1. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    Help Writing an Abusive Relationship

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mikmaxs, Jun 29, 2017.

    I always write a pre-amble even though the title explains what I'm going for, but this time imma skip it because it seems gratuitous and this is already going to be a long post because I need to set up a lot of context.

    Basically, I'm something like 65,000 words into a WIP (I haven't done an actual count recently, that's just an estimate based off of average words-per-chapter and the number of chapters I have done) and have slowly been coming to the realization/decision that having my character come from an abusive family would make the story function a lot better, add more depth to her character, make her motivation stronger, and generally improve a whole lot of things.

    Here's quick summary of the plot setup: (At least, the relevant bits)
    Adelyn is the protagonist, living in an analogue of mid/late-1800s western America, but with magic and fantasy tropes mixed in. She's 15-16, lives on a farm, and recently came into a magical talent. That town was attacked by a bandits, who burned lots of stuff, stole more stuff, and kidnapped about fifty people. About a month and a half go by while she tries to keep the family farm from completely going to pieces after most of the crops were burned, haemorrhages her family's savings, and tries to find someone who can go after the bandits and rescue everyone - The local law enforcement is horrendously understaffed and there is no military presence capable of going after them.
    She eventually finds a bounty hunter/mercenary named David willing to take the job, hires him, and they go off on the quest to find where her family/townsfolk were taken and take them back. She learns to fight, gets better at magic stuff, they have hijinks, etc.

    Currently, though, I've got several structural problems that aren't story-killing, but make some things weaker than they should be.
    Firstly, the stuff with David is just... More interesting. At least, in my opinion. Adelyn drives the story, since it's her decision that sets the plot into motion and she has plot agency throughout the story, but her motivations are pretty straightforward: Rescue her family. Her personal conflict mostly comes from not being capable of actually doing that on her own, and feeling kind of useless/helpless since she's initially incapable of holding her own in a fight or doing much magic beyond 'Big ball of energy'.

    She also lies a lot in the first half, mostly to keep her magic powers a secret, but I feel like this isn't really a character trait that makes a lot of sense? Like, she has reason to keep her powers a secret, since a lot of people are bigoted against sorcerers in this setting, but as the story goes on she's excessively secretive even past the point where she could reasonably just be honest without risking anything. She's both untrusting and untrustworthy, and resorts to violence as a first solution in several situations where it's not really necessary.

    Finally, her family really doesn't exist as more than a plot object right now. They're unobtanium, a MacGuffin, they exist purely as a story goal so that Adelyn has a reason to go on a quest. I've considered writing flashback chapters with them, so that I can give her father, mother, and possible brother an identity, but those chapters would be incredibly inefficient and wasteful if ALL they did was give some plot MacGuffins a bit more of an identity.



    Which brings me FINALLY to the solution at hand, and where I'm at a sticking point. If I make her parents abusive, it provides an impetus for her generally untrusting behaviors, adds more motivation behind her general inferiority complex, paranoia, and feelings of helplessness. It gives her more of a character arc than 'Gets better at fighting', since she'll be able to grow as a person and ultimately reject the idea that she needs to prove herself to her family. It adds more plot movement and character revelations to the flashback scenes. Finally, it provides a character history that I don't think really exists in this genre - At least in my experience, the only time I see abusive parents or relationships in fantasy stories, (which is already rare), it's comically over-the-top nefarious evil, and especially in stories like this (Where rescuing the parents or otherwise protecting them from harm is the inciting incident,) fantasy novel parents are usually perfect angels of grace and kindness, existing to dispense token wisdom and moving speeches about responsibility.


    My problem (In the writing sense, not in the real-life sense, I'm extremely grateful for this) is that I have no first-hand experience with abusive relationships. To a certain extent I am using this as a plot device, but I don't want it to be poorly done - If I'm going to do this in my story, I want to do it well, and in a way that doesn't tokenize or fetishize abusive relationships as a way to make the character seem "Deep" in and of itself, like having abusive parents is somehow a virtue. It's a sensitive topic for a lot of people, and I really don't want to screw it up. So, I'm turning to other people who might know how to do this better. (Or tell me off if it's just a really stupid idea, which I accept may also be a possibility.)
     
