Thursday, January 9, 2020

Three things parents do that scar kids for life

In 2019 a couple of issues kept popping up, specifically how common childhood experiences shape adult mental health in sometimes unexpected ways twenty, thirty and even forty years on. Here are some thoughts. They're not brilliantly written because I'm super tired.

And before we start: if you tell me how amazing it is to beat the crap out of kids because it's discipline, you get blocked. I'm not kidding. Today I am not putting up with any nonsense. (This was posted on my FB page originally, see for yourself here, it's a public page)

"I will leave you in the road by yourself"
Said once when in a temper because a kid's dawdling is human. But when used as a threat, and when mock-abandonment is used as a punishment, you get several things happening.

First, the child feels insecure. They know they can't rely on their family to keep them safe. So, they become anxious. As adults, they suffer from anxiety and are easily stressed.

Second, some decide that as they can't rely on their family, they can't rely on anyone. That fear knocks on and causes issues in their adult relationships with spouses, bosses, and friends.

Third, this kind of punishment can lead to the kid deciding the world is a hostile place and that action is better than suffering. As a teen, this can be in the form of rebellion (anger, joining gangs etc). As an adult, you're looking at a nasty cycle of emotional and possibly physical violence.

"I am your mother/father and I am never wrong"
No doubt it's convenient to have a house rule where you get to boss kids around and never to admit you're wrong but it sends an important message: kids learn that taking ownership of bad behaviour, apologizing and doing better isn't important.

Yup. By acting as if you're a god, you teach your kid to be a devil.

As adults, they run into trouble because they won't deal effectively with their own bad behaviour in their own relationships, including those with their partners, their own kids, friends and with employees/staff.

Hello to fights, divorce, loneliness and huge staff turnover. Never mind the lack of personal growth.

"You'd look better if you're thinner/more muscular"
Telling a child they need to be slim or to look ripped is telling your kids they're unlovable. This lays the ground for teenage mental health issues that includes eating disorders, body image issues and unhealthy lifestyles including drug and alcohol abuse, never mind feeling worthless.

As adults, they may continue to be anorexic, bulimic, depressed, anxious and there's a big chance they fall for abusive partners who leverage that inner feeling of worthlessness in order to gain control.

There are more things that happen in families that cause pain for generations, but these are three common things that come up over and over again that we seldom talk about.

I think it's time to talk. 

Photo credit: Image by Mandyme27 from Pixabay