Let me start by saying that I DO NOT, at any cost, support or advocate violence against children or any other human being or animal.
I would Simply like to share thoughts, what parenthood gets me thinking and understanding about the world around me. Especially about why maybe some parents may become violent against their children at a certain point. By violence I mean the use of harsh words, physical punishment, threats, intimidation, any reaction which shows that our emotions are not Under control anymore, that our agressivity is at loose and is expressed in a way that is meant to silence the other person. That often happens when we feel that we have tried everything else and that it is our only choice left.
Let’s go back to a time when we are single, we are free to manage our time and life as it pleases us. All we have to think about is our well-being, we organize our Leisure time how we want. Then we meet a special someone and we willingly choose to « sacrifice » a bit of our Freedom and start compromising. There might be some sort of resentment (conscious or not) because the Partner « prevents » us from being selfish ans self centered, we are forced to count on them for certain things, to take them into account before making decisions of any kind.
Further on, comes a little being, whether it was desired or not. The fact is that this little human requires a lot of time, Energy, space and dedication. The sleeping time is no longer what you want it to be, your life basically revolves around the rythm of the baby. Your plans are made according to it. You had to compromise for one person, an adult who could take care of themselves, you probably felt annoyed by them reducing your space, but you could deal with it because you could leave them on themselves from time to time, and they could take care of themselves. With the baby, that is not possible any more. They depend completely on you or they develop poorly and may even die if they are not taken care of.
Yes, some may say « you’ve chosen to have kids, deal with it ». I think that nobody is prepared for what parenthood is. It depends on your children, some are easier than others maybe, but, no one really tells you what it is about, and you Don’t know it until you experience it. There is a sort of silence about the harship of being a new parent, and even afterwards. Every body makes you Believe it’s wonderful, they never tell you how tired they are, how pissed of they are at times, how puzzled and alone they feel sometimes. Every body would just smile, say how great it is, how their life has changed (and Believe them it has), how rewarding a smile is, bla bla, bla. The truth is never told, and maybe if it were not many people would agree to have children. At this point of the post, I’m not sure how to cotinue it without scaring you out.
My point is really not to scare you out. There is wisdom in the middle of despair. I started by talking about violence from parents to children. I think that some of it (if not a great part), comes from a sort of resentment which the parents feel towards the child. They can’t allow themselves to express it, because it is socially scandalous to admit that you are tired from being a parent, that you sometimes miss the time when you were not, that you blame your child for taking too much of your space, time, Energy. You cannot say that, people would immediately look at you with a suspicious gaze and make you understand how much of a bad parent you are. But just because you Don’t say it, doesn’t mean that you Don’t feel it, and react accordingly. Your actions betray your feelings and your children sense it.
When I say violence, I Don’t only mean physical violence although it can also be that. Some parents do abuse their children in that way, and maybe it is because of those feelings (when there aren’t any other causes such as the alteration of their conscience due to drugs or alcohol). Have you ever wondered why you get so easily annoyed or irritated by your child ? Have you ever found that you were overreacting ? Have you ever felt that you Don’t love your children as you should ? Maybe you are dealing with that feeling of resentment.
What could you possibly blame your child for ?
« I can’t find time to do my own stuff now » ; « I haven’t slept a proper night for several months » ; « my body is not the same any more » ; « my wife prefers the child rather than me » ; « we Don’t have intimacy any more ever since the baby is here » ; « I had to give up my plans because I had a child » ; « my career is on hold because I raise my children » … etc. The reasons can be as numerous as there are parents, you find yours. You may not admit it, but trust me, there is (are), and the sooner you understand, the sooner you can begin to be more authentic.
It is important to acknowledge it, to allow yourself to feel and word it (of course you are not going to tell that to your child, it might be traumatising for them), you can tell that to yourself, your shrink, your Partner, any person whom you trust and who will not judge you and accept. It is a first step. Once you do that, you will be able to realize that your reactions are dictated by the things that are unspoken. Children are like sponges, they can feel us, and maybe some acts of nervousness in children can come from what they perceive in us, but they are unable to understand what they feel and their only way to express it is by acting out (verbaly or physically).
Being a parent is very demanding, we shouldn’t put ourselves extra pressure on.
So, if you regularly find yourself annoyed by your children, if you sometimes feel like treating them harshly without really understanding why you feel so excessively angry and you are about to burst and scream and even hit, stop and ask yourself where these feelings come from, why you are reacting so strongly. It’s important for us parents (or any one who is near children), to know our reactions, to be clear with our feelings towards them. A little child will never blame an adult, especially one who is it’s figure of attachment, a child will Always Believe that they are responsible, that they are bad and that they deserve a bad treatment. That’s how we learn to become pleasers and learn to accept to be poorly treated by the others. It is our duty to make sure that our reactions are not the translation of our unspoken feelings which convey them a sense of fault. We react as if we were unconsciously taking a revenge.
In any case, when you feel overwhelmed by the urge to strangle your child (I know you won’t do it, but you will certainly do Something else, such as spank, scream, speak harshly, punish them, etc., all of wich are acts of violence), the first thing you can do is pause and not react immediately. If you can, go to another room and drink some water. See how you can react in a more constructive way, because it’s proven that no rational decision can be made when you are Under emotions. Try and see how serious the action is, is it Worth yelling and punishing, or spanking ? What can your child learn from the situation ? Children learn how to deal with their emotions from us, so if they see us burst, yell, hit, how will they react ? They will certainly burst, yell, hit when the time comes for them too. We can learn to verbalize our feelings, when we feel angry, we can say that we feel angry, that we feel like yelling or hitting, but we aren’t going to do it because we can do otherwise. We can pinch a pillow, we can draw our anger on a piece of paper, we can stamp our feet, we can go for a run (emotions need to be evacuated by any means), but we are not allowed to take our anger and frustrations out on someone else. That is normally what we want them to learn so, we should start by doing it ourselves, that’s our best way of teaching them how to cope with violent feelings.
I’ve tried to describe how difficult it can be to be a parent (especially a new one), how frustration can lead to resentment and acts of violence towards the children. I’ve given a few tips on how to deal with those moments when we are about to burst.
I would really love to know your feelings about this subject. If you are a parent, were you prepared for what you experienced afterwards ? How do you deal with strong emotions related to your children ? If you are not a parent yet, are you scared by what I’ve described ? How do you deal with strong emotions in general ? What have you learned from this post ? Let me know if you want more articles about other subjects related to parents / children relationships.
Let’s take care of ourselves.
See you around !