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When the Child Abuses the Parent

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When the Child Abuses the Parent

Many years ago, I lived in apartment building on the 3rd/top floor. Beneath me, about once or twice a month, I would hear yelling, cursing, and loud banging in the middle of the night. It sounded like a man and a woman fighting, and I was so scared and worried for the safety of everyone involved.

I did not know these people, but it was clear that some sort of domestic violence was taking place, and it was actually frightening. I remember complaining often to the apartment building manager about it, but they never did anything about it. Eventually, I started calling the police every time it happened. Not only was I concerned for the safety of those involved, I was actually scared for my own safety, as I lived directly above these people, and I had no idea if they owned weapons or not. If a gun shot went through the ceiling, it would land in my apartment.

I remember the day the police finally came knocking on my door, They informed me that it was a young adult fighting with and assaulting his own mother! Ultimately, after numerous occasions, the mother was told that if the son didn’t leave, they would be evicted, which is what eventually happened.

Fast forward to 2018 when rocker Tommy Lee’s 21-year-old son assaulted him. It makes people wonder what causes a child to abuse their own parent. One theory is that it stems from having endured child abuse as a youngster. There is often a lot of resentment if a teen or young adult was physically or mentally abused when they were young, weak and helpless.

Now that they are older, bigger and stronger, they are simply not going to take it anymore. At the first sign of disapproval or criticism, a young adult might start to rage inside, and decide that they need to exert power over the person who formerly made them feel so powerless.

Sometimes, it has absolutely nothing at all to do with anything in the past, but rather is a result of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. People do crazy things while under the influence, often things that they would never dream of doing while sober.

Sometimes, there is an underlying rage or pain deep inside that comes out when someone feels uninhibited. Other times, it is simply the way the drug affects the brain chemistry that is responsible for feeling out of control and doing harmful things. While under the influence, people can become extremely paranoid and reactive. They can hallucinate, seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there. And because of all of these things, they can lash out and become violent, even towards those whom they love, including their own parents.

Another way that drugs and alcohol might play a role in this is the desperation that an addict often experiences. They might be unable to keep a job or a home, and rely on their parents to support and enable them. Often, when the parents refuse to let them live with them, refuse to give them money, or to enable them in any way, the addict lashes out in both anger and sometimes as a result of the effects of withdrawal. If you’ve ever watched the show Intervention, you’ve probably seen all of this happen.

Sometimes, families keep secrets or do really awful, hurtful things to one another. This can lead a child to lash out against the offending person, even if it is their parent. For example, perhaps you have at some point watched Jerry Springer. If so, you’ve likely seen situations where a mother slept with her son’s best friend, or a father slept with his son’s wife. Once the secrets are exposed, emotions run high and people often get physical with each other. I’ve seen many instances where an adult child assaults his parent because of things like this.

In addition to abuse, drugs and alcohol, and secrets often being factors, mental illness can also lead to a child abusing their parent. Someone who suffers from bipolar disorder might get violent during a manic episode, while those with borderline personality disorder tend to operate in extremes and can become very reactive and have fits of rage.

It is important to understand that not every situation is the same. It is easy to just assume that if a child ever hits their parent, that parent must have been a horrible parent and treated their child horribly. While this is sometimes true, there are many other reasons that have nothing to do with parenting. You might have been the best parent in the world, and still find yourself in this situation. It does not mean it is your fault.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, it is important to know what to do. First of all, unless you were abusive to your child, this really is not your fault. Second, if your child is an adult, they must be held accountable for their actions. If your child assaults you, call the police. It is illegal to assault people. Do not feel that you must protect your child from the consequences of their own behavior; if you do, then you are an enabler.

Don’t allow yourself to be abused by anyone, even your own child. And for God’s sake, do not post about it on social media, like Tommy Lee did, saying that his son was an “awful son.” Everyone involved should be encouraged to get help, either individually or as a family.

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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