I read an article recently on emotionally abusive parents and I couldn’t help wonder what do these people think they are doing to their own children when they treat them badly.
My most vivid memories from kindergarten, apart from the building and its surroundings, were the costumes we used to put on for pretend play, the potato stamps we made and dipped in different colours, and a little kid in glasses, a year younger than me, whom other kids took pleasure in upsetting. From this distance I think Michael had some neurological issues, he would bite his fist whenever upset and to other kids the sight was just hilarious, so they would yell at him a lot in order to get him to put his fist into his mouth and turn all red. I used to chase them away and tell him everything was alright. I was 5 at the time. And ever since I have resented any remarks stating that kids are pure and innocent. No, they are not. Babies are, but then they start interacting with adults and that’s the end of innocence. By the time they are 5, they have already evolved into sophisticated bullies, able to devise schemes to torture other kids, less capable or less vile than themselves.
So, how do these little, heavenly creatures become tyrants in such a short time? By being tyrannized by their caretakers. By being constantly denied the right to express their negative feelings, to cry, to yell, to get angry. By having no one to calm them down and teach them how to handle anger and disappointment. By being punished for being human, having bad days, having expectations and desires. If you get mad at your kid each time she does something you don’t approve of, the kid learns that getting mad and criticizing is the proper reaction to a problem. Well, I don’t need to tell you that it is wrong. By not respecting your child, the way you would grown-up people around you, you are modelling disrespect. By being respectful, you are teaching them respect. It’s as easy as that.
In my time I suffered from several bullies. After becoming a parent and learning a lot about parenting methods and mistakes, I think I can now paint a pretty accurate picture of family environment each of the kids that gave me hard time grew up in. In most cases it was a simple case of domestic violence, something nobody talked about when I was a child. Most of these kids evolved into well-functioning, friendly adults, probably carefully covering the scars they’ve got under their skins. But the fact that I still remember their bullying means that these unpleasant memories do not just go away. So, I don’t shy away from judging other parents’ bad conduct. If they are mistreating their children, I will most surely point it out to them, because by being abusive to our kids we are teaching them that abuse is OK, and we can surely expect them to be abusive to their peers. By standing up to bullies, I am now protecting not only some Michael out there, but my own children, as well.