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Children Abusing Parents

Children Abusing Parents

I hope this topic is of no interest to you. I hope you don’t know anyone who has been abused by their child. I hope your child has never abused you. Unfortunately, this abuse does occur. Yet, no one talks about it or writes about it or reports on it.

Try doing a search on any of the main WWW search engines. Look for “children abusing parents,” or “children’s violence towards parents,” or “children’s violence.” The results will include articles about parents abusing children, about abuse of elderly parents, and about how violence from parents creates children who are abusers as adults.

  • Nothing about six-year-olds being restrained from pummeling their parents.
  • Nothing about 12 year olds that need to be sat on to keep from injuring their mom.
  • Nothing about children, who pick up six-foot long sticks and threaten their parents, stopped only by the guile and quickness of the parent.

As adoptive parents of older children, the topic of children abusing parents is one that cannot be ignored. There are no statistics. No one talks about it. But emails to our Older Child Adoption website often come from hurt parents looking for a place to share, vent, and seek support for this seldom discussed topic.

Older adopted children may be abusive due to a variety of circumstances in their backgrounds.

  • They may have grown up in violent and abusive birth families, foster homes, or orphanages.
  • They may be affected by reactive attachment disorder, bipolar, or other disorders that can include violent behaviors.
  • They may be filled with so much grief and anguish that they it seems to them that their only release is through violence.

Their abusive violence may last for a couple days, several weeks, many months, or longer. The duration will depend upon the causes, personality of the child, and how quickly you seek therapy interventions for your child.

Dealing with abusive children provides adoptive parents with multiple inter-connected challenges. They are being abused. Yet, help and support are unavailable. Friends and family may say, “Well, what did you expect with a child who’s adopted?” Or, when they ask for help, they may be turned into the reason for the child’s abuse i.e. poor parenting, or worse, accused of being the abuser.

A few years ago, at a meeting of mental health professionals who were discussing RAD (reactive attachment disorder) issues, I asked about learning safe ways to restrain my daughter. I was variously told, “Oh, restraining holds can be very dangerous,” or, “I took a two-day class in restraining holds and still wouldn’t want to do one.” When I displayed my abundant bruises, scratches, and bite marks, and asked again, “How do I protect myself?” there was silence, then mumbles about finding my daughter’s triggers so she wouldn’t get violent, suggestions that I learn to parent her better, etc.

There is little awareness among professionals and the general public about children abusing parents. That may be due to several issues.

  • It’s hard to grasp the idea of a blond-haired, blue-eyed, eight-year old girl, inflicting body and facial wounds to her mother.
  • There’s been such strong (and needed) effort to educate people about parental child abuse, that the reverse situation seems unthinkable a cover-up a made-up story.
  • Many professionals are untrained and unaware of the potential violence that young children can bring upon their parents due to their mental, emotional, and behavioral issues.

While unscientific, it’s interesting to note that in a local support group of about 40 families whose children have emotional and/or behavioral disorders, nearly all of the parents have been physically attacked by their children. One mom says, “Until I found the support group I’m in, I was embarrassed that my son was doing this to me. I had an incredible sense of shame.” She elaborated by sharing that once, while in a parking lot, her son began smacking her and kicking her. She pushed him to the ground and sat on him to restrain him. A passerby yelled, “I’m going to call the police and report you for hurting your son.”

One of the few articles on the WWW about parental abuse is at In their article, Parent Abuse, they write: “Whatever the age, a parent that is being abused by their child must begin to seek help as soon as the abuse starts. These parents must tell someone–anyone; a doctor, trusted friend, family, therapist–even law enforcement. Will the child get in trouble? Probably, yes”

It is embarrassing and frightening to tell someone that your child is abusing you, but think of it like this: the abuse that a parent suffers from at the hands of their own children is far worse than anything that can happen to them as a result of their actions. The parent is in far more danger than the child is. It is a gut wrenching decision for a parent to turn their child in, but that child needs help, and the parent needs help in dealing with it.


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