Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Abusive or just strict parenting or both? please help me understand(26 Posts)
I'm trying to come to terms with the way i was treated as a child by my parents and am really struggling with what would be classed as abusive and what would just be strict parenting, and how normal each was within other peoples families. What makes it harder is that i went through different stages of abuse, from my mother and father when they were together until i was 14, and then onwards from my stepfather, who is pretty unlikable to this day.
My father was physically abusive and would hit me hard leaving bruises and was very aggressive in general towards me, i no longer have any contact with him after my parents split up, and whilst i blame him for his behavior and don't want anything to do with him, now i struggle to understand why i'm so forgiving towards my mother and still have a relationship with her after things she has also done.
I do know about stately homes thread but id also like a more general view on if most people would find these things abusive or not.
I was smacked for being naughty -stung and left red hand prints on legs/bum etc - but mum always said she only hit with her hands so it was ok, and actually she was very righteous in calling other people abusive if they used an object to hit a child with, she said if she couldn't hit hard enough with her hand then she was hitting too hard.
Age about 5 - I wasnt eating breakfast properly so made to sit outside the back door on the concrete steps in vest and knickers in very cold weather until id finished -I remember the rabbits water being a frozen lump of ice.
Was told she hadn't wanted me i was an accident and that at least she wanted my sibling...
My mum would be angry at me and pretend to call social services telling them i was horrible and she just didn't want me any more and to come and take me, then she'd hang up the phone and tell me to go pack my bags they're on their way to take me away.
my mother was very much in charge of the household - likes to pride herself on ruling with an iron fist/her children were not allowed to rule her or dare show her up in public - she controlled all the money my father earnt while being a sahm.
When around 5/6/7 i was admitted to hospital - when the nurse asked if i wanted her to make up a bed so my mum could stay with me i said yes - after the nurse went my mum was very angry because now she had to stay and my sister would be home with either my nan or dad and she would be upset not to have her mummy there with her.
it was thrown back at me that she had wanted to leave my father when i was about 6 and she'd asked me if i wanted her to, but because id said i loved daddy even though he was horrible to me/hit me, so she had to stay.
my father openly said he didn't want a second child with her but she got pregnant on purpose and then continually told me and sister that he never wanted her and that's why she protected her from his outbursts instead of me.
my parents got involved in wife swapping with the neighbors which mum said she didn't want to do - ive been told by the other wife that my dad was the one really pushing for it, but he and the wife never had full sex whilst my mother did with the other husband ...after splitting up with my father and moving house so the neighbor could move in she tried to trick my 10 year old sister that she didn't know if he was her father or not, this is nonsense as my sisters characteristic can only come from my fathers side, she was just trying to trick her into accepting our new step father because we'd said we didnt like him and didnt want him to move in.
By the age of about 14 mum had told me details all about how the first time she slept with my father he was very rough with her and there was blood all over the bed as she was a virgin - she has later said it was in fact rape - although he has always denied this saying she consented. when asked why she stayed with him and married and had kids with him she replies everyone needs to feel loved.
I have also been told gory details of her and my fathers sex life with regards to anal 'because it was tighter', fisting, that my father requested other unusual sexual requests - some of which she did - when asked why she said it was easier than listen to him go on.
After my father left i was left to babysit my sister constantly until the early hours so mum could go out with neighbour in secret each night.
I lived with her after my father left and my stepfather moved in, and she allowed him to be very nasty towards me and said he can do what he wants dont make me choose as i'll choose him, he still snipes at me from time to time now and continues to have a rocky relationship with my sister, but my mother wont intervene.
He controls money and mum is left paying all bills and nothing to spend on herself and acts the martyr without accepting hes wrong to do this, she lives in fear he'll leave her.
When my stepfather moved in he took control of everything from day 1,money spending, food, whos allowed to do anything in the house, he loves to make comments to try and embarrass us or make us look stupid.
He creates a horrible atmosphere and will storm about if we so much as speak in the room he was watching tv in - although he will have phone conversations in a booming voice while we watch something. He would scream at you for not finishing a meal even when you've asked not to be served so much because its impossible to finish it all - he has huge food issues.
