching this with your eyes open and a full awareness and memory – one hopes – of what has been done to you, you should be able to contextualize what happened “then” and fully differentiate it from any future “now”. At least you’re thoughtful and aware, which is half the battle.

Two examples from my own “active parenting” days:

Despite her upbringing my wife had no trouble saying “I love you” when she felt that. Although I grew up in a loving home, no one ever actually said that out loud, so that was “different” for me. But after living with her for awhile before the kids were born, and forever afterward, it was normal and natural in our home to say the words out loud. So we did, all the time. Even now, when I speak or write to my son or daughter, we each find it perfectly natural to close the conversation with “I love you” on both sides. This would never happen – never did happen – between me and my parents. And I did love them; we just never said so.

Finally, when I was growing up, one of the rules we followed at dinner time was “eat all that’s put on your plate”. If I didn’t like the vegetable, then Mom would threaten me with, “If you don’t eat all of that, then I’m going to give you more.” Of course, the implication was that I would have to eat all of that, too, so I would finish the item that I didn’t like to avoid that. I tried that tack with my kids, too. I think she was about 7 years old at the time when I tried it with my daughter, who sort of cocked her head at me and told me very matter-of-factly, “Daddy, that’s nuts. If I don’t eat this and then you give me more of it, then I’m just not going to eat that, either.” Of course she was right – and smarter about that than I had ever been – and we dropped that stupid rule.

It helps – and it can be difficult! – to raise smart kids. But I hope you and they enjoy it.

cazzie's avatar

Being self aware is half the battle. Seeking out and learning tools to cope and parent in a different way than you were parented is another big part of it. You have time to think and ponder on the subject.

I wasn’t abused growing up, but I was abused by my son’s father and that has taken quite a bit to get over. I’ve been to counselling for PTSD and come out strong and part of the program was to get over my fear and learn to parent from a better place. I have very little support system here and rely on the public health system and social welfare programs available. They aren’t always really worth my time, but they have really helped.

janbb's avatar

Any parent has to work at being a good parent and being from an abusive family certainly means that the work may be harder. My mother was a narcissist with a short fuse and when I had my first baby and he was colicky, I had no idea how to handle it. When I saw that at times I almost lost control, I sought out therapy and worked to alleviate the stressors that made it hard for me to have patience. I got there but it was hard work. At every stage of my children’s lives, I have had to learn and grow. As a divorced mother of adult children I have had even newer skills to learn. It has all been the hardest and most rewarding task of my life.

As had been said above, if I were you, I would work on healing yourself first before thinking of finding love and being a parent. You need to reparent yourself; ideally with the help of a good therapist. You don’t say how old you are but why are you still in that house? You need to get out.

Good luck and keep in touch with us as you grow.

NerdyKeith's avatar

I think you would make a great parent. You can use your experiences as an example of how not to treat your own kids (if you have any).

Dutchess_III's avatar

My ex and I were on the downside of our marriage, and he was talking about wanting another baby. We got into an argument. I don’t remember the argument, but one thing still stands out. He said, “Being a parent is not something you think about, it’s just something you do.
I can’t disagree with that more strongly.

I think you’ll be fine.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Yes, as they had survived abuses and therfore know how it feels, to avoid treating othersdisrespectfully too.
If one feels that they might laspse into bad behaviour, then get help at that time.
Once you recognize the behaviour and where it comes from through understanding, then you have the tools to combat bad behaviour.

Bill1939's avatar

As children, we unconsciously establish patterns of behavior by witnessing the emotional reactions and actions of our parents. Their abusiveness becomes our reflexive response to a stressful situation. When feeling the necessity to chastise their children, parents are often surprised to hear their mouths speaking their parents’ words. This is especially true when progeny appear to challenge their authority.

Children need to feel loved. Fearing they will generate more abuse and be denied access to their parents’ love should they display the feelings being abused creates, they rationalize them to the best of a child’s limited ability, and believe the acts against them are justifiable and accept guilt. This distorted view of the world and oneself is accumulative and is a potential basis for neuroses and psychoses.

It is difficult to think about what we are doing when what is happening arouses strong emotions. Emotion tends to switch behavior to automatic, from conscious to unconscious diminishing the effect of one’s intentions. However, reflecting on undesired reactions can uncover their unconscious motivations; often the assistance of a professional will facilitate discovery. Reflexive behaviors are decreased as their reasons are revealed and made conscious.

One psychological technique that can help is to try to understand how one’s abuser came to be that kind of person. This added perspective does not diminish the abuser’s responsibility. However, by reversing focus from self to the abuser, one’s feelings of guilt and their expectation of punishment may be diminished. It is difficult to prevent being an abuser without such understanding.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther