My dad resorts to violence

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From New Zealand: My friend’s quite ill at the moment and I went with some friends to visit her at the clinic she’s staying at. When I was at home later in the evening my dad that I dressed up too much to visit a sick friend and that I wouldn’t have any friends if I treated people that way. He meant it like, I was showing off or something, I guess in a mean way. As in, my friend’s very sick and I’m making myself all pretty as if to make her feel worse or to make myself feel better. I felt very offended as this was of course not my intention at all and I didn’t know how he could even see it that way. I was wearing this sort of shirt dress and a zip hoodie. I like to dress nicely and try to have good style so it never even occurred to me that my clothes could be perceived inappropriate.

I was quite angered by what my dad said and defended myself but he stood by what he said (he always does, I know that I wouldn’t be able to make him say “oh I was wrong, maybe what you wore was fine” for example, but I don’t like just saying “ok” to whatever he says when really I disagree but god knows it would make everything easier, in a way). I was angry that he wouldn’t see it differently. When he walked away I said “You’re such an idiot.” He goes, “Who were you talking to?” as in, You can’t talk to your dad like that. I said, “I was talking to you. I said, you’re such an idiot.”

This, like it would for any father, made him very angry and he beat me with my drink bottle and kicked me and twisted my arm. I was on the couch at the time and I had kind of lied down and hunched into a ball before he started beating me. I have a camelbak drink bottle and they’re quite hard as opposed to soft plastic so it hurt a lot. My mum heard the noise and came downstairs. She’s always the mediator, telling us both the things we’ve done wrong. She told me off for what I said. She gets frustrated when this sort of thing happens. She wishes I would stop talking back to my dad, arguing with him and saying stupid things like “You’re an idiot”. Both my parents thought I deserved the beating and my mum said my dad’s allowed to tell me his opinion and that it’s absolutely wrong for me to insult him. I was so angry but I know it was very wrong of me to call him an idiot.

I just need to know how common this sort of thing is. I know in a lot of families parents wouldn’t think of using violence on their children or that one parent wouldn’t tolerate the other parent hurting their children. I also know that a lot of families do beat their children. I just really don’t know what my dad hurting me is going to achieve. Some of the things he says still make me angry and I can’t stand having to tolerate it. Does he think if he hits me hard enough I’ll learn my lesson and stop talking back? Surely parents can’t scare their children into obeying them?

I need to work on controlling my anger and using smarter ways to express myself. Calling people idiots is pretty stupid. Since he was only expressing his opinion, maybe next time I’ll just say something like, “Ok, I understand your opinion.” And try not to argue with him too much.

I just want to know someone’s opinion on this whole thing. I need an outsider’s perspective.

A: I appreciate how hard you tried to be fair and to take responsibility for your part in these arguments. Yes, you need to be respectful. Yes, you need to work on learning ways to control your anger. And yes, you need to learn when the best thing to do is to back down and walk away. You know your dad has anger management issues. You know talking back will only get you hurt. So why would you do things to provoke him? You won’t win any argument with him so please quit trying.

The answer to your question is that it doesn’t matter how common or uncommon it is for parents to beat their children. It isn’t right for any parent to be violent and to beat his child – no matter how much the kid provokes. My guess is that your mother is as afraid of your dad as you are. If she intervened strongly, he might turn on her. Her only way to protect you is to try to mediate. I do suggest you try to talk to her when you can be calm and rational about it and when you can sympathize with the tough spot she’s in. Perhaps if you work together, you can come up with some better ways to handle it when your dad gets upset.

You do have some other choices as well: You can know in your heart that violence is wrong is wrong and keep clear of your dad by staying out of arguments. (It doesn’t matter how “right” you are if you end up getting hurt.) You (and your mom) could seek out help from a domestic violence program. Check out this website/a> for information. Or you could notify the police the next time he beats you. I do strongly suggest you try out the first two options before resorting to the third. Once the legal system gets involved, you lose control over what happens next. The police have protocols they have to follow. Do call the police if all else fails and you are getting hurt, of course. But try getting connected with a program to end family violence first.

I’m very sorry you don’t feel safe with your dad. It’s certainly not the relationship I would wish for you or you would wish for yourself.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Sep 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). My dad resorts to violence. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/09/07/my-dad-resorts-to-violence/

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