There are times I find it very hard to keep my tongue in check. I have to remind myself that I can not get involved with every ugly situation I come across and that sometimes doing so is asking for trouble. This is most true when I see parents behaving in an abusive manner toward their children. Abuse can take so many forms, not just the overt physical kind we have worked hard to bring into the light. Abuse can be subtle, and it often does not require even the threat of violence, though often that threat is present though a hand is never raised.
I know I can not know the circumstances behind every nasty exchange between a parent and child. There are stories, often long and winding, that were written before the scene I get to observe. Still, some behavior is beyond the pale. Telling your teenager to “shut the fuck up,” to me, is an example of such unacceptable behavior. I get the need to control a very young child for their safety, that is entirely different. To demand absolute obedience out of someone on the verge of adulthood is foolish. No, worse than that, it is oppression. They have as much of a right to express their feelings as you do. Maybe they cannot live on their own yet, especially given our societal constraints and shortcomings, but holding that over their head makes you that much more of a bully.
I am not quite sure why parents believe they are owed respect without first showing it. I often hear the reasoning “because I’m your mother/father,” but so what? You want a pat on your back for following your biological imperative? Maybe it is because you provided food and shelter for that young person for fifteen to eighteen years. Well guess what? You were the one that decided to make a life, which means you decided to take on the burden of what it means to bring another human being into the world. The childish retort of “I didn’t ask to be born” isn’t so childish when you really wrap your head around it. Discharging your duty as a parent is not showing respect, it is the minimum required of you and thinking you are owed for that kind of makes you a jerk.
I know for a lot of you my words will lack legitimacy, because I have no children of my own. That is crap reasoning though and any of you worth a damn will at least consider what I have to say here. Because so many of these kids deserve so much better than they get. It is not entirely your fault, I know. Parenting is not easy, and you spend the first 12 years of it trying to make sure they just stay alive. I get it, it’s stressful. I also get it being hard to get out of that “because I said so” rut that was so necessary because it was easier than answering fifty questions to keep them from sticking their hand on the hot stove. I do get it.
That said there comes a time, and it is always sooner than you are prepared for, when they can start thinking for themselves. When they can start dealing with the consequences of their actions on their own. Worse of all that time is a gigantic gray area because they can’t always cope with those consequences without you. They do need, however, the space to find that out. They are not just extensions of you , and at that point they are not fragile little creatures that need you dictating their every move. If you want them to respect you, you have to show some respect yourself, and frankly the onus is on you, not them, because you are the adult.
Of course you will slip up, and this post isn’t really for the parents who do. It is for those who continually berate and belittle their teenagers. It is for those who feel so small themselves that they need to keep their child tiny to feel strong if only for a bit. It is for those who need to rule their children rather than teach them. Young adults are among the least powerful members of our society, and they need our love, protection and guidance, not our bellowing voices imposing our insecurities on them. Because they really don’t owe you, it is you who owe them, and yourselves, the opportunity to be the people they are becoming.
- Emotional Assault: Recognizing an Abusive Partner’s Bag of Tricks Top Seller in Abuse, Self-Help and Codependency Categories at Amazon (prweb.com)
- Pain at home: Seen through the weary eyes of a Ghanaian teenager (modernghana.com)
- What Is Emotional Abuse? (credibleexpertwitness.wordpress.com)
- To spank or not to spank, that is the question. (babymamasblog.wordpress.com)