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    It is not stupid.

    You just need to establish the abuser and the abusee.
    Then figure out what type of abuse you want to go with.
    Usually their is a mix of emotional and physical abuse.
    but it is not all exclusive to both, and can be one or the
    other.

    Don't really know which angle you want to take with your
    abusive relation as there is a lot of non explicit question
    to answer.

    Over all it can be how they come to stand up to the abuser,
    and either leave or reshape the way their relation works
    so they stop getting abused.

    That may pesos. :)
     
  3. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    There are all kinds of abuse. Not all abuse would give the desired quirks in behavior to your MC. She could become reticent or stutter or develop agoraphobia. I would think, IMHO if it isn't really pertinent to the story and if not carefully crafted it could turn some readers away. Too close to home and all that. That being said I have read books with abuse being the theme, but it also addressed a discovery, or a victory over the damage.
     
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  4. JPClyde

    JPClyde Senior Member

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    Going to chime in with everybody. Before you try to write an abusive relationship, figure out why type of abuser you have. What techniques they use. I have videos about all kinds of personality traits and types of abusive behaviors are the techniques they use, etc. If you need help.

    And then design how you want the victim is to be presented.

    I always kind of setup my victim and the abuser as; Signs and symptoms

    The abuser is the Signs something is wrong. The Victim is the symptoms of what is wrong.
     
  5. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    As for the type of abuse, what I had in mind was more verbal abuse and emotional manipulation, both so that it's not immediately explicitly obvious, so that Adelyn doesn't initially realize that it is abusive until she has time to consider it objectively while they aren't around, and also because I'm not sure I want to write anything violently abusive. If it does get violent, that'll be a very rare thing that happens, not a consistent and regular part of the abuse.

    @JPClyde , if you could link me those videos I'd appreciate it.

    @Thundair , that's why I want to be careful - I don't want it to seem shoehorned in or just bad.

    @Cave Troll , By the end of the story she'll be walking away from her parents and cutting off that relationship.
     
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  6. JPClyde

    JPClyde Senior Member

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    Not a problem.
     
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I had pair of dysfunctional parents, and while I wouldn't call them abusive, that has resulted in my reading a lot about family dysfunction, and it's not as if the abuse is sorted out from the lesser dysfunction. So I've done plenty of reading about abuse.

    My general advice is: Read read read. Also read.

    DWIL Nation, a forum about dysfunctional families, points to a lot of source material in their sticky. Search for "books" to jump to the list of books and links.

    https://community.babycenter.com/post/a25362221/the_sticky_-_new_year_same_rules_and_guidelines

    I do find myself uncertain about her characteristic of resorting to violence as a first solution. Maybe it's just that the subset of adults-who-were-abused-as-children who go to forums on the subject are rarely violent--maybe that's why it just feels "off" and unlikely to me.

    (edited to correct 'restoring' to 'resorting')

    Edited to add: Don't post to DWIL. That is absolutely not what I mean. I'm just suggesting the list of sources in the sticky.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
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  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I have a middle-aged friend whose mother was terribly emotionally and mentally abusive to her. The poor girl was never allowed to do anything for herself, in the certainty that she would make a mess of it. She was never allowed to choose her own clothing, or make any decisions, or keep friends her mother didn't approve of, etc. Her mother is long-dead, but my friend still runs everything past the Mom-O-Meter. Would Mom have liked this? Mom would have hated that. What would Mom say? Mom always said.... Mom never wanted me to do this. And etc.

