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I'm Turning Out To Be An Abuser Like My Father

by Kristine
(Pennsylvania)

I never established a great bond with my father as a little girl. He was gone alot in the navy for the first 6 years of my life. He grew up with an abusive mother (single mom of 6 boys, God bless her!!), and so he was abusive to me with hitting, kicking, screaming and swearing at me. In addition, he was emotionally abusive with his words and comparisons to others as I grew up. I never felt I was enough for him, and I tended to have the personality where I just cowered away from him, I was scared of him.


It wasn't until I was 18 and into adulthood that we finally established a friendship, if you will. However, in my 40's now and with two young boys of my own, my relationship with my father is strained because he doesn't agree with the way I'm raising my sons. Thankfully, he lives across the country so we don't have to interact that often! I've reached a point in my life where I love him, forgive him, but don't need to spend time with him. I'm okay with leaving our relationship at that.

I had been trying to raise my two boys without abuse. However, my oldest son is very sensitive, very defiant and strong-willed. It amazes me that he doesn't seem to cower away or be scared of my anger! He just turned 5 today and for the past two years he's developed an anger problem, but I believe as a reflection of me--my anger has emerged more over the past two years after having another son.

I believe I don't take care of myself and don't handle stress well. My husband works alot and helps when he can, he's more even tempered than I am. But I'm the one with my boys all the time and feel very often alone. So when my son gets angry over something if I'm not careful my anger matches or exceeds his and we have an all out war. I find myself grabbing his arms tightly and carrying him to his room. That's the extent of the physical, but emotionally I yell and scream and such. He hits me and charges after me during the exchange.

What am I going to do when he's a teenager and taller/bigger than me? Is he going to turn out to be abusive to the women in his life? When he doesn't have anger outbursts, he's a loving, very intelligent, very wonderful boy. I try very hard every day to do fun things with my boys, to play with them, to do activities with them. I did notice for awhile that I was constantly nit-picking him about things he wasn't or was doing, so I try to keep things positive as much as possible.

But the minute that I really do need to correct him or ask him not to do something, watch out! Sometimes he'll momentarily get upset but then lets it go. But most times he boils over and escalates. It's like he can't find a way to put the brakes on his anger, and that's when I can't put brakes on mine. I realize I am more like my father, and so is he! How can we stop this cycle of abuse?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Kristine, and thanks for telling your story here. I can tell you've tried very hard to break the cycle started by your father (and no doubt others before him). That is excellent. Let's see if we can help you go even further in that effort.

You mention that you don't take care of yourself. That is bottom line stuff. When you don't take care of yourself, that "self" you're not taking care of is going to be irritated with you, and you'll take it out on others. Take a look at this page on self love, and practice everything recommended there. Again, this is the bottom line, so don't leave it out.

Now, let's address your own healing from your past. That has to happen, as a step to you becoming the kind of mother you want to be.

Here's what I want you to do for yourself...read and follow all of the guidelines on this page. The more you put into these exercises, the more benefit you will receive.

And regarding parenting your son, just select "Children" in the menu on the left side of this page, and you will find all of the help you need there.

Believe in yourself, Kristine. You can do this, if you set your mind to it. You get to choose, moment by moment, what kind of person you're going to be, and these exercises will help you make the right choices.

Never, ever give up on yourself.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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