Disciplining the Wild Child

Do you have a wild child? Then this article may be for you. Do you just blow up when you can't take it any more? Then this article is definitely for you.

Abuse victims, when they become parents, are handicapped in two ways. One, they have no clue how to give good discipline because they never saw it done. A parent who knows how does not resort to abuse. Or, I should say, a parent who knows how deep in his/her bones, not just intellectually, does not need to resort to abuse. So if you were beaten, humiliated, yelled at, ignored, neglected, abandoned, criticized, or any of the hundred other ways of being abused, you never saw good discipline in action. So you just don't know what it looks like.

Now, suppose you take a parenting course. Here's handicap #2. Even when you learn--intellectually--what it is, many parents who have been abused have a gut-level abhorence of anything that remotely looks like violence. Any form of discipline that is perfectly "kosher" may look to an abuse victim like something harsh, mean, and hateful. And those parents just can't seem to put it into action. That's when the leniency paves the way for the very abuse they don't ever want to be guity of doing: Because they have failed to discipline their child, the child, of course, gets out of hand, eventually. That's what normal children do, if unstopped. So then, these sweet, lovely parents who couldn't bring themselves to discipline their child lash out at them angrily. And they actually feel justified! "I've had enough!" They exclaim.

Well, that's true, but whose fault is that? You've had enough because you didn't nip it in the bud with proper discipline. Now you criticize or yell or hit or whatever and actually think that the child is "bad." Hey, that's exactly the mistake your parents might have made. So if this sounds like you, don't confuse proper discipline with abuse. Start the discipline and then you won't have to blow up.

For example, I once worked with a family in which the mother felt so guilty about a remarriage and so abhorent of abuse because of the abuse she had received that she also never would discipline that child. Until one day she discovered that, at 14, her daughter was sneaking out the window at night to go party. Then, as you can imagine, she lost it.

If you're not clear what discipline is, read the article on it. click here. But don't run away from it or it'll only get worse.

Dr. Debby Schwarz Hirschhorn, Ph.D.
Marriage and Family Therapist

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