    In short, abuse doesn't have to be physical, or even particularly ill-meant by the abuser. This person's mom probably thought she was taking over her daughter's life because the girl was young and the mom had all the experience and wouldn't screw up. However, the effect on my friend's self confidence and ability to take decisions has been lifelong, and she is terrified beyond all reason of making a mistake, or being seen as being incompetent or foolish. It means she doesn't do anything at all without a lot of outside pushing. She's the last person to tackle something new or different. She hates going places she's never been before because she's certain she'll get lost.

    That kind of abuse is an evil influence, even if it's not meant that way. The best thing a parent can do is equip their child to deal with the vagaries of life, not keep them from doing anything in case something goes wrong.

    ...............
    I expect the flip side of this coin might be the rebellious offspring, who, once free of 'Mom's' stifling influence, does whatever the hell they like and damn the consequences. Even this is a reaction to Mom, though. The more Mom would have hated 'this,' the better? Not normal either.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
  9. Pauline

    Pauline Member

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    Yes he said that.
     
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  10. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    A friend (G-F) of my daughter heard a year ago that a former boyfriend (B-F) had committed suicide. Since they broke up, a decade ago, he'd suffered mental issues and serious drug abuse, so no longer the sweet young teenager that she'd known and who had won her family's regard.

    However, on the way back from B-F's funeral, the girl's mother told her to break up with her current boyfriend because "he'll never match up to B-F". Since then, she has wallowed in "grief". She's been to three separate grief counsellors, dumping them whenever they suggest that she's milking it.

    We saw her a week or so ago, and her mother turns up and repeats the mantra that "it's been a terrible year for G-F", emphasising how much she still misses B-F, basically legitimating infinite grief - for somebody she dated as a young teen, and hasn't seen in ten years - and tying her into a cycle of child-like dependency upon the mother.

    I'm not sure I'd categorise that as abuse, but it's certainly not healthy parenting.
     
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  11. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    'Toxic' rather than deliberately abusive relationships can do a hell of a lot of damage to kids, leaving them unable to function effectively as an adult. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is hard for the victim to recognise, sometimes. They fall into the trap of thinking the parent is acting 'for the best' and either forgive them too readily, or—worse yet—continue to participate in the toxicity long after they should be living their own lives without parental interference.

    A child doesn't have many options, especially if the abuse is subtle and not physical. But the adult 'child' does. However, they can refuse to admit to the problem, or find a way to cut the strings. I find that incredibly sad. The idea of creeping through life, trying to gain approval from somebody who is never going to give it, seems like such a waste.
     
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  12. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Hmmm. I wouldn't make them too abusive. I've seen a lot of abused children. They don't tend to act heroic as in -- lets help out a community. In fact they get rather withdrawn and often cynical and are usually only interested in taking care of themselves because no one else did. What you want is the mc to be tough but still empathetic. Maybe only one parent was abusive?
     
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  13. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    I agree with this.

    Personally I don't think you should make your character 'abused'. Don't cast them as a victim. Give them a rough childhood, sure, give them a family who are unstable or live in poverty or who are just jerks, but don't just go 'Eh, they were abused'. Don't make the character see themselves as a victim or indeed see their family as abusers. Because that's not how the vast majority of abuse happens. The majority of the time (so called) abuse is the exception not the rule and it's the result of stress, mental illness or substance abuse. Few parents hit their kids every day just to teach them a lesson. Typically there'll be a handful of occasions when (say) the family were going to lose the house and the kid won't shut up and in the moment the parent looses their temper and lashes out. And that's wrong and that's bad, but that doesn't stop kids loving their parents or from having happy memories. That's kinda the reality of what 'abusive' really looks like to most people and, honestly, it doesn't leave that much of a mark on them because it's not that big a deal. Severely abused kids are a whole other thing though.

    Childhood trust issues tend to come from the mother by the way. Typically fathers will set a few specific boundaries and stick very firmly to them so there's an inherent trust that the father will play by his own rules. It tends much more to be mothers who go nosing through their kids room just on the off chance there's anything to find and it's specifically that kind of thing that leaves kids with problems about trust.
     
