Demonizing Abusive Parents

Parents of the Village Kids, Human Beings Not Ogres

Kids who come to Children’s Village are sent from the court because they have been abused or neglected by their parents. Almost from the beginning, I wondered what kind of parents would abuse their children. My first inclination was to look upon them as people I’d just as soon avoid.

What was wrong with them? How could this mom allow the sexual abuse of her daughter to happen? What demon had entered into the heart of a Dad that made him beat his own child senseless. It was difficult to reconcile the smiling faces I saw on the occasion of parental visits with their past record of abusive behavior.

What was wrong with them? How could this mom allow the sexual abuse of her daughter to happen? What demon had entered into the hearts of these smiling parents I saw hugging their kids today when yesterday they had beaten these same kids senseless?

Memories of my own experience as a parent helped me to be less judgmental. Many years ago, as a new parent, I recalled a day when I felt so angry, so frustrated at the behavior of my three year old kid, that I picked her up and was on the verge of throwing her to the floor in pent-up rage.

Thankfully, I caught myself in time from doing her harm but I was shaken (and humbled) at how close I had come to child abuse. I never forgot that moment when it dawned on me what can happen, even to a loving parent, when pushed by circumstances seemingly beyond his control.

So, I found my “tude” changing. Not for a moment would I ever excuse child abuse. No way; no how. But I have come to realize that the parental abusers of today were, for the most part, abused themselves as kids. Abusive parents are not ogres but flawed human beings. They didn’t set out one day to hurt their children. Most of them are deeply ashamed of their abusive actions and would like to be reunited with their kids.

My change of attitude also comes from the realization that if I am to reach the kids who live with us at the Village, I have to make an effort to understand their parents.

Bad or good, these are their parents. The kids need to come to love and accept them. It would be counter-productive for me or any of the Village staff to stand in judgment over any child’s parents. You just don’t mess with the powerful bond that exists between parent and child.

What we can offer our kids is help in understanding that the abuse they suffered was not their fault. They are not bad kids nor are their parents necessarily “bad” people. Like all of us, they are imperfect human beings. Our job is to teach our Village kids to love their parents despite their faults. At least, that’s the way this grandpa sees it.