Drawing the Line Between Outbursts and Parental Abuse

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Having a child with special needs can be a blessing, no doubt about it. It changes you as a parent in ways that other parents will never understand. You see the world in a way that is a million miles outside the proverbial box. Unfortunately, there can be a dark side to your depth of understanding if your child is prone to outbursts, whether verbal, physical or both. So, where do you start when drawing the line between outbursts and parental abuse? And what do you do if that line is crossed?

Let’s Explore Drawing the Line Between Outbursts and Parental Abuse

Now, any time the term “abuse” is used, opinions run rampant. But this is a real problem for some parents, and if you’re one of them, I want you to know you are not alone. Outbursts can begin at any age, and the older your child gets, the greater the potential for more harm. If you’re an advocate for your child and the main disciplinarian, you face the greatest danger of becoming the target of those outbursts.

So, when does it become abuse?

Let’s take for example my son. I’ve discussed before how he is diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). I’ve dealt with the eye rolls that those disorders don’t actually exist and the stigma surrounding them for both my son and myself as his parent.

His outbursts began around the age of three. By the time he was five, they became so violent that I would have to physically contain him (per his doctor’s orders) to keep him from hurting himself, other people and breaking everything within arm’s reach. He is now 10 and though he takes medication and his outbursts are far and few between, they get worse every year.

Although I feel abused during those outbursts – hurt by his words and sometimes by him physically while trying to correct the behavior – it is not technically considered abuse. The reason I feel this is important to discuss is that I know that if he continues these outbursts into his teen years, I will have to broach this subject with higher authorities.

What makes this a simple case of outbursts vs. parental abuse is that my son does not use his outbursts to control me. He does it simply because he can not control himself. This is the case with most children with disabilities. And as sucky as it is, if you are dealing with this as well, we have to just muddle through, use our resources and do our best to teach our children right from wrong.

Here’s where it changes

If you are experiencing a loss of control in your household, if your child controls the atmosphere in your home through intimidation whether verbal or physical, then I beseech you to seek help. This is abuse.

It does not matter how old or young your child is, nor does it matter what disabilities he/she may have. As a parent, it is your responsibility to raise your child to be the best they can be. When the power shifts from parent to child, even if the children do not have disabilities, it needs to be corrected as soon as possible. Speak with your child’s doctor regarding the behavior so that they may recommend counselors and possibly a change in your child’s medication, if your child takes any.

Do not let yourself fall victim to your children. Always remember that it’s not only about protecting yourself as a person, but also about doing right by your child in not allowing destructive behavior to continue. Give them the best chance in life by restoring the balance to your home.

Abuse can occur in any relationship whether with a child or adult. If you are experiencing abuse, seek help from family, friends or a professional.

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