Previous: Abuse of Children (Part 1)
SEE ACRONYM Page for abbrev.
ARTICLE re. Isolating a child
Some Patterns of Child-Abuse (cont.)
DEF: Giving a child/youth responsibilities that are far greater than their age can handle, or using a child for profit:
• sexually abuse child or youth
• anger when infant fails to meet a developmental stage (walk or potty train by a certain age); infants expected to not cry
• hold responsible for or blame child/youth for misbehavior of siblings
• expect child to be ‘caregiver’ to the parent, and young child expected to take care of even younger siblings
• require / demand that youth supports family financially
• give unreasonable responsibilities for jobs around the house
• require or encourage child/youth to participate in sexual exploitation, such as pornography
DEF: continual unwanted verbal & physical attention – any form of boundary invasion; persistently confuse, disturb, interrupt, annoy, pester, torment – as with parental attacks, demands, questions, rants, needs, troubles, worries…… undercut by constant criticism
This can include humiliation, stalking, being picked on & bullied, at home or anywhere (school, on the internet…).
• ALSO – abuse includes parents who do nothing to protect/defend their child when being harassed by anyone, whether by other family members, people in a religious community, at school or in the neighborhood. Harassment puts great stress on a child – creating fear, anger, resentment, even hopelessness. Long-term exposure to anxiety changes children’s nervous system, causing physical problems & lowering their ability to deal with other stressful situations – throughout life.
INCONSISTENCY (Extreme &/or Persistent)
DEF: Parents not having a stable, dependable or rational standard of character, feelings or behavior, such as rules that are not consistent with actions. Changing something frequently in a way that is not predictable.
a. Accidental: when parents are too tired, too busy or have forgotten to follow up on a plan, supervise children’s chores or keep a promise…. It sets a bad example by giving kids the message that promises don’t count & rules aren’t hard & fast, so they have ‘permission’ to ignore them too. This undermines normal expectations.
b. Deliberate: Intentional inconsistency shows that a specific exception “proves the rule” by letting kids know in advance when something in their routine is different because of a special circumstance (illness, returning from vacation, moving, a recent emotional stressor….). While they don’t have to do something (chores, homework, practice, church….), this time, things will go back to normal in a short while. Intentional exceptions reinforce normal expectations.
c. Dysfunctional: This type of inconsistency has to do with the parent/ caretaker having unpredictable mood swings & outrageous or shameful behaviors that are never explained & often irrational, because they’re not related to an obvious circumstance that can be understood or predicted. It leaves kids never knowing what is expected of them or when they’ll get punished for doing something ‘normal’ (like just walking past the parent, sometimes the child is ignored, sometimes hit, sometimes cursed out or threatened…
d. Parental inconsistencies include:
• unstable emotional states (one time a parent says they love/ need you…. the next they can’t be bothered or can’t stand you -‘come here, go away’).
• terrorizing child by yelling or raging – alternating with periods of self-centered, needy attention / fake warmth
• changing house rules – confusing demands & expectations of the child
• unpredictable, extreme & dangerous responses to child’s behaviors
• not keeping promises (which they never meant to keep anyway) or which was given while drunk/ in a blackout…. so they don’t remember what they said
• being hypocritical in their own actions (kid punished for lying but parent lies all the time…)
▶︎ Dysfunctional unpredictability creates anxiety in children, with a lack of trust in the adults – not knowing the right way to function & live in the world. Without stable rules to base choices on, it’s hard for children to trust their own judgment & decision-making, because what they internalize is chaos & uncertainly. This effects all areas of learning & will hamper or destroy normal social interactions, including social phobias, isolation, no risk-taking… “Sometimes they yell when I’m playing & sometimes they give me toys to play with”
✶ A consistent parent gives the child a gift of knowing what to expect – as much as possible – which makes their world safe.
a. Leaving children alone to fend for themselves. Both a & b are types of NEGLECT (Part 3)
b. DEF: “To separate the child from others, or to cut the child off from normal social experiences (friends & family) which results in extreme aloneness”. This form of control can be done seductively (“I need you, you’re my special little boy / girl”) or brutally (“Everyone knows how bad you are. No one else wants you”), & is usually accompanied by other forms of emotional abuse & physical abuse.
• It serves to keep the child attached to the caretaker – to be used as a companion, spouse substitute, punching bag &/or slave. Equally important, it prevents the child from being able to tell others about the abuse they’re experiencing. Depending on the severity & duration, isolation limits the child’s knowledge about the world & any options it may have other than staying with the perpetrator. It prevents the child from forming it’s own identity & keeps it dependent on the caretaker to the point of being afraid to interact socially, sometimes for the rest of its life.
EXP of Isolating a Child (C.)
• insist C. study, practice, do chores…. excessively & sometimes to the point of exhaustion
• lock in closet, in their room, in basement…(especially for long periods)
• OR lock C. out of the house, especially when quite young
• keep C. away from one parent or extended family members, if parents are separated
• prevent C. from having friends & participating in activities outside the home, while praising / rewarding C. for withdrawing from social contact
• make C. look and act differently from peers (weird or inappropriate clothes, not groomed…. )
Emotionally, the child is left confused, terrified, lonely, depressed & hopeless.
NEXT: Abuse of Children (Part 3)