Parenting Wisdom For
How parents relate with one another influences their children’s behavior. The child exposed to spousal abuse suffers deeply and displays problematic behavior as a result.
When one parent relates disrespectfully, inconsiderately, condescendingly, hostilely, cruelly toward the other parent, the child is caught in the middle and is torn.
On the one hand, the child feels resentful toward anyone who mistreats his parent. Additionally, the child feels that he too is being attacked, as he identifies with his parent’s emotional experience that intimately. The child feels the need to stand up against anyone who mistreats his parent, including his other parent.
On the other hand, because modeling impacts child behavior at a very deep level, the child is learning to treat his parents the way he perceives his parents being treated.
So what we have here are two ways that spousal abuse drives the child to behave rebelliously.
While the child feels the need to attack the attacker of his parent, he also feels compelled to attack his parents (and all other authority figures, like an Akido instructor or a substitute teacher) the way he sees his parents being attacked. Additionally, because the child so deeply identifies emotionally with his parents, the child feels compelled to attack himself as he sees his parent being attacked. Thus, the child suffers from low self-esteem and makes choices counter to his own best interests.
It’s too easy for parents to overlook the deeper levels of the child’s conscious and subconscious experience and merely react to the child who seems rebellious, disrespectful and uncooperative. It’s far easier to just punish the child for a display of disrespectful behavior than to look deeply enough to see how the parent herself drives the child to that behavior.
If you are a parent on the receiving end of verbal or psychological (which includes physical and fiscal) spousal abuse, you have far more power to improve the situation than you may realize.
The important thing is to not strike back and lash out. Consider instead what you want to contribute to the situation, to the world even. If you allow yourself to automatically react in a defensive or offense way, or to sink into the despair of victim-thinking, you merely add to the damage being done by the abusive parent.
If you instead hold fast to your commitment to bring understanding, dignity, and a constructive influence into the situation, you rise above the abuse and grow in real power. Real power is characterized by one’s ability to not be controlled by others. When we seek to control others to make ourselves feel better, we are actually being controlled by others. We are counting on them to make us feel better. When we can get them to behave differently, we will feel okay. They have all the power over how we feel.
But when we take charge of our response and remain calm, confident, respectful and constructive, we take back our power. We get to decide what we want to accomplish and we apply our power to make that happen. Whether the other person chooses to cooperate or not does not really matter. We are taking charge of the one “thing” that is within our power to take charge of: our response. And by taking charge of that we feel a sense of purpose and self-respect, and we grow in power as we make the best use of our power.
If your spouse is tearing your child apart by relating to you in a demeaning, cruel or cutting fashion, focus on your internal reaction to that.
To the extent that you are concerned about influencing or changing or controlling your spouse in any way, you are giving your power to that spouse, which encourages more abusiveness.
Focus instead on the quality of your reaction. Choose to remain free of insecurity and feelings of intimidation. Resist any urge to retaliate in kind.
Consider what your child needs to emerge from this situation as whole as possible.
One thing that the child needs is for you to remain whole. If you become emotionally torn up over your spouse’s mistreatment, your child will feel more deeply injured on an emotional level.
As you demonstrate a calm, confident, secure and constructive attitude you make good use of your own power and you model that for your child and thus help your child grow emotionally through the difficult challenge of exposure to his parent’s spousal abuse.
Bob Lancer presents motivational seminars and inspiring speaker engagements that recharge school teacher inspiration and faculty team building.
Reignite teacher passion for bringing greatness into the classroom every single day.
Call 770-364-9580 or email to schedule a seminar or speaking event or to discuss your faculty team building and school staff motivation needs for your next teacher in-service day or day of appreciation for your hard working school faculty.