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  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The scapegoat/golden child dynamic could work here. Often dysfunctional parents choose one child as the "good child" (golden child) and one as the scapegoat. The golden child more of gets everything--resources, opportunities, praise, and total immunity from punishment. The scapegoat gets less of everything. Everything the golden child does is glorious and praseworthy; nothing that the scapegoat does is good enough.

    The end result, perhaps non-intuitively, is that the golden child grows up deeply handicapped, from never having to face a challenge, in fact, often never being allowed to face a challenge. While the scapegoat, as a result of being deprived of any rewards no matter how well they do, often drive themselves to do better and better and better. The scapegoat is often much more successful in adult life--though they often regard themselves as failures.

    A variant of this is that the scapegoat, in their quest for approval, often functions as the family fixer/solver, dealing with and clearing up the family's problems. Some families do reward this--a little. The scapegoat is never as valued as the golden child, but they do get some emotional reward from their fixing, so that's what they do.

    So I could absolutely see this protagonist as a fixer scapegoat. She'll quest to find and rescue her family, to prove, finally finally finally, that she's good enough, to win their gratitude and regard.

    But she won't get it.

    Edited to add: It suddenly occurs to me that Joan Wilder, in Romancing the Stone, feels like a scapegoat. She's immensely successful professionally, but she clearly doesn't feel that she's valuable or interesting. Her glamorous sister marries a dangerous man and gets caught up in crime and murder--fairly typical life management errors for a golden child. And Joan, the scapegoat, the fixer, turns her life upside down, and in fact risks her life, to fix it.

    Edited again to add: Of course, the classic scapegoat/golden child story is Cinderella.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
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  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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  16. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    I've been off-site for a while while out of town on work, but I just got back to reading all this.
    Thank you, everyone! This is all really helpful.
     
  17. TheNineMagi

    TheNineMagi take a moment to vote

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    coming from one of these step-mom abusive relationships, and having to analyze and rationalize it for my own personal sanity... not that i claim to be sane,but at least at peace with that part of my life.

    Background
    my step-mom was a 2nd grade all boys school teacher, for 20 years, at a time when corporal punishment was not only allowed but encouraged.
    she went to college at an all-girl catholic school, and studied psychology in the 40's
    she grew up, during on the tail end of the great depression and world war two, where rationing and going without was very common.

    So in the above we have a person who experienced absolute authority and control over young boys, you did not question this authority...
    A person who was taught how to use psychology in a high manipulative fashion, head games, like you would not believe.
    Quite an advantage when dealing with children, back then though this was normal it was seen as shaping the moral character of the future generation.
    A person who is very frugal and territorial, wants everything done her way, highly emotional but suppressed to a point of being unable to control it,
    Compensating this with cruelty over petty offenses over sustained periods of time, or flash act of violence she would be remorseful for after.

    I needed to understand where she was coming from to come to terms with how she had treated me. It was not so much that she was intentionally being cruel, it was more of a matter she grew up and was taught to be that way.
    the old joke of the donkey being responsive to those who are nice to it, but first you have to whack it between the eyes with a two by four to get its attention,
    or the manipulative methods of a carrot on stick, with an implied threat the stick being used if the carrot is not chased.
    the need to make an example out of one so the other children fall in line
    the guilt trips or the constant deriding of you won't amount to anything or comparisons with the golden star pet child.
    but these were techniques she was taught and use to control a classroom,
    and when those failed in a family environment, she would get frustrated, unable to understand the difference of group dynamics vs. family dynamics.
    this simply pushed her to create more elaborate ploys using the same failed methodologies. It never dawned on her that a child is an individual person deserving to have any form of respect.
    Respect was earned if you chased the carrot, and not because it was something a child should be provided with, for their own growth in making decisions themselves and learning from those decisions.
    it's more along the lines of you have no rights, this is a dictatorship, and if I want your opinion I will give it to you coupled to a mentality of tearing a person down to mold them into perfect examples of a disciplined society.
    Respect thru fear, intimidation, and outright cruelty to the point a kid wants to just please their master for a moment of affection. When this doesn't work then isolation, exile, and head games of futile tasks. (cool hand luke move the rocks or dig the hole) -- say boss I got my head on straight now, subservience is the only end goal expectation.

