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To think a law against emotional cruetly to children is too vague and unenforcable

(237 Posts)
ReallyTired Mon 31-Mar-14 09:40:36

Certainly many children do suffer an unreasonable level of emotional cruetly, but how would a "cinderella" law work in practice? Most cases of emotional abuse are not as clear cut as cinderella. Those who emotionally abuse children are rather more subtle and shrewd than cinderella's step mother.

Surely social workers have enough of a case load managing neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse cases. What standard of parenting is good enough? Most parents need support rather than criminalisation.A child whose mother has the occassional mood swing, but is loved 99% of time is probably better off with a loving but imperfect parent than going into the care system.

Does it mean that schools will call in social services when there is a difference of opinon of parenting style or child complains when the parent does something the kid doesn't like. (ie. A parent remarries? Punishing appauling behaviour?) Sometimes children make malicious accusations, so how would you sort out the real emotional abuse from tall stories. Emotional abuse is next to impossible to prove in court.

How do we protect children against toxic parents without making it impossible to discpline our children or for parents to have some say how they lead their lives? (Ie. commiting the "emotional abuse" of putting a young baby in full time nursery so that everyone can have a roof over their heads or controlled crying.)

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Mon 31-Mar-14 09:45:24

I agree with you. Surely Cinderella was being neglected by her family and would be caught by existing laws. You can't police the love within a family where there no other manifestation of abuse. Plus it does seem like people struggling are most like to have mental health issues and should be offered help rather then censure.

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 09:53:18

There is already a category of emotional abuse for children who are subject to a Child Protection Plan.

But there is normally always neglect as well, just that the EA is the primary concern.

Grennie Mon 31-Mar-14 09:54:19

No I don't agree. That parent who is constantly shouting things at their tiny child in public like, come here you little fucking shit, is the kind of parent who should be impacted by this.

Thetallesttower Mon 31-Mar-14 09:58:06

How would it help to criminalize a mother or father who shouted 'come here you fucking little shit'. These parents are often deeply inadequate, but there are not enough places in care for children who are already neglected and abused, there are 1000's living with parents who have addictions or are alcoholics and they are, in the main, not removed as there is nowhere to put them unless they are truly suffering terrible abuse or extreme neglect.

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 10:00:33

Removing children into care isn't the only option for Children's Services, though, thetallest - it's the last resort.

There are plenty of programmes in the borough I work in which address problems at an earlier stage.

ReallyTired Mon 31-Mar-14 10:09:09

I think that emotionally distant parents who do not acknowledge a child's presence are worse that an tired and jaded mum who shouts to her child "come here you little fucking shit". I imagine that such a mum might be suffering depression and simply not coping with the challenges of a small and very active toddler. I feel that support from a health visitor or children's centre worker is better for such a mother than criminalisation.

If you look at the stately homes threads a lot of the toxic parents, never swore at their children. Its the subtle put downs which are far more damaging. Ie. Belittling a child.

"There are plenty of programmes in the borough I work in which address problems at an earlier stage."

I expect that there aren't enough places on such a programme and forcing parents to attend would be next to impossible.

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 10:17:46

In my borough there's a new programme which is our version of the "Troubled Families" programme - we have changed the name to made it less offensive.

At the moment, there are enough places to cope with the number of referrals, but of course these are families who are already engaging with one service or another, be it health, education or whatever. And yes, it is consent - based, but refusing support in itself raises concerns, and an agency won't just go away if someone doesn't engage.

Notcontent Mon 31-Mar-14 10:29:46

I think ReallyTired has a good point. Obviously in an ideal world we would all be always perfect parents. But we are not. A lot of parents lose it sometimes - me included. I have shouted at dd when both of us have been tired and cranky. But ultimately she is very much loved and nurtured and she knows it.

It's a grey area. I am not an expert but I assume that real emotional abuse is usually associated with other neglect or abuse as well.

Dawndonnaagain Mon 31-Mar-14 10:36:13

Not always, not. We were always 'nicely turned out', and looked well fed. Unfortunately it was a) The seventies when it was always the child in the wrong and b) she was the local headteacher so everybody was going to believe her!

Grennie Mon 31-Mar-14 10:37:35

Surely when assessing for emotional neglect you look at patterns. In the same way a child missing 1 meal is not being neglected, a child being sworn and shouted at once is not being emotionally abused.

A child regularly being underfed is being neglected. A child regularly being spoken to as if they are nothing, is being emotionally abused. Subtle emotional neglect can be very damaging, but is harder to spot.

RufusTheReindeer Mon 31-Mar-14 10:39:03

I agree that it will be difficult to police

One aspect will be that in a family sometimes the parent is abusive to one child not necessarily all of them

If the parent is imprisoned what happens to the other children in the family, how will their relationship with their sibling suffer?

