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To think the terms 'cruel' and 'abusive' are used too lightly on MN

(56 Posts)
1308 Sun 07-Jun-09 15:28:52

I think we should be a more child centred society and real abuse should be disclosed. This includes emotional abuse which largely goes ignored.

However where do we draw the line between occasional imperfect parenting and the term abuse?

On MN I have read that walking too fast whilst holding your child's hand is abusive. That threatening to withold pudding because the child won't eat main course is abusive. The smacking debate also worries me because although I am anti smacking, I do not feel that a mum who has a less than pefect moment and smacks her child because she is at the end of her tether, should be labelled a child abuser.

I was the victim of emotional abuse at the hands of a bullying father and passive mother. I would never treat my child like this, yet I will admit on the very odd occasion I have tapped him on the leg through sheer frustration and exhaustion. I have felt guilty and apologised and hugged him. I know it is wrong, so am I an abuser?

Where are these perfect parents who never shout, smack, bribe or threaten?

pagwatch Sun 07-Jun-09 15:33:41

TBH I think that people use language badly all the time - I remember Alex Ferguson saying it was 'absoloutely tragic' that some wanky little footballer was going to miss a match.
People over dramatise all the time. This area is no exception. But you can't control how people express themselves.

I also think that people are very quick to throw 'oh well then if you are criticising or questionng x behaviour then you must be a perfect mum/perfect parent'....

MrsMattie Sun 07-Jun-09 15:37:26

I've made this point time and time again on MN.

People use the word 'abuse' for the most ridiculous things and use it when judging things totally out of context - ie. a snatched glimpse of something in the supermarket.

I also think 'cruel' is a strong word that implies an intention on the 'perpetrator's' part to be nasty to the 'victim'. Walking too fast with a child in tow, for example, is a ridiculous thing to call 'cruel'.

Quattrocento Sun 07-Jun-09 15:37:38


<Jaundiced viewpoint of parent currently being labelled a bad mother for allowing underage DCs to watch Slumdog Millionaire>

MrsMattie Sun 07-Jun-09 15:46:01

lol!@Quattro. You're not a bad mum! My mum snuck me in to the cinema see 'Desperately Seeking Susan' (15) when I was about 9 yrs old. grin

cheesesarnie Sun 07-Jun-09 15:50:41

i agree.and i also agree with pagwatch 'People over dramatise all the time.....But you can't control how people express themselves'

JackBauer Sun 07-Jun-09 16:01:04

YANBU, I totally agree.

SillyDaisy Sun 07-Jun-09 16:06:38

i've never shouted at or smacked mine, but she's only 2.
people have commented to me how can you never shout at her, but to me just a baby really.

i agree with what your saying people over dramatise with language all the time.

lol at the example of alex ferguson.

Saltire Sun 07-Jun-09 16:28:15

Reminds me of the time that Beckham was dropped from the England team and the BBC news gave over 20 miuntes to the "tragedy", they actually used that wordhmm

I also think that the word hero is overused. A footballer making £40,000 a day is not a hero. A serviceman or woman making less (far less) than £40,000 a YEAR in a war zone is.

BitOfFun Sun 07-Jun-09 16:28:54

I've never put a foot wrong either- I'm perfect grin

I agree that "abuse" is bandied about too readily, but it can go the other way too. I was on a thread recently where the OP was clearly being abused and her P was totally headfucking her into questioning her own sanity, but people still kept popping on to say "oh you both sound a bit tired"...hmm

JemL Sun 07-Jun-09 16:51:01

YANBU. And on many of these threads, people are encouraged to call social services at the slightest thing - eg - tatty clothes. I know, we all have a responsibility to protect children and that if you suspect a child is being abused, or is in danger, this is the right thing to do - but only in these circumstances - NOT just becuase you think someone is a crap parent.

I don't smack, and I don't agree with it as a form of discipline, but I certainly wouldn't label everyone who does it as a cruel and abusive parent. I think it is easy to lose perspective and to make sweeping judgements about certain behaviours. And to be honest, I also feel it trivialises real child cruelty and abuse - you absolutely cannot compare being walked too quickly by a parent to suffering real physical abuse.

Bucharest Sun 07-Jun-09 16:54:37

YANBU, no, but most of the threads I've ever seen which mention the word abuse, have been dealing with, erm, abuse.

Like the 2 yr old on his first week at nursery who couldn't have a yoghurt because he had helped himself to 2 sandwiches instead of one. That was worthy of fvcking Dickens and if it wasn't abusive on the part of the nursery staff then I don't want to know what is. (I mention this thread as I presume it's the one you're referring to about witholding food, apologies if it's not)

pointydog Sun 07-Jun-09 16:57:18

It's a chatty message board, not a research paper on parenting.

I think it's a waste of time to analyse whether people use the words 'cruel' and 'abuse' too mush on a message board.

TheProvincialLady Sun 07-Jun-09 17:00:45

I agree BoF and I also know the thread you mean.

hobbgoblin Sun 07-Jun-09 17:08:01

I think the examples you cite could be abusive in certain contexts. They are certainly examples that allude to disrespectful parental behaviour.

