I sometimes, take cues from my reader’s search terms in choosing topics to write about. Many people end up at Boomer Back-Beat trying to find answers as to why their teenage or adult child is abusing them. In this post, I share various reasons why a child will abuse a parent and in a subsequent post, I will discuss how to stop a child’s abuse.
Substance abuse is a common contributor to all kinds of abuse. If a teenager suddenly, becomes abusive toward a parent, drugs and alcohol should be a first suspect. If the parent is also, a user the problem is compounded. If the parent uses with their child,substance abuse has become a way of life in that family. Substance abuse is often a symptom of deeper emotional and psychological problems, that need to be faced. Often, these problems remain under wraps and find release when people are under the influence of drugs including, alcohol and are expressed through abuse. Children learn by what they observe and children who observe an intoxicated parent abusing the other parent, are likely to imitate that behavior in some form. They will identify with one parent or the other. They are also, likely to medicate emotional pain through substance abuse, when that is the behavior modeled for them. A household on drugs is a mad-house and a breeding ground for abuse of every kind. Substance abuse has to stop before families can uncover and deal with the deeper issues that fuel the substance abuse.
Single mothers often find themselves overwhelmed and abused by teenaged and young, adult children. Boys can be very hard for a woman to raise on her own and if there is no positive, adult, male role model for them, they sometimes, choose to bully their way into being the head of the household. Anger over divorce causes some children to ignore boundaries and bully parents, in order to get their way. Teenagers often have a black and white view of the world and can harbour anger, when reality disillusions them. A child who chooses to abuse a parent is a child in trouble, who needs help in sorting out their issues and grappling with their problems in a healthy way. The worst thing to do with an abusive teenager is to ignore their behavior or fail to hold them accountable for it. Parents still have some legal control over a teenager but once that child becomes an adult, then only law enforcement has the power to hold them accountable for their actions. Abused parents often feel guilty about the way their child is behaving and some guilty is probably warranted but the problem will only grow if ignored. A child will not outgrow abusive behavior. It isn’t just a stage they are passing through. If there is no intervention, an abusive teenager will grow up to be an abusive adult.
The most common cause of elder abuse is the cycle of family abuse, itself. There are cases where children are so terribly abused that they snap and even, murder a parent or parents. This is an extreme that thankfully, doesn’t happen often. Generally, the cycle of abuse is passed in more subtle ways from one generation to another. In abusive households, children are not treated as equals and there is generally, one child who is singled out and treated as a scapegoat. When a scapegoated child becomes a parent, they will often over compensate for their children, in an effort to prevent what happened to them from happening to their children. They will do too much for their children and also, be uncertain of their methods of discipline. They will likely, be inconsistent in their parenting methods. They will parent as scapegoats for their children. Children who observe their parent being manipulated and mistreated by grandparents, aunts, & uncles, will often imitate that behavior to gain control over a parent. They may adopt these techniques as a means of combating the control of an overly responsible parent. No matter what good intentions a parent may have, parenting governed by the parents past abuse, blinds that parent to the real needs of their children, in the present. A child with a manipulative bent will soon learn how to use that past against a parent and if nothing changes, the situation is likely to become one of full-blown elder abuse. The scapegoated child grows to become the scapegoated parent and will perpetuate the abuse through learned victim identity.
Children raised in an abusive household but aren’t the scapegoated child, often adapt some of the behavior of the abusive parent or parents. They are likely, to view the way they were raised as normal. Even if they work hard to do better than their parents, they repeat the same problems by reacting to their children as they are programmed to react. They may think of severe beatings or sexual deviance, as abuse but never understand or recognize emotional and psychological abuse and use the same techniques on their own children. Of course, there are those abusers who purposely, abuse their children but I believe that most parents perpetuate the cycle of abuse, unwittingly. Sometimes, it is being abused by their child that finally breaks through the false programming and makes them aware of the sick family dynamic that perpetuates abuse.
Presently, the economy is putting pressure on many families and people find themselves living in multi-generational situations. Though this is common in many cultures, it isn’t common for Americans and the adjustment is difficult. Parents want to maintain control of their household and adult children want to maintain control over their lives. Too many bosses in a over-crowded household can breed abusive behavior. Problems that have been ignored in the past, may force their way to the surface. Most American families have no background to fall back on in living in this kind of environment and working through it can produce a lot of tension. All adults concerned, have to be willing to set and maintain clear boundaries and treat one another with respect, if the peace of the family is to be maintained. All human beings are capable of abusive behavior when placed in a stressful environment that threatens personal control.
Taking care of sick, elderly parents isn’t easy. Frail old people can also, be very demanding and difficult to be around, let alone, be responsible for. Too many people think it is wrong to place their parents in some type of care facility, when that might be what is best for all parties concerned. There is much more shame in forcing one’s self to care for their parent, becoming overwhelmed and over-stress, and reacting by being abusive toward a parent, than in placing that parent in a retirement home. The goal should be safety and security for an aged parent and that can’t happen if there is only one over-worked care-giver involved. If professional care isn’t an option, then care for an elderly parent should be spread out and provided by several members in the family. Old people are as helpless as small children and it is never right to abuse them, no matter how obnoxious their behavior may be. As parents, we should do all we can to prepare for our old age and place as little burden on our children to care for us, as possible.
These are the main reasons why a child will abuse a parent. However, there are as many reasons as there are human beings. Abuse is never permissible, no matter the reason and abused parents should never accept mistreatment because they feel responsible. An abused parent who abuses their child, was probably, abused by their parents. Ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away, for another generation, will ensure the cycle of abuse continues. It is never too late to face the truth and begin to work to break the cycle.