Coming from an abusive home myself I personally know what the uncalled for causes and the dramatic effects of abuse are. During the ages of 5 until I was 16 my stepfather physically abused me almost daily. I get beat with a belt, a wire hanger, extension cords, wooden spoons or anything else he could get his hands on. I was 4 or 5 the first time it happened, he told me to clean my room and when he came to check on me I was not yet done. He then began to count to 10 and when he got there if I was not done he beat me. This would continue until my room was clean which seemed like an eternity but was more like 10 minutes.
As I grew the beatings also grew and at some point when I was 13 or 14 he slapped me so hard across my face that he broke my nose and I had a bright green bruise on my cheek for a week. I was so embarrassed about it that I tried to cover it with make-up every day until it was gone. Finally, it all stopped one night at the age of 16 when he kicked me out of the house for sticking up for my friend who he had threatened to hit. I was so happy to be out of that house but I was terrified at the same time. The one thing I think that bothered me the most was that while all of this was going on my mom just stood by and let it happen. The causes of abuse are numerous and the effects are significantly higher in number. My stepfather blamed his rage on stress and my being defiant. What he did not realize is that I was only defiant because of his anger towards me which is just one of the effects of abuse, another would be low self-esteem. These effects can last long after the abuse stops and can ruin future relationships for the rest of ones life. Many different stressors including work issues, money problems and even sleep deprivation might bring on abuse.
My stepfather and mom ran an auto body business and on the days when things did not go well at the shop my stepfather would take it out on me. It almost seemed like he would try to pick a fight with me just so he could beat me and make himself feel better. One time when I was 12 or 13 my granddad was in he hospital dying and we had driven 8 hours in the middle of the night to be with him. He was like a father to me and I loved him very much so I asked my grandma if I could stay at the hospital with her. My stepfather told me no and I was very upset by this so I began to cry.
When my family got out to the parking lot my stepfather told me I should feel like the smallest piece of s*** on the planet. This made me very angry so I threw my things on the ground and began running away from him. As he chased me I screamed at the top of my lungs for someone to help me because I knew if he caught me that he would beat me. My grandma came out of the hospital room to see what the problem was and I was hiding behind a food cart crying hysterically as my stepfather tried to get at me. He later apologized and blamed his anger on being tired from the long drive.
Financial problems seem to be a big cause of stress among families and mine was no different. Even though we had our own business we were still very poor. This was probably because my stepfather had an expensive hobby of driving modified midget racecars. Every weekend in the summer we would go to the track and spend hundreds of dollars on food, drinks, gas, and parts for the racecar. Then there were the many trips across the country for the state and national races, which cost thousands of dollars. This went on for 9 years so one could imagine the kind of money that was put into this hobby.
Needless to say my stepfather was stressed out all of the time and I was the one that usually got the ugly end of the deal. In my case I was a very defiant child for a variety of reasons. I went from being the younger of 2 kids to being the middle of 7 in a matter of 3 years. No longer was the attention on me because it was on my 3 new stepbrothers and my new stepsister. Then 2 days before my 7th birthday my mom had my little sister, which meant that I would have to share my birthday with her now. I was very resentful towards my little sister for many years after that.
So yes, I was a defiant child and then the beatings started and I got worse. All I wanted was attention and I really did not care how I got it. I would back talk my mom; totally disrespect my stepfather, beat up on my sisters and lied to everyone regularly. When I would ask my mom if I could have a friend over, my stepfather would answer for her and that irritated me. When he would do that I simply looked at him and would say, “Is your name mom! ” and then I would ask my mom again. She usually would say the same thing my stepfather said but I did not care. I know that on several ccasions I threatened both my mom and my stepfather with violence and showed no remorse for it. Skipping school became a regular thing for me in high school and I rarely go caught. When I did though I would get very aggressive when my mom or stepfather would punish me. They later admitted to me that they were afraid of me but I already knew that. I could see how it would be hard to handle a kid like that but still it is no reason to abuse them. The effects of abuse, however, are much more severe in my eyes. Being a defiant child may not last forever but the long-term effects can include low self-esteem.
I can recall my stepfather telling me that I was fat, stupid, ugly and several other things when he would beat me. I began to believe this as some point in my life because the kids at school began to say the same things to me. I felt like an outcast and like no one would ever be my friend or love me at all. I don’t remember ever hearing my mom tell me she loved me but I heard her say it to my sisters all the time. Still to this day she never says it to me but does to my sisters and I don’t know why that is. I do not think very highly of myself now as an adult, though I try not to show it.
Deep down inside I feel ugly, fat and stupid just like my stepfather use to say to me so many years ago. No matter how hard I have tried to forget the past or tell myself that I am good enough to be loved, the thought will not leave my head. It follows me in my everyday life and I fear that it will for the rest of my life. Just because someone is stressed because of financial issues or tired from lack of sleep does not make it okay for them to take it out on their kids. What we as parents need to keep in mind is how our actions towards our kids are going to effect them later in life as well as right now.
We should try to put ourselves in their shoes and think of how what we are doing would make us feel. By doing this we could come up with alternative ways of disciplining our kids that do not include intimidation or fear. Now that I am 30 years old and have 2 wonderful kids of my own I make sure to tell them everyday how much I love them. I do not ever want them to feel the way I did growing up. I would never do to them what was done to me because I know what it felt like not only physically but also emotionally.