    the I respect you, trust yourself, I am still here for you, what do you think is fair, I am getting something out of this, what about you what do you want, or the pragmatic point of view recognizing the child is going to do it anyway and the job is more about guidance than forbidding, was completely missing and alien concepts. So, many parents fear putting their kids on even ground, and yet it is probably one of the healthiest thing they can ever do for their kids.

    one thing i have noticed is violence is usually the end result of a person realizing they do not have the control they thought they had over a much more intelligent person, setting aside the school yard bully because they deserved it.
    -- a sense of being pitied, disrespected, and manipulated, justified or not, culminating into a frustration translated into rage, when the intellectual options run out. -- then again it can also be some emotionless sociopath , but that usually is more along the lines of verbal and emotional abuse, and they really have no clue as to where the lines are.

    ----

    having lived it, I can say a couple things coming out of this as an individual,
    I am non-violent, and will seek out any pacifist solution I can even to my own detriment,
    I am very passive aggressive, with a touch of narcissism, and will play head games (had a great teacher after all)
    Self confidence was shot for years and something I still struggle with
    I will mull over decision, or avoid making decision, however if feeling pressured will make flash decisions
    The strange part is I can lead, but will release those reins to anyone challenging the authority.
    When it comes to leading a team, no problem making decisions or steering the direction to avoid pitfalls, with clear end goals.
    As for relinquishing control, It is a two captains on a ship mentality, and i am just not going to fight anyone over control of the ship.
    They want it, then take it, but I will sit back and find something else to do away from the project and do not ask for my advice, I become very dumb and clueless.
    If it crashes and burns it is purely on their shoulders. if they want me to do something they will need to define it in detail, so there are no ambiguities in the instructions given. (i'm a newbie compared to them)
    They are the alpha and I have no prob taking the beta position.
    On the upside I'm highly resourceful, and can figure things out and solve problems based on what is actually available to me.
    i love rewards and winning, but will self sabotage if I get the sense it is manipulative i.e. carrot and stick methods do not work on me,
    Beat me with the stick until the futility of it sinks in and is realized, show me some respect as a person and I will bend over backwards to deliver the world at their feet.
    If I ever find out the respect shown was disingenuous, and manipulative, hope they got what they needed out of me, the gravy train is over, and there is no restart switch.

    ----
    sorry for the rant, I guess I had more to say on this than I realized.
     
  18. Dreams_on_Mars

    Dreams_on_Mars Member

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    Also I think abuse could be invisible to everyone but herself. In fact the parents may not even have abused her, or felt they did anything wrong. And maybe she wouldn't think she was abused either. She'd feel that she had a perfectly normal healthy life. But there would be these reactions to things, she'd find herself spinning up webs of lies but not knowing why or even thinking about it. And then later piece by piece she could start to figure out that things weren't normal in her family after all. Or there could be just one core memory that is revealed later that is the seed of it all. And as I say, it can be very subtle and not considered abusive, but to her it could be damaging.
    It would be something that maybe would cause her to have to protect her frail ego. So think, ego damaged at young age. Like if she suddenly learned who she thought was her dad, wasn't say, or something or found a secret that her mother had that could be very painful.
    It I don't think has to be a real life story, though it can. But often I think the more interesting characters have something about them that is different than what other peopel have.
     
