The Disciplined Child: Punishment Or Abuse?

The Disciplined Child: Punishment Or Abuse?

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and this is my story to bring awareness
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Defiant, difficult, hyper, restless. Angry, outspoken, talkative, energetic. Impatient, sarcastic, loud, mischievous.

My teachers called me bright, but disruptive and easily distracted.

My brothers gave me the nickname “Evil”.

My mama said she knew from the second I was born that I was her wild child.

My dad would tell me I was a smartass, to which I would reply, “At least I’m not a dumbass.”

I wasn’t an easy child in any way. I was born with unexplainable anger and energy, and these feelings, combined with a will to do things not just my own way, but on my own, often left me in trouble. And it was apparent to everyone that I was the type of kid that needed a good spanking or whipping. My siblings rarely needed even a spanking. Just being yelled at and grounded was enough.

My dad would always ask, “Why can’t you act like your brothers?” I knew I’d pushed it too far when he would compare me to my older sister. Hearing him say things like “I don’t understand why you do these things. Your sister never acted like this” could set me straight for a bit, but all of those uncontrollable feelings were just that-something I could try to get a handle on, but it just made my inevitable outbursts that much worse.

But something would happen after those punishments with a belt or switch. It felt almost like a cathartic release. I wasn’t as angry. I was calm, sometimes even tired. As an adult, I can understand these feelings, and I now know that I need physical exertion to get rid of the energy that turns into frustration, that manifests into anger, that ends in trouble.

Looking back, I have the knowledge neither my parents or I had, even after I was diagnosed with A.D.H.D at eight. Every kid is different in their response to being reprimanded or being punished. Sometimes all it takes is a strong voice to make them cry, or a timeout, or grounding them and taking something away. But there are some of us that are wired to react in a drastically different way, and in the wrong hands, you will break us and create a cycle that will forever keep us hostage.

I remember the first time I was punished with a belt. I was four, and my brother and I were sharing a room. This alone made bedtime a challenge for everyone involved. One particular night we were extra full of ourselves and hours after our bedtime we were singing that song “Mellow Yellow” at the top of our lungs.

We’d get as far as, “They call me mellow yellow”, before falling apart with laughter. We knew we were in for it when instead of hearing our dad yell at us, we heard him coming up the stairs. I was closest to the door so I knew I’d be getting spanked first. I grabbed the books on my nightstand and put them under the covers over my legs and butt.

I thought I was so clever for about three seconds. My dad went to spank me, hit the books instead, and the next thing I knew I had a welt on the back of each leg in the shape of a line instead of a hand.

I remember the first time I was beaten with a belt. It wasn’t long after the Mellow Yellow incident. I can’t remember what led to it, or why it happened. I do remember with perfect clarity that the person whipping that belt was not my father. My brothers and I were just getting to that age where you start to understand certain things about your parents. And we were beginning to recognize that our father could turn on a dime and be the reason you couldn’t move the next day.

And that it didn’t matter how quiet you kept, how well behaved you were, or how invisible you made yourself-you weren’t safe. It didn’t matter if you deserved a punishment, you were getting more than that. And from an extremely young age, I knew when I was being punished, and I knew when I didn’t deserve what was happening to me. I knew the difference.

I can’t speak for others who have lived this way, but having this knowledge was no comfort at all. Sometimes it would keep me from getting a longer beating, and I would tell myself that calmer I was, the faster it would be over. Other times, it was like gasoline on my anger.

It didn’t matter I was a tiny seven-year-old, I would scream and yell things at my dad, kick him and fight back, even though it only took seconds for him to overpower me, and made the beating worse. In some twisted way, knowing I could make him that much angrier than he already was made me feel powerful, and gave me a small sense of satisfaction.

April is the month of Child Abuse Awareness.

There are over 3 million reports of child abuse in the U.S. every year. My brothers and I were a part of that statistic on more than one occasion, yet we were never removed from our home permanently. We had “extended stays” with friends and relatives until things were “cleared up”. And every single time, we would come home and things would go back to normal. As we got older, normal went from a few months to a few weeks, until the line was no longer visible.

As we got older, we knew the right answers to give, the right way to act, and the right clothes to wear to convince CPS, teachers, neighbors, school counselors, and therapists that we were safe. Even though we weren’t, we understood the consequences of what would happen if our dad was ever actually taken in for the things he did to his family. And it wouldn’t be pretty.

Here’s what you need to understand about abuse: each abuser is different. Some are smarter than others, some have certain advantages, and some know how to play the game. For our father, it was all of these. As a retired State Trooper and a Vietnam Veteran, all he had to do was mention his services and he could walk away with a slap on the wrist.