He would stay up till 3am blasting music keeping us awake but I would get shouted at for waking him up by walking downstairs too loudly.
He and my mum would have huge screeching sex sessions and laugh about it the next day that they'd kept us awake all night.
Once he moved in mum wouldn't even buy deodorant for me he said to buy it myself - with no job or income at 14?
At 16 i got a p/t job around school and was told i had to pay rent, they went through my bank statements to find out id been saving up and wanted it to pay off his debts.
We were 'recruited' to talk to our step siblings about all different topics and report back so they could manipulate them into accepting their relationship and try to make them hate their mum - his ex wife.
If you've gotten to the end of this thank you! I still see my mum but i feel such resentment towards her although she overcompensates being over nice to me whenever i'm there now, but I try to avoid going over if my step father will be there, although im practicing things to say if he does start having a go at me or belittling me.
Very abusive I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Your mother crossed so many inappropriate boundaries and made you feel unwanted and second best.
I don't know how you have anything to do with her.
I meant to add, have you had any therapy to deal with all this? If not I really think it could help. None of it was your fault you know?
That sounds extremely abusive, in no way is that simply strict parenting. I'm so sorry you went through that .
Didn't want to read and not reply, although I'm no expert, this all sounds very unhealthy. The sex stuff in particular is really quite disturbing.
There is nothing in there that I would attribute to strict parenting, It is all abusive.
Are you OK? Do you need some pointers for RL support to try to deal with all of it?
Nothing to do with strict parenting at all. Just very, very abusive both physically and emotionally. I'm so sorry.
Thank you all so much for replying, its made me teary which is very unusual for me...my sister would jokes I'm dead inside!
I've not had any therapy, don't know where I'd start with it all and part of me worries about bringing more to the surface and how it'll make me feel...I was also subjected to sexual abuse by a family member who was also a child at the time but continued as he reached an adult age, and I've worked hard to bury those memories so am nervous about digging around childhood too much.
Sometimes I sit and make a little list of different things that have happened and think about posting it all but then I think God either people won't believe it could all happen to one person or that for all that I must have deserved some of it
I'm sure my mum feels guilt because of how ott she is now I'm older and have left home and have my own children, but also I think she's so alone she clings to me as a support, if I was to confront some of the past I think she'd be distraught and she doesn't really have anyone else, I'd feel so horrible leaving her feeling like that
I've been reading toxic parents and am getting tips on dealing with stepfather if he starts on me, have had to take a bit of a break when I got to the sex abuse chapter though as I do find it a struggle
Thanks again all for replying
Without a doubt, abusive. I just want to hug you. I can give you my example of growing up in a strict household?
My parents also hit. They were of that generation where they themselves got the belt, so hitting us with a open hand was deemed to be softer on us than they got treated. But as soon as parenting courses came up, they went on them and tried other non-physical methods of discipline after that.
Compared to friends, my parents were very strict. We had earlier curfews than our friends,when my friends used to get a pound in pocket money, mine was 20p. We never had the latest gadgets or toys, only got toys or the like at Christmas or Birthdays. Clothes were to keep us warm, not for fashion. We helped out daily in the home and with our small farm, sometimes for hours at a time. We attended the religious services they expected us to. You just obeyed. In our teens when we had our own part time work we were given a bit more leeway and trust, but still expected to abide by house rules and hand up keep (which they invested in secret and gave back to us upon graduation) All our cousins remember our strict childhood compared to theirs. Even now, its one of the strictest childhoods of anyone I know.
But I never doubted that my parents loved me or my siblings. There was lots of love, affection and laughter and fun as a family, despite the strictness and discipline. When I worked hard around the house, it was appreciated and thanks. I got praised and encouraged at school. I was kept safe, innocent, warm and fed despite a lot of money worries they had. When I had problems, they listened and they advised. When I made mistakes, they helped me back on my feet. As an adult, I have a great relationship with them.
Sorry, posted too soon.
Anyway, what I've described was strict. What you have described is without question, abusive and dysfunctional.
I do think the wise owls in Stately Homes would be of great help to you.
