When parents hurt their children

Posted by Samantha on September 18, 2013 in Courage, Guilt, Safety, Thought for the day, Violence |
Let's not keep pretending the way we're living isn't hurting them

Let’s not keep pretending the way we’re living isn’t hurting them

Daniel Pelka was murdered by his mother and her partner because adults were scared of wrongly accusing his mother of abuse.

Now that he’s dead people are shocked the abuse could get so bad without detection.


But it’s not so hard to understand really.  These days we are not allowed to say (out loud!) that there is any such thing as a bad parent, lest we be accused of heaping blame on already guilty parents.

But the uncomfortable truth is that there are very many abusive parents out there.

Even more uncomfortably, there are very many parents who are hurting their children dreadfully through practices we deem “normal” – for example, relationship and marital disharmony, infidelity, separation and divorce, remarriage, long working hours, devotion to hobbies, frequent socialising.  I could go on.

Children are not depressed and eating disordered and abusing drugs and alcohol and out of control and failing in school for no reason.  Children these days have very many reasons to be furious at adults.

That’s no different than before though.  What’s different today is that we have muddled upon a way of empowering and yet abandoning children which is giving rise to increasing numbers of children expressing their pain and suffering in increasingly diverse ways.

There is no silver bullet for the malaise we see in the lives of so many children today.  But I was taught that all successful cure begins with accurate diagnosis.

It might feel good to tell ourselves that we are doing great as parents – like the baby food and nappy ads tell us.  But the data is telling a different story.

Our children are struggling because we are failing them.  And we are failing them because we are frightened of facing up to our own imperfections as parents and taking it on the chin like adults.  We prefer to bleat that it makes us feel guilty to hear such things.

We must seize that guilt and examine it.  Then we can reject it if it is false guilt (e.g. feeling guilty about having to work or give our children rules and boundaries for their behaviour).

Or we can learn from it and change if the guilt is well founded.  This is the whole point of guilt and human conscience.  It is a mechanism to guide our behaviour.  We must remember how to use our guilt functionally.  Not merely run away from it.

When we face our own parental guilt and resolve it, it will be less difficult for all of us to tell the difference between an abusive parent and a “could do better” one.  And fewer children like Daniel Pelka will die.




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