Before I answer that question, there’s another crucially important part of the puzzle that you need to have: kids are simply the mirrors of their parents. However the parent is treating their kid is how, fundamentally, they feel about themselves.
The slaps, anger, criticism, disparagement, violence, dislike, hostility and blame they dole out to their children are just ‘mirroring’ their subconscious attitude towards the real them, their own ‘inner child’. (There’s a whole other biological dimension to this involving what’s called ‘mirror neurons’ and empathy, but that’s a post for another time.)
If the adult can be taught to like themselves better, to love themselves more, to see the good in themselves and to treat themselves with a whole lot more self-compassion, they will automatically start treating their own children a whole lot better, too.
It works in reverse too: if the adult can be taught to see the good in their child, and to accept them, and to understand instead of blaming, shaming and criticizing them, then they will automatically start to do that for themselves, too.
You can sum it up like this: the abusive behavior has been going on for generations, passed down like some sort of warped inheritance from parent to child. Children are abused, maltreated and neglected because their parents were abused, maltreated and neglected. If that child isn’t helped to break the cycle, they in turn will go on to abuse, maltreat and neglect their own children – probably against their will!
What this all means is that the people themselves are not the problem and shouldn’t be labelled as such, but the abusive behavior and attitudes have to be identified as the evils they truly are, and challenged – but from a place of compassion, not blame.
Remember, the abusive parent was once a scared, traumatized kid. On some level, they are also stuck in the past, reacting to old hurts and injustices that they never really healed from.
In the next post, I’m going to share a powerful ‘gestalt’ visualization, that builds on the previous ‘inner child’ exercise to help your inner child develop their voice, and express their hurts, in a safe, non-risky environment that will help you to keep your external relationships as intact as you wish them to be.