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Can an abuser be a good parent?

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Abuse in a marriage affects the whole family. There may be false belief that a victim holds saying “my partner might abuse me, but they are still a good parent to the kids.” It's a tool of denial that helps allow you to stay in the relationship. Unfortunately this isn't true. If your partner treats you abusively it isn't good parenting. A loving responsible father would not abuse his child’s mother. Also, research shows that 40% of abusive men carry their abusive behavior onto their children. Lundy Bancroft

If you take a look at the reason why someone abuses it becomes clear that they wouldn't have the character traits needed to be a good parent. An abuser has a huge sense of entitlement. Their belief is that they are above everyone else, especially everyone in the home. Belief is what motivates behavior. Beliefs are so deeply held that usually we are behaving in a particular way and are not conscious of the belief that is driving that behavior. Abusers look at their home as their kingdom. Their huge sense of entitlement drives their behavior to make sure that they remain the ruler. Their word goes and no one should ever question it. Children are naturally rebellious. It is in their nature to question authority. An abuser will not allow his authority to be questioned. Of course a healthy parent wants to maintain their position of authority too. Healthy parenting would mean having a conversation or giving a consequence following the challenge from a child. An abusive parent isn't interested in respectful healthy exchanges. Their belief of superiority overtakes healthy reasoning and they lash out in manner meant to intimidate the child into submission. Generally verbal attacks are the first means that an abusive parent will use to control a child. But an abuser will resort to physical intimidation or physical violence if needed to regain control.

When someone has such a huge sense of entitlement their view of equal rights is seriously skewed. In a healthy marriage the husband and wife should both be awarded the same amount of rights, equal rights. And then the children should have rights also, of course they would be less than the mother and fathers. However, an abuser believes his rights far outweigh those of anyone else in the home. It can make parenting difficult when daddy is allowed to hit people or scream and holler when he is angry but the when the child models his behavior after daddy consequences follow. Or perhaps daddy gets the special privilege of eating in front of the TV but no one else can. Father won't care that the children don't understand these differences. But it makes parenting difficult for the mother. Eventually these mixed messages make it difficult for a child to determine which qualities from Dad are okay to model and which aren't.

Because they believe they have more rights than others in the family an abusive man wants his needs to be met before anyone else. Good parenting often times means sacrificing your needs over the needs of your children. Sometimes even for lengthy periods of time. This can make if very difficult for mother to maneuver between fulfilling every need of her husband but still take proper care of a child’s needs. An example of that might be a sick crying child interrupting lovemaking in the middle of the night. The mother will naturally want to go to the child to comfort and care for them. However the abusive man might insist that the mother ignore the child’s cries and stay with him until he declares the lovemaking is over. She knows that if she persists in wanting to go to the child he will become very harsh with her. But if she doesn't insist in getting out of bed her child goes without the care he is crying out for. She either must sacrifice herself or sacrifice her child needs.

Women often say that they don't believe their children know that abuse is occurring. Research shows that children are very aware of the details of the abuse. Children see and hear the incidents even though you think they don't. They are very intuitive and can sense the tension in the house. They also might be talking to their siblings about what they each are witnessing. And of course they notice their mother crying, depressed, or injured. They learn quickly that talking about the abusive incidents only makes things worse. Most often times neither mom or dad will admit that anything violent is happening. Questions might lead to attacks on them. This makes them start to question their security and reality. Eventually a child will develop behavioral and emotional problems from living under those conditions. Oppositional defiance disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and learning disabilities to name just a few.

The longer you stay in denial over the fact that your children are being damaged the harder it will be for them to recover from what they have been through. Behavioral and emotional disorders can become integrated with personality the longer they are left untreated. If you are in an abusive marriage or relationship finding support is one of the most basic steps in helping yourself and your family. Counseling for yourself and your children can be key in developing some healthy strategies for dealing with what is going on in the house. Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for a list of counselors in your area.

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