#22 How do I stop wife verbally abusing our son? /
Husband needs therapy immediately.
DEAR ABBY: I am deeply concerned about my 9 year-old son's self esteem. My wife is constantly yelling and calling him names over trivial things. She is a perfectionist, so anything not perfect is cause for verbal assault.
A recent example is a misplaced 39-cent notepad. My son was called an idiot, stupid and an ass in her tirade. I feel this cannot be good for his emotional well being, but I am unable to stop her. She becomes irate when I even suggest that she is less than a good mother. She does not do this in public, but I still think it is hurtful to my son's self esteem. She does the same sort of thing with me, but I've had counseling to deal with it. What can I do for my son?—CONCERNED DAD IN BATAVIA, ILL.
DEAR CONCERNED: Your concern is valid. Your wife's inability to control her temper can have lasting effects on your son's self esteem. Children form their sense of worth from messages (verbal and nonverbal) their parents give them. When a parent tells a child he is an idiot, stupid or an ass, that's how he will perceive himself. On some level he will blame himself for the abuse. Unless something is done now to break the cycle, as your son grows up he may be unable to shrug off the guilt and sense of inadequacy his mother is placing on his shoulders.
The label for what your wife is doing is "verbal abuse." It may take psychological counseling for her to learn how to cope with her temper in a more appropriate manner. I urge her to seek it.
You didn't say how long the verbal battery has been going on, but if the pattern is well established, counseling is also in order for your son. Our society has come a long way in recognizing the need to protect children from sexual and physical abuse. It's unfortunate that so little can be done for the child who is verbally abused, because as it stands, unless a concerned adult steps in to defend him he is all alone today. —ABBY
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Hi Concerned: Thank you for writing.
If I thought you'd listen this orphan* would advise you to take your son to an orphanage; get him away from the both of you. He would not even be safe with any relatives (especially both sets of grandparents, those who taught you both to relate as you do) —I say this because they all empower you two in traumatizing each other and your son.
Even if you enroll yourself today in six-months of weekly therapy sessions you will still be submitting your son to six more months of abuse—for however long it takes for you to heal—at least until you've completed your addiction to being in a relationship with someone addicted to abusing and being abused.
Your wife is dragging around incompletes (prior unacknowledged abuses), however, you are equally incomplete. Yes, equally. For every alcoholic or batterer there is an equally powerful enabler. For you to attract and stay married without insisting that she get therapy is your far greater problem.
"I feel this cannot be good." & "I still think it's hurtful . . ." reveals that you are in denial.
For you to have a positive effect on your son you'll have to be willing to let go of your dependency upon having her as your main problem in life, someone to make wrong. It's your "self esteem" we're looking at. It could be said that you are unconsciously intending her to abuse your son to teach you a lesson.
Hourly you are teaching your son what to expect in a relationship, especially how to put up with abuse as do you. I expect your son to someday find a partner just like her; he will sit by innocently bemoaning while at the same time allowing/intending/creating abuse in his relationships. Your legacy to him will be thousands of dollars in therapy bills when he's old enough to get away from you two.
What's worse is that eventually you'll find yourself uttering pathetic feeble apologies and excuses to him, possibly through jail bars, as to why you supported her in beating up on him daily. This is the stuff that foments Columbines.
You are stuck in what's called the Adversarial Communication Model (see Spouse Abuse Tutorial). Could it be that you are intent on discovering the perfectness of karma? Are you unconsciously setting up life so that another beats you up while others stand around watching, all-the-while espousing that they feel it might be hurting you and that they think it's not good for you? For one parent (you), ostensibly the good parent, to stand around and support abuse, so as to survive, to look better, nicer, less abusive, more righteous (always for reasons) verges on evil; history refers to such people as the "good Germans."
I acknowledge you for reaching out. Millions of other parents are unwilling to ask for support; most resist acknowledging that they are equally damaged and therefore the cause of the abuse.
In the communication mastery curriculum you are somewhere around 11-years-old—aren't we all? You are doing fine. You're right on track; you're picking up where you left off earlier, before your marriage, during a similar incident of abuse in which you survived by compromising your integrity, pretending you didn't know. —Gabby
BTW: Get another counselor. Yours trained you (using his/her leadership-communication skills) to put up with abuse—instead of supporting you in getting to the source of your addiction—your need to attract, foment, and reward abuse.** Worse yet, your therapist sent you home after each session knowing full well that your wife would abuse your son again that evening. This, for your son, is liken to a judge, at two minutes before quitting time, postponing till the next day the signing of the release papers for a prisoner found to be innocent—the judge clearly oblivious as to all that can happen during another 24-hours in prison. Shame on you for making him sleep in the same house with her again—knowing he'll be treated the same tomorrow? Each make-wrong, each yell (yes, each and every yell, day after day, with no respite) is liken to a hammer blow, each one further driving home his worthlessness. Soon his accumulated anger will begin manifesting itself as serious anger behavior/health problems. It's the seeds of Columbines.
* The truth is, you unconsciously, brilliantly, chose a therapist whom you intuited you could con into not addressing the source of the problem so as to maintain your position, that she's the one with the abuse problem.
What you're looking for is the very first incident of abuse in your life; the person, day, place and time. It could even be that you stood by and watched one parent abuse another. Relate that incident, that communication, that interaction, to someone skilled at "getting" another's communication. Most likely your memory of the incident is inaccurate. That incomplete is called your #1, your first; it was a breakdown in communication, an interaction that was not mutually satisfying. You unconsciously made a decision from that incident, one that runs you to this day.
For example: Often adults operate from an unconscious decision made during childhood, to be-like, or to not be-like, one or both of our parents. We might even have ignorantly sided with one parent, unaware that both were causing the other's behavior (including one abusive parent turning their child against the other equally abusive parent—mostly accomplished non-verbally). This kind of decision serves as a barrier to us knowing who we are because we're too busy trying to be-like or not-be-like another. There are no bullies or victims in spousal abuse, only co-conspirators, both blaming the other.
** "orphan" I'm eternally grateful to my birth parents for surrendering me to an orphanage when I was one-yr-old. I didn't have to suffer their addictions to abusing and being abused. When one doesn't know better, an orphanage is as normal to an orphan as is a home to a child with parents.
I recommend that you begin by doing The Clearing Process, (it's free). Then do The [free] Clearing Process for a Parent and a Young Person/Teen.
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