My father was physically abusive and would hit me hard leaving bruises and was very aggressive in general towards me
Only had to get as far as this to decide - abusive.
I come from the generation of parents who were more likely to smack their children. We smacked ours on very rare occasions and never hard enough to leave any kind of mark. More like a sharp tap. I still don't have a problem with that, but what you describe is beyond strict parenting and firmly in abuse territory.
There is literally not one thing in your post that fits the definition of strict parenting.
I think you really need to have some counselling. If there are topics you don't want to discuss (or aren't ready to do so yet) you should be very open with the counsellor about that and agree that you will stay away from that topic until and unless you're ready to discuss it. And let's face it, you've plenty of other stuff to go through before that!
I'd simply refuse to see your mum when your step-dad is present. Well, I'd refuse to see your mum full stop really, but there is absolutely no reason for you to keep seeing this complete waste of oxygen, and every reason for you to start asserting your own wishes at last.
They were abusive. By recognising their behaviour as inappropriate, you have started on the road to recovery. Good luck.
It's a weird set up where mum tries to act like we all get along great and that stepfather is wonderful, to the point she calls him grandad in front of my kids, I don't like it but don't know how to say he's not their grandad without causing a storm.
There are times he can be nice for example giving extra gifts at Christmas or offering help to fix something, but for me the regular snipes and put downs outweigh any small acts of kindness. I believe he has NPD because he genuinely believes he's better at everything and knows everything and if its a subject he doesn't know about he'll shut it down quickly. He seems to just love picking fights and if you don't rise to the bait he'll keep going on having digs until you snap.
He doesn't like DH because he is perfectly happy to correct SF if he's wrong and will go toe to toe without being at all afraid of him, I usually look on having a panic attack and trying to load the kids into the car quickly, DH refuses to attend most gatherings because he doesn't want to be in an unpleasant atmosphere waiting for someone to kick off, but has agreed to come for the next few when I plan to stand up for myself as i will feel stronger with him behind me.
I think now I mostly feel sorry for my mum, shes stuck with an arrogant twat and can't afford to be without him so has to put up with whatever he dishes out, she has zero self confidence and is pretty isolated, but at the same time as feeling sorry for her I think well she made her bed, after everything she let us go through its her own fault.
I can almost feel a storm brewing within me like I'm ready to defend myself and rock the boat enough to cause the argument where I can say how awful they were, but I'm just not quite ready to bring it up out of the blue. Ironic normally I try to avoid the arguments and now I'm actually willing him to start one
I'd not want any contact with either, and you don't need permission to stop it.
Agreed - and in fact waiting for the perfect row as an excuse ultimately puts you on the back foot.
It's not surprising that you feel a storm brewing - I think it's called a breakthrough when it happens in counselling and it can be a very emotional experience. You're letting stuff come back up to the surface that's been buried for a very long time. And the anger will never go until you let it out. The question is only how and when you let it out, and tempting as it is to erupt in front of your abusers it will just get twisted to make everything your fault. Staying completely calm will mean you know in your own mind you have done nothing to provoke the inevitable shitstorm that will follow.
Your mum deserves absolutely no sympathy. Leave her to it. Your job now is to break the cycle and to heal yourself.
The fact your sister says you're dead inside, is a very common after-effect of abuse - you shut down to deal with the pain but that also means you shut down the good stuff as well.
you were abuse in so many ways and on so many different levels, you poor thing.
You say you're unsure about counselling, but the fact that you are questioning and recognising that it was abuse (despite your mother's attempts to whitewash and re-write history, a common tactic of abusers) shows that you may be ready, and also the below-
I can almost feel a storm brewing within me like I'm ready to defend myself and rock the boat enough to cause the argument where I can say how awful they were, but I'm just not quite ready to bring it up out of the blue. Ironic normally I try to avoid the arguments and now I'm actually willing him to start one confused
You have your kids and a supportive DH, so maybe you're getting to a safe place where you're ready to explore some of the past and try to heal. Best of luck on your journey (hugs).