I completely agree that emotional abuse is horrendous but have no idea how you could stop it in that type of situation. Perhaps parenting classes, counselling, removal of the abused child (might feel like more punishment), or maybe every situation would be judged on its 'merits'

I base the above comments on my mums experiences while growing up

Grennie Mon 31-Mar-14 10:44:16

With emotional abuse, surely we should be looking at parenting classes and the like. I don't see jailing a parent as the solution, unless it was a totally extreme case.

bochead Mon 31-Mar-14 10:50:58

Why is always parents that are first in line for being in the spotlight for this? What's wrong with existing legislation where a children can & are placed on child protection plans for merely being "at risk of emotional harm". The at risk of bit is something I've never been able to describe properly in my own mind, so how social workers define it I've always wondered - seems very nebulous and subjective to a layman.

There is already a category for EA under child protection law. I'd like to see the existing law enforced in schools as it's not OK to have to tolerate some of the EA disabled kids suffer from staff as a matter of course in all too many school environments. (2 out of 3 in my son's case and he's far from alone - hence why the numbers of SN kids being home edded seems on a relentless upward march)

I do think we need to be very careful that family life is not encroached upon by the state to the extent that it becomes untenable for ordinary families.

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 10:56:03

The existing law applies everywhere already, boc.

If you know of children being emotional abused in school by their teacher, it is your duty to report it.

It is not the intention for family life to be untenable. Just abuse. Thought that was obvious confused

Thetallesttower Mon 31-Mar-14 10:58:12

We keep reading about how major cases of neglect and abuse are overlooked because social workers cases are completely overloaded and they cannot keep up with referrals/work enough with the families that are already on their radar.

I can't see how emotional abuse isn't covered by existing legislation/SS criteria for intervention and I can't see them going around looking for new less severe cases to send on parenting courses when they can't keep up with the others.

I would be interested to know from people who work in this area if they think this would pick up new cases or rather just their existing cases (which may be failing to parent on multiple dimensions, not just EA) would be strengthened.

fluffyblue Mon 31-Mar-14 10:58:17

The emotional abuse being described is ignoring the child, denying the child love, scapegoating, often one child will be singled out for this treatment and this will go on for years, it isn't about parents shouting and swearing at children when angry

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 11:04:05

thetallest, in the borough where I work social workers are no longer responsible for this "lower level " abuse until and unless it escalates into a CP issue.

That job is now done by schools, health, borough councils and the voluntary sector.

UriGeller Mon 31-Mar-14 11:05:06

This from the article, "You can look at a range of behaviours, from ignoring a child's presence, failing to stimulate a child, right through to acts of in fact terrorising a child where the child is frightened to disclose what is happening to them," Mr Buckland told BBC Radio 5 live.

"Isolating them, belittling them, rejecting them, corrupting them, as well, into criminal or anti-social behaviour."

That looks like a typical school day to many children.

What implications will this law have on schools to ensure childrens emotional well-being? especially when they are expected to be there from 8-6 as proposed.

Topaz25 Mon 31-Mar-14 11:06:55

Children need protection from emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is severe and persistent ill treatment of a child, not an occasional mood swing! As well as being a form of abuse in it's own right, it can be an indicator of other kinds of abuse such as neglect. Here is more information about emotional abuse:

My ex fiance was adopted and his adoptive mother was emotionally abusive. He never wanted for anything materially and was never hit but grew up being criticised, belittled and controlled, screamed at and told he was stupid. He had lasting issues because of it and she discouraged him from seeking mental health treatment. I would not describe her as "loving but imperfect"! His parents should never have been allowed to adopt but they were because they were well off and not physically abusive, so their emotional issues were missed. There needs to be more awareness of emotional abuse to protect children.

Grennie Mon 31-Mar-14 11:07:10

I think the long term impact of emotional abuse is often unrecognised and minimised. It isn't getting impatient and shouting at a child. It is long term patterns that are damaging.

For example, parents who refuse to speak to a child for days because they have been "naughty". This kind of withdrawal, is psychologically devastating for a child.

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 11:08:58

"Isolating them, belittling them, rejecting them, corrupting them, as well, into criminal or anti-social behaviour."

That looks like a typical school day to many children.

urigeller are you for real? [shocked]

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 11:09:47


ReallyTired Mon 31-Mar-14 11:09:55

I agree with you that emotional abuse can happen in well off families with nicely turned out children. For example unrealistic expectations and over pushiness can make childhood hell.

"I do think we need to be very careful that family life is not encroached upon by the state to the extent that it becomes untenable for ordinary families."

Exactly! Parenting ideas change all the time. What was considered good parenting in the 70s is frowned on today. There are cultural differences between families as well. For example some people think that making a four year old do Kumon is mean.

I suspect that many parents who are emotionally abusive are obvilous to how damaging their behaviour. It is very hard to help someone who is complete denial.

SuburbanRhonda Mon 31-Mar-14 11:12:14

If urigeller has anything to do with it, it will be school staff, not families, who are hauled over the coals on this one, if his / her post is to be believed.

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