How to Deal with an Abusive Past without Letting it Affect Your Parenting
Parenting is the toughest job in the world, even for those who came from healthy backgrounds. But if one or both of your parents were abusive, it will impact how you view parenting and possibly make appropriate parenting especially difficult for you. What you consider to be “normal” will be skewed.
For example, if your father often whipped you with a belt or told you how worthless you were, those behaviors were abusive. But to you, they were part of your normal life at home. Perhaps you grew up believing you deserved to be treated that way – either because you believed you were a really bad child or a truly worthless one.
Sadly, nothing could be farther from the truth. But it’s important that you learn to recognize those past behaviors as abusive, so that you don’t carry them forward into your own parenting. You see, even if you blamed yourself or thought it was normal to be treated that way, you probably also remember how painful it was for you. And most likely, you don’t really want your children to grow up with that kind of pain. Nor do you want them resenting you (as you probably resent your parents on some level).
Following are a few tips to help ensure that you don’t carry the abuse forward.
There are plenty of resources available to learn about abuse – whether it’s sexual, physical, or emotional. The more you understand about what constitutes abusive behavior, the better equipped you will be to avoid it yourself. As you learn about patterns of parental abuse, you’ll likely recognize things from your past. Educating yourself will also help you realize that you weren’t really bad or worthless as a child – and more importantly, that no child is bad or worthless. (It’s a very important distinction for parents to remember that only behavior – not the child himself – can be bad.)
Talk to Someone
Talking to a therapist about your past can be very beneficial. A therapist can help you develop the proper perspective regarding what happened to you growing up, as well as help you work through unresolved feelings associated with the abuse you experienced. If talking to a therapist isn’t a viable option, then it may be helpful to talk to a counselor at a church, or even a close friend.
The important thing is that by talking about it (rather than keeping it inside as a shameful secret), you take away much of its power.
Learn to Manage Your Anger
Abuse often stems from anger and frustration – and the inability to manage those feelings appropriately. If you find that you are often angry or frustrated with your children, or lose your temper easily, consider taking an anger management class. The last thing you want to do is take out your anger on your children. They don’t deserve it – and you’ll regret it.
Learn Appropriate Parenting Skills
Take the time to learn everything you can about being a good parent. There are plenty of books, CDs, classes, workshops, and other resources available. The time and money you invest in developing healthy, appropriate parenting skills will be well worth it. Not only will you have a happier home, you’ll feel better about yourself and have strong, healthy relationships with your children.