He claimed PTSD was the reason for his latest “outburst” and that he couldn’t remember anything he did to us, despite the evidence on each of our bodies. Yes, he did have PTSD, but what outsiders couldn’t see where all the pain pills he was swallowing. They changed his personality, and it was always different. Sometimes he resembled a drunk, falling all over the place, and ending up in the hospital.

He would take the car keys, and drive while he was so messed up, he’d be falling asleep behind the wheel. To this day, I have never been as scared as I was during those car rides.

He always got away so easily, though. I can’t tell you how many anger management classes he took, or how many times we had to attend family therapy. Most of the time he was just sent to the VA Hospital, where he was getting the pills in the first place. Bullshit, right? Well here’s where it gets complicated.

Throwing pills at disabled veterans was more common than most of you could ever fathom. This was the solution our dad was given, and though he very well could’ve handled things much differently, I know I am in no place to judge him. Still, this doesn’t change my anger over the way he treated us. That, he could’ve changed.

Another complication was the fact that we were Catholics, and my mama taught at a Catholic school. It would have been perfectly acceptable for her to be fired from her job if she divorced. In addition to this, my father, being a disabled Vet, could claim spousal neglect, and my mom would still be stuck supporting a man that couldn’t hold down a job. I don’t know if this was true or not, but I do know this-our mama did what she thought she had to do to keep things moving forward for us. The threats he repeated stuck in all of our heads, and we were too scared to doubt him, too scared of the judgment and embarrassment of what was happening to us.

Statistics say that physical abuse changes a child’s perspective. At incredibly young ages, my brothers and I were well aware of keeping up appearances. We never, not once, blamed our mom for staying in an abusive relationship. We understood it was as much for her as it was for us. We knew the things we were giving up, just so we could survive until we were at a safer age, making sure we were able to stay together, stay a family.

Looking back, it’s still so easy to get angry at the things we were robbed of. There was never enough money. We went without food, electricity, heat, and water. We never had sleepovers or birthday parties. Our dad was just too unpredictable to have friends over. As teens, things changed. The public school introduced us to a new set of peers. Suddenly, we weren’t the “that family”, the one so obviously different.

And sadly, our shitty situation didn’t even come close to those of others. And just as sad, my brothers and I finally felt accepted and felt comfortable around our classmates-all because they came from abusive homes. It was no longer a shameful secret. It was normal.

And it’s still this way. Being unspoken for, kids from abused homes will latch onto those who understand. And two broken kids become two broken adults, always seeking out the environment they’ve always known-chaos, unpredictability, and abuse. We find it hard to connect with others who have never felt ashamed, who have never seen the things we’ve seen.

Have you ever had to push a dresser in front of your bedroom door for your own safety? And then after that, did you ever have to climb out your window, crawl across your porch roof, and then climb into your mom’s bedroom window so that you could help block her bedroom door so that she was safe, too? Did you and your brothers take turns making sure someone was always home with your mom when your dad became that evil monster so that if he went too far, one of you could dial 911?

This was typical behavior in our house by the time I was in middle school. I dated guys who were as messed up as I was, and it wasn’t an act of rebellion. It was because they didn’t expect me to take them home and meet my family, or even expect to still be together the next week. I didn’t care how messed up they were, and they didn’t judge my life. It was a silent understanding that made for horrible relationships.

This won’t be the outcome for every single situation, but that’s not the point. Any adult harboring the abused child version of themselves inside is cracked in some way. What’s worse, it is far too easy for them to continue the abuse towards their own children. An estimated one-third of children who are subjected to child abuse and neglect go on to repeat patterns of abusive parenting towards their own children.

Those who were once victims begin to create victims. They begin the same vicious cycle because no one rescued them. If you aren’t sure of the signs of child abuse or suspect a child is being abused, this can help you. Knowing the difference between the disciplined child and the abused child could be lifesaving.

The following links can also be helpful

https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/effects-chil...

https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Bailey Posted A Racist Tweet, But That Does NOT Mean She Deserves To Be Fat Shamed

As a certified racist, does she deserve to be fat shamed?
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This morning, I was scrolling though my phone, rotating between Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Snapchat again, ignoring everyone's snaps but going through all the Snapchat subscription stories before stumbling on a Daily Mail article that piqued my interest. The article was one about a teen, Bailey, who was bullied for her figure, as seen on the snap below and the text exchange between Bailey and her mother, in which she begged for a change of clothes because people were making fun of her and taking pictures.

Like all viral things, quickly after her text pictures and harassing snaps surfaced, people internet stalked her social media. But, after some digging, it was found that Bailey had tweeted some racist remark.

