Parents yelling at child, child is holding their backpack and looking down sadly

Not All Parents Are Good

By Sherrie Campbell, PhD, author of Adult Survivors of Emotionally Abusive Parents

This is hard truth to accept in a culture that mis-assumes that all parents love their children. However, the resistance to this idea has no bearing on the truth of it. Whatever form of love abusive parents offer their children is as twisted as the problematic character of these parents. Emotionally abusive parents view love as “possession.” They don’t love their children, they own them.

Emotionally abusive parents view their children as ‘things’ put in their lives to serve them. They do not hold the viewpoint that the children they brought into the world didn’t choose to come here, and that perhaps their role as a parent to their younger, less experienced child is to be of service to them, to help love and guide them through life. When parents are emotionally abusive, children are viewed as obligated to the parent, when in truth, parents should be far more obligated to their children. What these parents fail to understand is that love cannot be forced. Being raised as a commodity, rather than raised as a human being with needs and feelings of their own, emotionally abused children grow up feeling sad, alone, angry, unwanted, and totally defeated every single day.

It’s a sad reality in our society that we hold strangers to higher standards of treatment of children than parents. When a stranger harms a child, that person faces losing their job, their license, and many have faced criminal charges. We would never dream of expecting children to remain in good standing with any person, regardless of their elevated status, who had abused them. But somehow when it comes to parents, we have a hard time accepting that parents can be bad, abusive, and downright dangerous to their children. And, regardless of parental abuses being exposed, we lean in to protect parents by demanding children remain in good standing—with their parents and their abusers, for the remainder of their lives.

It’s a sad reality in our society that we are not allowed to talk about the problematic character of bad parents in a culturally open and safe space. Instead, we allow the idea of bad parenting to hide in the shadows of our collective awareness as we heartlessly place innocent children in the spotlight of blame and responsibility. It’s time we remove the spotlight of blame and responsibility solely off a child’s behavior and place it back onto the source: the parent who is mistreating them. To accomplish this, we must establish a language in our cultural narrative that allows us to tell parents when they need to do better.

It’s time we come to understand DNA beyond the general definition of genetic family bonds that cannot be broken, and understand DNA as Do Not Abuse. We have the opportunity to save the families of the future, one cycle-breaker at a time. The purpose of Adult Survivors of Emotionally Abusive Parents is to challenge cultural norms and help protect children. It’s time to give survivors of emotionally abusive parents the permission to move their lives in new and different directions, so that the generational trauma that ran into them will stop with them—right here, right now.

Sherrie Campbell, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping healthy people cut ties with the toxic people in their lives. She is a nationally recognized expert on family estrangement, an inspirational speaker, a social media influencer, and author of Adult Survivors of Toxic Family Members.

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