Ishrat Jahan Holy
‘Yesterday, I was having a sudden urge to jump off the roof, but I was lazy to get up from my bed’. I looked shockingly at my fourteen-year-old cousin telling me this, with coldness in her voice, and her face, filled with apathy. I immediately knew she was not lying. Even though most of what she says are usually lies. This one was easy to differentiate. What led to her, an early-teenager to have suicidal thoughts was years of practice of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse by her parents, a horrible exercise that often takes place in our households. The terrifying part is it has been normalized in our culture over the generations. Sadly, the concept of bad parenting and its impact on children is still buried in the grave.
Practice of Physical Abuse: Necessary for Correcting Children?
Beating children for their wrongdoings is often preached as an ideal way to discipline the children. These children may seem to stop being mischievous temporarily; however, in long term, the beating tends to lose its impact and what adds to this is, low self-esteem, high social anxieties and in many cases, self-hatred. These kids grow up only to struggle with their confused emotions, attachment issues and constant need for validation. In some cases, the sufferings never end, as they never find good hands to heal themselves.
Physical abuse from anyone is crucially damaging for children’s brain development. It becomes significantly detrimental when it comes to parents, as children see their parents as their protectors of all evil actions. It harms their self-esteem and they start thinking low of themselves. They think they are unworthy of love and are being punished for their worthlessness. They perceive themselves to be the sole reason for everything negative happening in the family, especially, where the spousal relationship is not healthy. In addition, childhood is the period of learning about the surroundings, which requires the spontaneity of children. Abused kids lose the ability to explore and learn about their environment spontaneously which interrupts their regular brain development.
Excessive Lying in Children: Is It Normal?
Another out-turn of abusive parental behavior is compulsive lying. This is more common in children and typically develops due to the fear of punishment. At first, they lie to escape punishments but as they continue lying, they reach a point where they start lying for no apparent reason. For example, they would deny having lunch even though they had, or they might tell a story about visiting a place because they wished someone had taken them there. Parents tend to punish their kids for lying, which further encourages them to lie. Eventually, the pattern of lying gets steadily worse and they keep lying to friends, teachers, family members, and everyone around them. Growing up, they fail to develop a stable relationship with others as they continue to lie even when it interferes with relationships.
Drawbacks of Overprotective Parenting
Overprotective parents only establish compliance, completely ignoring communication. These parents adopt a harsh punishment system for minor offenses, give over-emphasis on becoming topper in school and strict reward and punishment model which dismiss the children’s needs to get creative. Children feel less of themselves as they are constantly being compared to their peers. These kids grow up to be materialistic and apathetic, devoid of concern for others. This parenting system also influences compulsive lying in children. Moreover, they learn to deal with hardships and solve problems on their own. In short, overprotective parents develop underprepared children who suffer greatly in the process of becoming competent adults.
Messed Up Children: Reflection of Their Parents?
The way of children’s learning is mostly observational, learning that occurs through observing the behavior of others. For children, their parents serve as their role models, meaning they assume their parents’ acts are the right way to behave. So, they try to imitate their parents’ behavior and practice on others. When parents beat children for the slightest inconvenience or show unchecked aggression towards them, these behavior starts being assimilated in children as well. They start projecting these behaviors with others, and especially with younger family members or acquaintances. The tendency to misbehave with outsiders can be noticed in them.
When they become teenagers and gain physical strength, a counter-reaction occurs. They start being reciprocal to the aggression shown to them by their parents. They suffer from anger issues and the frequency of conflicts with parents increases. In extreme cases, they raise their hands on their parents. More importantly, this aggressive behavior does not stay limited to their parents. This becomes their way of life, which pushes them to get involved in fights with their friends for minor issues. If they are not handled with care, enough attention and treatments, they can also cause violence in the community. On the contrary, children who are brought up in healthy, non-violent, caring families, are the least likely to raise hands on others in the future.
Carrying the Curse of Childhood Trauma
Childhood abuse not only affects children in making healthy social connections but also affects their future careers. They enter into professional lives with a deep-rooted inferiority complex and low self-confidence. They measure success to an unrealistic high standard. As a result, they never learn to appreciate their small achievements, which halt their progress. Moreover, the reasons behind high anxieties in young adults are strongly interlinked with their childhood trauma caused by parents. Having few to no friends or not having long-term friends are common indications of a history of childhood abuse. In some cases, they suffer from lack of focus, disorganization, impulsivity, hyperactivity, excessive talking and emotional problems. These traits might seem common for many people but these are symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The way parents behave with their children has a long-lasting impact on all of their lives. When parents project their feelings on their children, it negatively affects the children, yes, but the parents too have to compensate for life. When parents take their children for granted and fail to respect them as human beings, they ruin their parent-child relationship. Once the scope of developing mutual respect is lost, parents lose the place of trust and respect in their children’s lives. Children feel betrayed by their parents and subsequently, they grow up as young adults with real trust issues and insecurities. Their relationships fall apart and they submerge in darkness.
Breaking the Cycle of Bad Parenting
One may assume child abuse takes place only in the poorer families due to scarcity of resources. But the abuse that takes place owing to toxic parenting methods is hardly discussed. This occurs in well-off families, families with educated parents. This happens in developed countries, countries with the lowest poverty rates. People ignore talking about the emotional and physical abuse that takes place as they presume these abusive parenting methods as a protective mechanism. Their parents raised them in toxic ways and they are projecting the same feelings onto their children. We have an entire generation of bad parents who are products of a worse parenting system. It is a vicious cycle.
Needless to say, breaking this cycle of bad parenting is of utmost importance. The responsibility of fixing this cyclical practice of toxic parenting is on our generation. All we need is to acknowledge our limitations and act on it. We need to stop holding grudges and accept the fact that our parents did not know any better. Taking help from experts, we need to educate ourselves about the right parenting methods and preach them. But most importantly, we need to make a promise to ourselves, a promise to provide our next generation with healthy, caring parenthood and shower them with love, affection, and positivity.