OP, your narrative is appalling. Please seek specialist support for yourself, it seems to me your issues arising from your early life need the right professional guidance for you to work through them. I believe to do so will benefit you and your family. I wish you the very best of luck with it.
Thank you all for taking the time to reply, i think I've known for a while I'd benefit from getting help from a therapist, there are just so many different feelings I have about it all, I struggle to know what it is I actually want to achieve from talking about it.
I feel I want to confront my mother about the past but I don't want to deal with either a defensive response that she was a victim too or a response saying she's sorry and then crying and making me feel bad for bringing it up...those are the only options I can really foresee...although there could be some blaming thrown back at me for being 'difficult'
I am trying to think about different ways of raising it with her and what I could say to start the conversation, but I just feel uncomfortable whenever I picture the calm sit downs people try to stage, it's just not the done thing in the family to discuss old issues so it doesn't feel natural to me.
I don't think I even want her to say sorry, I don't want anything from her I just want to tell her how crap and selfish she was, and I want to tell her to stop playing the hard done by one now her new husband isn't all she had hoped for. I want her to actually be sorry but not just sorry because I've made her feel guilty.
It's almost like I want to bring out the iron fisted battleaxe mother of my younger years so I can really tell her what I think without holding back and feeling bad about it, instead I've got a simpering victim complex mother who'll just sob and accept what I say while asking forgiveness and then expect me to forget all about it...
Sorry I know I'm not really asking questions that anyone can answer, but having somewhere to express my thoughts and get responses from people who aren't involved is helping me process things
OP after your abusive and dysfunctional childhood it's a credit to you that you have ended up in a normal supportive marriage and you haven't turned out like your mother. I wouldn't visit her in her house either.
If you think you can get your SF to see how abusive he was by having your say it won't happen. People with NPD do not have the ability, or don't feel the need to admit to any wrong doing. That's why he can be nice one minute and a complete arse the next. They have no boundaries in their minds, charmers one minute and a abusers the next. If it makes you feel better and you want to off load your anger by all means tell him, just don't expect any apologies. Counselling would be so helpful for your future feelings, instead of feeling upset about your childhood for years to come.
smacking with a hand was still normal in the seventies. everything else was abusive, very.
What matters the most is how you feel. You do not need someone else's permission to feel you were abused nor do you need what happened to you to be abnormal. You feel abused. That's really important to reflect on IMO. As to the relationship with your mother, that's also up to you to define. It is perfectly fine for you to accept that your mother was abusive when you were a child and for you to still want a relationship with her, in fact I think it is very important for you to accept your truth if you do have a relationship with her.
I feel very ambivalent towards my parents. I care for them but I would not go so far as to say I love them. I still have a relationship of some sort with them and there are times of closeness and intimacy with my mother but it has taken many years of work on my part in accepting (which is more than just feeling it was) that what they did to me when I was a child was abuse. I have recently been able to have some conversations with my mum about what happened, what my childhood was like for me and the effect it has had on my life where she has accepted her role/responsibility and that has been really important for me. I don't think it would have happened at all if I had not really worked on accepting my 'truth' first. I think I would have been trapped in the desperation of trying to get her to love me/love it better which took up most of my 20s. I feel we are more on an even keel now, which is important for my emotional health. I think therapy would be good for you, it has been good for me, as has times of no contact with my parents and big stand up rows where I was able to retain my sense of self.
It's tough, i feel for you.
And re not knowing where to start I always began each session with my most recent counsellor with "I'm not sure what to say" and ended up running over time. It will flow when you start talking and that can be tough too but it's an investment in healing in a supportive environment - really important.
Yes I think it might help to have some therapy first to sort out if or how to confront your mum. After lots I had a talk with mine about my childhood after abuse by relatives of hers and I've become better at confronting my dad, but in a constructive enough way, about his bullying and my mum has been better at supporting me. Her response to my abuse was a bit inadequate but was good to get it out there, but as a result of the therapy I was better able to deal with her shortcoming.
If you talk to the therapist like you tell us about your past here you'll have no problems, or even show them this thread as a starting point?
They will help you sort out through your feelings.
Join the discussion
Please login first.