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Preventing Parental Abuse

Preventing Parental Abuse

Parent abuse is also known as the silent abuse because many times parents don’t report it. It is natural for teens to go through a separation period where they are trying to become individuals; however, sometimes it turns violent. There are several forms of parent abuse, including verbal, emotional and physical.

Keep an eye out that verbal assault(s) on one or both parents doesn’t turn to physical abuse, such as hitting, shoving, spitting or throwing things. Parent abuse is like spousal abuse. The abuser is usually remorseful and vows not to let it happen again, although it usually does.

Watch your child to see if he is a substance abuser. Sometimes, substance abuse goes hand-in-hand with physical or verbal abuse. The teen may also abuse siblings or pets.

Take the blame off of yourself unless you have abused your child. Many times, an abusive teen has experienced some sort of abuse, such as sexual, physical or emotional traumas. It is possible that he may not tell you that he’s been assaulted or abused if he feels guilty, embarrassed, and afraid or is protecting someone. If possible, ask your child about this.

Examine what changes have gone in within the family structure, at school or with friends. These changes may have a negative effect on your child, which may cause him to act out his anger toward you.

Confront your child to let him know this behaviour is wrong, and call your local family violence prevention agency for a list of qualified counsellors.

Tips & Warnings   Set strict boundaries for your child to let him know you are the one in charge. Get help for him and you. Family counselling should be considered. Don’t become an enabler by giving into the abusive behaviour. Parent abuse should not be tolerated.

Most parents have difficulty accepting that their teenager is abusive and may deny the problem. They often feel depressed, anxious, and ashamed that they were not able to “produce” a “happy” family. Their despair interferes with their ability to regain leadership in their families. In addition, some parents feel it is not safe for them to attempt to control the situation because they are in physical danger. Abused parents often feel unsupported and isolated.

Parents need to admit the abuse and talk about it, and then they need to find support. For support to be appropriate, it is important that service providers understand the dynamics of parent abuse. However, since this abuse has only recently been recognized, many service providers are uncertain how to help.

When parents use “gentle” attempts, such as reasoning, to encourage their aggressive teenager to stop the abuse, they are often ignored or treated with contempt. However, abusive teenagers often react even more aggressively if parents use force, and a vicious circle of mutual retaliation evolves. It is sometimes useful to gain the support of others to deal with the abuse in a non-violent way.

Because children often behave more respectfully in front of other people, a parent could call a friend to come to the house instead of reacting aggressively to a child’s refusal to obey rules or a child’s abusive behaviour.

For some families, removing the teenager from the home – for a short time, a longer period, or permanently – is the only way to stop the abuse. A single mother seeking help for all involved may find relief by giving custody to the father. The fathers oftentimes will blame the mother and offer no support for the horrific situation or counselling to the troubled teen. Once the immediate crisis has been handled and the teen removed from the home, parents need time, space, and support to deal with the effects of the abuse. They often find that healing is helped by their focusing less on the abusive teenager and more on reconnecting with more positive aspects of their own lives.

An increasing number of parents are the victims of physical and psychological violence perpetrated by their children, usually adolescent sons directing their attacks on their mothers. Parents shouldn’t have to live in fear of their children. Teenagers who are out of control are a danger to themselves and others. Parents who attempt to hide or ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away are doing themselves and their teen a great disservice.


What you can do to raise awareness of parent abuse? Invite parents, social service workers, therapists, community health nurses, and teachers to a one- day introductory workshop on parent abuse. Ask an abused parent to tell her or his story and have a counsellor talk about supporting parents and teenagers. Explore the reasons why parent abuse is not talked about and how we can raise awareness of this issue. Children abusing parents creates a sense of shame in parents. The lack of awareness for the topic makes it difficult to talk about. And the lack of training and support can be disastrous for families who struggle with this unspoken trauma.

We all expect older adopted children to be stressed and traumatized by their past, and by their adoption. However, none of us expect to be attacked. If you need help, you’ll find resources and support to be limited. However, here are a few action steps for you to take if you’re being abused by your child:

  • Most importantly, if you’re being abused, seek therapy for yourself and your child.
  • Create a plan for what to do whenever your child is violent. Learn to restrain your child, even though you will find it difficult to find anyone to train you in doing safe restraints.
  • Ask your therapist or use the example in Help for the Hopeless Child by Dr. Ronald Federici. It has an explanation of how to do a restraint, and how long to restrain your child. In addition to restraint, decide what support you need, and what consequence your child needs.
  • Have someone you can call on who has witnessed your child’s violence to support you if the police or social services come to your door, called by neighbours or strangers thinking you’re the abuser.
  • Develop a solid relationship with your paediatrician, therapist, or psychiatrist who will not only help you and your family, but will support you if you’re accused of being abusive.
  • Some parents suggest that you call the police when your child is violent towards you so that you have a “record” of your child’s abuse towards you.
  • Be sure you know ahead of time what their procedures will be.
  • Will they talk to your child, take them to the local juvenile detention center, or handcuff them and take them to the local psychiatric hospital?
  • Talk these things over with your therapist or paediatrician.
  • Keep a journal of your child’s behaviours so you have a record that it’s your child, not you, doing the abusing.
  • If you’re not an abused parent but understand the issue, let other parents share with you their worries, and their shame, and offer to help in any way you can. These abused parents may find it difficult to get support from anyone else.



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