As a child my Mum used physical force and fear to try and control my behaviour, or perhaps to release her frustration. I forgive my Mum of this as it’s just her traumas surfacing and she did not find a way to deal with them. I also know how stressful it can be when your traumas have not been dealt with (see my long series of posts about childhood trauma). However, my fear before having children was that I would smack my children and cause those same horrible feelings in my own children. This blog post reflects on how terrible it can feel when you accidentally use physical force on your child, and how to put it into perspective.
Accidental Physical Control
As it turns out, I somehow did not go down the path of shouting or smacking at my children. However, there have been two occasions when things escalated with my eldest daughter and she’s been knocked over as I’ve tried to stop her from doing something harmful. Both times, my entire mental state went into a meltdown internally. “That’s it, I’ve blown everything, she’ll fear me just like I feared my mother.” You can guess where my mind was taking me, the dark dark depths of irrational worry.
The last occasion was when one of the twins had a toilet accident on the mattress. I was trying to get them all off as they were all trying to run through it. My 4 year old daughter came diving towards it with a cheeky monkey grin and using her full force… I automatically reacted by holding up my hands, to stop her running through it. You’ve guessed it… she was knocked down onto the mattress.
I went down my spiralling path of doom and gloom, saying to my husband “that’s it, I’d rather go to hell than be that terrible mother. She’s going to have memories of me hurting her like my mum did to me.” I continued saying “…and not only that, she looked like she’s hurt by me all the time! She just didn’t react whatsoever, not even a whimper!”
The Reality of Accidents
My husband, quite matter of factly, pointed out the facts:
- You don’t hurt her at all, so that’s not possible for her to behave like she’s always hurt. Someone who’s being abused will cower even if the abuser doesn’t touch them, as their fear is that the person will hurt them. Someone who doesn’t fear being hurt will not act scared at all if someone comes near, as they’re used to being taken care of.
- Your daughter’s uncaring attitude towards the situation means that she doesn’t fear you.
- She doesn’t worry one bit that you’re going to hurt her because if she did she would have tried to run away or scream.
- She didn’t need to run or cry or protect herself, as she knew you wouldn’t hurt her intentionally.
- That could happen to anyone trying to keep someone away from something that could harm them.
- Your subconscious told you that the mattress is dirty and to keep them off it.
- That isn’t the same as someone intending to hurt you through smacking or anger.
How true his viewpoint was to the situation. Who hasn’t been knocked over accidentally before in a “woooaaah watch out” type moment. It doesn’t mean we fear the person who knocked us over. They apologise and then you move on, perhaps being extra careful of a similar situation in the future.
Reflection on My Mum’s Parenting To Me
As I continued to reflect on the situation, my brain briefly wondered whether my Mum’s physical smacking of me was actually accidental and whether it was me being too harsh on her parenting. I realised that no, my Mum would start screaming in anger first and then smack to silence me. Silent treatment would follow, which also showed a lack of empathy for the hurt caused to me, and that she couldn’t see she’d done anything wrong. That is totally different to accidentally knocking your child over and swiftly apologising.
That’s the end of this short blog post. I wanted to mention my thoughts on this hoping that it may help anyone else who is taking that first generational step to stopping physical harm being done to your children. How easy it can be, when you love your children so much, to fear that they’ll feel scared by you in the same way your parents scared you. The reality is, as long as you’re taking all possible steps to keep your children safe and secure, then the occasional accident will unlikely be misinterpreted by your children as you wanting to hurt them.