Now, some are saying that because Bailey was clearly racist, she is undeserving of empathy and deserves to be fat-shamed. But does she? All humans, no matter how we try, are prejudiced in one way or another. If you can honestly tell me that you treat everyone with an equal amount of respect after a brief first impression, regardless of the state of their physical hygiene or the words that come out of their mouth, either you're a liar, or you're actually God. Yes, she tweeted some racist stuff. But does that mean that all hate she receives in all aspects of her life are justified?

On the other hand, Bailey was racist. And what comes around goes around. There was one user on Twitter who pointed out that as a racist, Bailey was a bully herself. And, quite honestly, everyone loves the downfall of the bully. The moment the bullies' victims stop cowering from fear and discover that they, too, have claws is the moment when the onlookers turn the tables and start jeering the bully instead. This is the moment the bully completely and utterly breaks, feeling the pain of their victims for the first time, and for the victims, the bully's demise is satisfying to watch.

While we'd all like to believe that the ideal is somewhere in between, in a happy medium where her racism is penalized but she also gets sympathy for being fat shamed, the reality is that the ideal is to be entirely empathetic. Help her through her tough time, with no backlash.

Bullies bully to dominate and to feel powerful. If we tell her that she's undeserving of any good in life because she tweeted some racist stuff, she will feel stifled and insignificant and awful. Maybe she'll also want to make someone else to feel as awful as she did for some random physical characteristic she has. Maybe, we might dehumanize her to the point where we feel that she's undeserving of anything, and she might forget the preciousness of life. Either one of the outcomes is unpleasant and disturbing and will not promote healthy tendencies within a person.

Instead, we should make her feel supported. We all have bad traits about ourselves, but they shouldn't define us. Maybe, through this experience, she'll realize how it feels to be prejudiced against based off physical characteristics. After all, it is our lowest points, our most desperate points in life, that provide us with another perspective to use while evaluating the world and everyone in it.

Cover Image Credit: Twitter / Bailey

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Cross-Country Running Turned Me Into Superwoman

Running pulled me out of my everyday funk.

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Before I found the key to my personal success, waking up each morning was a drag. I did not know how to change my negativity. Early every morning my alarm clock would scream at its highest pitch and loudest volume to scold me for existing.

Breakfast (the most important meal of the day) was bland, lifeless, or even just skipped completely. There seemed no point in fueling a broken, run-down engine.

Packing up my heavy, oversized backpack was an everyday annoyance. I would swing my worthless school textbooks over my shoulder, beginning another exhausting day.

I destroyed this negative mindset when I found cross-country running. Introduced to me by a close friend, I had no idea that the sport would soon ameliorate my life.

Today, I wake up before my alarm clock even needs to tell me that it is time to start a new and exciting day of learning and improvement.

Breakfast is of utmost importance. A vigorous, motivated running machine needs nutrients for fuel. I look at myself in the mirror as I tie my hair back; I feel beautiful and capable. Most importantly, I know I can take on anything.

With my running shoes tied tight and my muscles thoroughly stretched and warmed up, I burst out of the door. I hold my head up high and roll my shoulders back, assuming the posture of a powerful superhero. With each stride I beat down upon the ground, leaving clouds of dust behind. My heartbeat is jolted as my legs push forward with power; straining my body. Cramps crawl up my sides, begging me to slow down or stop. They tighten their grip when I refuse to abandon my mission. I feel my overexerted heartbeat burst through my clenching ribcage while my laboring lungs wheeze.

When I put all my energy into keeping the steady rhythm of my feet launching off from the ground, when my breath flows deeply and steadily, then and only then am I able to become greater than any issue or shortcoming. I no longer need to rely on anyone; I just need my running shoes, my body, and my motivation.

This endorphin and adrenaline releasing exercise put me in a positive mindset, motivating me to make other self-improvements. I know I can focus all my energy into running dexterously; holding my pace for over an hour with great confidence. Therefore, I know I must have the ability to sit down for an hour and focus on understanding my calculus homework, on discovering the meaning of life, on writing a book powerful enough to change the world, on finding the answer to world peace or writing my first article for Odyssey.

I hold the same mantra: just keep going, focus your energy, you can and will achieve.

Running has taught me how to focus the entirety of my energy into one task - to not worry how long it takes to accomplish, but rather how well the task is being done. Being proficient in this skill helps me absorb more knowledge from everyday classes.

This life-enhancing sport has truly changed my overall mood and feeling towards the world around me. I look forward to finding myself completely immersed in challenging college courses, discovering fields that captivate me, and continuing to write for Odyssey. Running has taught me that this goal will be achievable.

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