You seem to shift point through your OP. Are you irritated by poor use of language or by the way such responses cause you to consider your own parenting?

A parent dragging their child along the road after allowing the child time to cooperate and after warning them that speed is of the essence and that action would be taken if they didn't get a shift on is different to the parent who just yanks a child off when the mood suits them and expects them to understand what is required.

GivePeasAChance Sun 07-Jun-09 17:12:11

They are both subjective words, so what is abusive and cruel to one, may not necessarily be to another.

junglist1 Sun 07-Jun-09 17:15:13

There's a world of difference between a slap on the wrist and attacking a child. I have swore in frustration before, I've shouted, but I'm not abusive. When I calm down we apologise and I explain why I was angry, and DC's explain their side of the story. Then we have a story or watch a cartoon together. Every parent trips up, especially when as in my case I deal with the discipline single handed.

MIAonline Sun 07-Jun-09 17:22:54

Hmm, I am not sure on this. I think individual instances such as those that are mentioned in the OP can be abusive, but it would take a number of circumstances and repetition for it to become abuse iyswim. I think generally on MN people play it safe and are quite thoughtful about the words they use.

Yes there will always be a very small minority who live a very 'charmed' life so their idea of abuse would be different to someone who has experienced it or been exposed to it. But this also can be a good thing to balance up the perspective of a minority who are 'hardened' to it. That is what is good about these kinds of debates.

HerBeatitudeLittleBella Sun 07-Jun-09 17:30:27

On the whole I think yes yaprobablybu. I agree that sometimes people are quick to label a snapshot "abuse" but in RL, the balance is so far the other way that I personally feel quite comfortable about it maybe being too far the other way here. When I see kids being shouted at, sworn and hit in supermarkets and nobody shouts abuse, I'm quite pleased that there's a place on the www with hysterically pointy women.

barnsleybelle Sun 07-Jun-09 17:46:05

The colins english dictionary states that..
Abuse "speak harshly and rudely to"
Cruel "causing pain or suffering"

Dragging a child along by the arm could very well be deemed as cruel in my book.. obviously not in all cases but if they are struggling to keep up it could very well be causing them pain and suffering.

Not everything has to be to the extreme to deemed as cruelty or abusive. There are many many levels and i think maybe the op is thinking only to the extreme level.


OrmIrian Sun 07-Jun-09 17:54:30

Agree with OP.

It doesn't matter what the dictionary definition of abuse is, everyone hears abuse as something very serious these days. IMO the word has no place in most scenarios described on MN.

barnsleybelle Sun 07-Jun-09 18:03:38

But maybe the people who use the term are aware of the definition do not always think of the extreme... i certainly don't necessarily think that.


1308 Sun 07-Jun-09 18:37:48

It does make me feel very guilty about my parenting, so maybe I am just being defensive. I believe on the whole I am a loving, good enough mother. However I get it wrong sometimes and so when I read such things on here I begin to think 'gosh am I being abusive?' Maybe this is a good thing

Bucharest - I was not refering to that thread and I agree, that is wrong, to deny a child yoghurt because he took two sandwiches instead of one shock

For example I was in ELC once and little girl was singing away and not doing anything naughty as far as I could see. Then the mother shouts at her 'oh for fuck sake shut up, we don't want to hear your rubbish singing voice!' Now that was cruel in my opinion and an emotionally abusive comment.

I also think the way our society functions, allows or makes abuse more likely. We are not very child centred. Mothers have to spend long days on their own with babies and children and aren't valued.

Of course children come first but it is so hard sometimes. I am currently 40 weeks pregnant with a DS (3) who will not get into his carseat. I have tried everything e.g. speaking firmly but not shouting, offering a reward, timing him as a game, pleading etc. One day, after a bad night's sleep with false labour, I lost it and picked him up and shoved him into his carseat with force and shouted at him.

In that snapshot I could have looked abusive. However being that heavily pregnant and needing to get somewhere caused my parenting to be less than perfect.

Now I know I was wrong and felt incredibly guilty. I also know this is perfectly normal three year old testing the boundaries behaviour. I also adore my DS and believe he is a gorgeous little boy. So do these moments make a parent abusive?

The dictionary definition was used but language isn't that simple is it?

frazzledgirl Sun 07-Jun-09 18:41:23

It's a tough one, isn't it?

The word I think gets a bit over-used at times is 'toxic' - am not denying At All that some people do just poison your life and should be cut out of it (my own grandmother being one excellent example, my poor mum...).

OTOH I have seen the term used to describe behaviour that sounded mildly annoying at worst.

MIAonline Sun 07-Jun-09 18:44:49

1308, It is when you stop caring and don't even question yourself about the scenario with the car seat, that is when you should be worrying. The fact that you are aware it is not ideal, shows that you care. IMO, parents who are abusive wouldn't even think twice about it.

I can't imagine many MNers would come on and say that was abusive through and through and would accept that nobody is perfect.

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