  19. TheNineMagi

    TheNineMagi take a moment to vote

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    I can definitely relate to parents being unaware of the damage they may be causing, for the most part parents would have their kids best interest at heart. leeway most definitely provided for the parent doing the best they can with whatever circumstance is being presented to them. Parents just like anyone else when faced with a challenge will draw upon their upbringing, experiences and education. This however does not mean they will not make mistakes or use methodologies that from a purely pragmatic stand point are futile attempts at getting either subservience or conformity from their child. In many cases it really boils down to an expectation of an authoritarian respect vs. a respect established on equal ground and trust. Another aspect is abandonment, where parents live their lives, with the kid as a second consideration or its evil twin of parents living vicariously thru their kid putting pressure on them to go into hobbies the parent is interested in but the kid is just going thru the motions to please mom and/or dad. The kids input is rarely sought or if contradictory is discounted to a point of irrelevance. Those in the this fight rarely see it or correct their path, and will justify entrenching and digging in for the long haul. A mantra of they will thank me for this later on in life. At some level and for certain aspects this is true, but it does not erase the scars left behind.
     
  20. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Most of what we'd think of as abuse (as opposed to bad parenting) is spur of the moment after losing control, it's not thought about. When you are just lashing out at the end of your tether it doesn't really matter how you were brought up, you're reacting instinctively to just make the kid shut up. Most of the time the parents really regret it.

    It's true that parents often don't think about exactly what effect things are having on their kids, but that's true about pretty much all parenting. Parents don't know what effect they are having on their kids because all kids are different and react different, and the kid probably doesn't know the long term effects anyway. You don't have to be abusive to screw your kids up, you don't even have to be a bad parent. In fact a lot of people end up screwed up despite having really good parents who deal with everything exactly the right way. Just because the kid was (say) the younger brother they spend their whole lives utterly convinced their parents love the elder one more and acting out for attention or just determined not to listen to what their parents say. It's complicated stuff.

    My family was definitely not abusive and I really believe that my parents were good parents. But I still ended up with pretty extreme issues around trust and rejection and I'm always going to feel like my parents aren't proud of me and think I'm a failure. It doesn't really matter what they said and did (telling me that they are proud of me and want me to succeed on my own terms typically) I don't feel it and I can't do much about that. It's not their fault though, because it's not really anyone's fault. I would still say I had a happy childhood and that my parents were good parents but the issues are still there.

    There is a certain kind of parent who is abusive through corporal punishment and who don't see their actions as bad; as you say they genuinely believe it's for the kids own good. But it's a really murky subject. Because, actually, it might be for the kids own good. We've moved away from physical discipline these days but it was the accepted approach for the entirety of human history and it didn't make every kid a terrified sobbing mess. Just the presence of physical discipline does not mean that a kid is being damaged. Some kids are, absolutely, and some parents don't know when to stop and that's why it's a good thing that we've moved past it. But there's been generations of kids who grew up in happy households where they knew if they were really bad they get their butt turned red. For every kid who just crumbled under physical discipline, there's another one where it was the only thing that could get through to them. Our tendency today to presume that everyone is really fragile and pathetic is a real problem and is actually contributing to us being worse parents, not because I think parents should be hitting their kids, but because all kids are different and we do need to discipline them. When the cocky, arrogant, headstrong kids realize that the only punishments available aren't a big deal and can do whatever they like; that's something that damages kids.

    As for parents who put pressure on their kids; well, that's kinda what parents are there for. No, not in the sense that parents should be running their kids lives like a dictator, but equally they can't shower their kid in so much praise that the kid doesn't think they need to try at anything. It's just as bad for a kid to be chasing an impossible expectation as it is for them to feel like they are wonderful and perfect and the center of the world. It's incredibly bad for kids to be getting into adolescence still believing that their parents exist to do whatever the kid wants. That's hugely delaying emotional development. It's fine when kids think that at about 5, but by the time they get to 8 or 9 when they are at school and developing as people they need to start learning that they aren't the center of the world and their parents have their own lives and that they can't always come first. Sometimes you're going to have to sit and wait for a ride home because Daddy has to work late. This is part of your development; understanding that Daddy is working late because he loves you and is supporting you and your family. If you don't take that step and start to understand that then you'll be psychologically crippled; those are the kids who end up saying that their Dad (typically) just wasn't there and didn't love them even though he worked 60 hours a week so he could afford to send you to college.

    Again, no, parents shouldn't be living vicariously through their kids. But getting them into playing sports or being a boy scout or similar? That's teaching your kid. It's putting them in a situation where parents aren't always there to make the rules, where they have to work as a team and handle interpersonal conflict and solve problems off their own back. It's a safe environment but one with new challenges and new people. Of course you shouldn't be forcing kids to do this stuff but it's healthy to get your kid involved in activities and expose them to new things even if they don't immediately think they'll like it. It is something that the kid will tank you for later in life. Especially when it's an activity that the parent has a strong interest in and gives them the opportunity to teach their kid and to share a life long passion; yeah it's really good to build interests like that. It creates a bond beyond the parental and that's really valuable. It makes a time and a place where your parent can be your mentor, where you can see them as a person and not just the guy who tell you you can't stay up late.

    As for respect; you need to remember that kids are kids. Trying to earn the respect of a five year old who is throwing a tantrum is really misguided. Respect as we think about it as adults is really something like admiration; when you say that you respect someone's principles that really means that you find those principles to be admirable qualities to have, right? And you can admire them without agreeing, you can say that you respect this person because you've seen that he always does what he believes is the right thing. But that's not really applicable with children. Among grown ups respect is a distinct concept but in parental relationship really what we are talking about is trust. And that's something else. The kids trust parents to be fair and be honest; that if they are being punished it's because they did something bad. Kids trust that their parents aren't saying no to be a buzzkill, it's because it's dangerous to set your brother on fire. Kids don't behave themselves because they respect you, it's because they trust that you'll punish them if they do. And going the other way, parents trust their kids to act like grown ups, to walk up to the shop by themselves without getting lost. Parents don't let their kids stay home without a baby sitter because they respect them; they let them do it because they trust them.

    And really trust is built just by consistent actions. So really all we're talking about is parents acting consistently; sticking to the rules they set and giving the rewards they promised. And that is important. But it's not really respect. And, I'm sorry to say, parents are owed their kids respect. Parents never need to earn the right to be in charge. They are in charge. Kids have to learn to do what they are told and respect doesn't enter into it. They still have to do what they are told even when they think you're wrong. As their parent you know better than them by default. As they grow up a bit you should take the time to explain why you're doing what you are doing and being clear that you are being reasonable and fair, absolutely. This is important. It matter to explain yourself, it matters to build trust as they get older, particularly because they will be doing more things without you there to watch over them and they are much more likely to stick to the rules without you if they believe the rules are actually there to help them and keep them safe.

    It's a complicated issue, you know? But ask yourself this; on the first day of a new job do you do what the boss tells you? Why? She hasn't earned your respect has she? So why would you make an effort to please them? Because they are the boss and you respect that even if you don't respect them. And kids do owe their parents respect for being their parents. The parent fed and watered you and changed your poopy diapers, so you owe them respect for that. And over time the two of you should learn to trust and respect each other as individuals too. But sometimes, often even, parents need to say "I'm the boss and I say no." and kids need to learn to follow that. It's definitely not hurting your kids to teach them to do what they are told, even when they don't respect you. Because that's what they are going to have to do everywhere else for the rest of their lives. Giving them the idea that if you don't respect someone you don't have to listen to them is really bad for them and will probably give them really bad disciplinary problems. You need to teach them that they should try harder for people they respect, and to want to earn that respect back, but that they still have to do what they are told respect or not.

    With everything the key is moderation. The golden mean. Parents need to know when to say no and when to let the kid have their own way; when to shout and when to just let the kid get away with it. You need some and some. Some discipline and some permissiveness. Some carrot, some stick (which, by the way, is one of the big advantages of having two parents raising you; different styles so a better balance). Kids have to learn to defer gratification and to see that love is not simply measured in the amount of attention you get. And sometimes kids do need to be punished and parents need to be able to do that and make it stick. Kids have to learn that punishment is bad and to avoid that even when they think it's a stupid rule; that sometimes you need to just play along and follow the stupid rules that someone you don't respect set.

    None of the things you talk about are abusive. Some of them might be bad parenting, under certain circumstances, but that's a million miles away from the same thing. There are definitely parents who do things wrong, absolutely. But to cast you'll thank me when you are older as something that leaves scars on kids forgets what parenting is supposed to be about; helping your kid become someone who can succeed in life by themselves. And yes, that does mean sometimes you have to make your kid cry and sometimes you have to tell them no and stick by that no matter how much they pout. You're helping them become an adult, not helping them to stay a kid as long as possible. You need to teach them patience and perseverance which do not come naturally to kids. They want everything to be fun right this second but if you let them stay with that attitude as they grow up then you'll have done them a disservice. You aren't trying to make your kids like you, you're trying to make them good people.

    You can take anything to extremes and they become bad, absolutely. But kids need boundaries and they need to grow up. Your kid isn't your slave. They aren't supposed to be subservient to you. But to ask for your kid to conform to your values? To set them goals and expect them to work hard towards them? That's parenting.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  21. TheNineMagi

    TheNineMagi take a moment to vote

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    I only have a little time right now, and what you say makes sense for from a certain perspective, and it comes close to we are basically saying the same thing, just using a different approach to get there. perhaps later tonight I can go thru this and clarify certain things you may have interpreted incorrectly. However I do like what you wrote here and comes very close to how I raised both my kids.

    I chose the line above because it was one of the points that stood out for me. Conceptually there are different levels of respect, your boss, your friends, your colleagues, teachers and parents. personally I believe in a principal of lead by example, do unto others as I would have done to me, and those I interact with deserve my respect, until their actions prove otherwise.

    so, a small story as an example,

    I was living at my sisters house for about a year, and they had a roommate with a four year old. Now the mother liked going out and the kid technically had no dad except for one weekend a month if the mom even allowed it. Needless to say the kid was a holy terror, around the house and the mom would do things just to appease him. She also was highly protective, and would get unhinged if my sister or brother-in-law pointed out bad behavior. As luck would have it she asked me to watch him for a few hours one Saturday. I agreed, but basically it was my chance to establish boundaries. As soon as the mom left, I grabbed the remote control, turned the TV on and put it on some western movie channel. Sure enough just like clockwork the kid walks into the room and demands to have the remote control. I refuse to relinquish it, pointing I was already watching something and he was welcome to watch it with me. He started throwing a fit, demanding I change the channel to the cartoon channel, I simply reiterated my stance. This threw him into a full blown tantrum of "I'm going to tell my mom on you" and other various forms of screaming and crying, which I effectively ignored. At one point he decides to storm off into his room slam the door and sulk. No reaction from me, I simply waited about 20 minutes and then peeked in on him, to make sure he was OK, then quietly closed the door to give him his space. About 5 minutes later he comes out of the room and quietly sits down on the couch not saying anything, and started watching the movie with me. no words were spoken from either of us, about 5 minutes in i handed him the remote control. From this moment on he had a clear understanding of what respect meant, if he treated me with respect i would give him the same respect back, on equal grounds. Over the years I found this to be true in most cases, where boundaries are clearly defined for mutual respect, it will mitigate most of the bad behavior. There is always going to be exceptions, some are medically derived as in autism, while in very rare cases the kid will not respond to any boundaries. However in the latter I would venture there are some serious underlying reasons for this, a lot of it as you point out having to do with consistency and trust.
     

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