From the U.S.: How do I handle my mother’s frequent age-inappropriate behavior and questionable parenting techniques? As you read, it is important to keep in mind that my mother’s public persona of “caring and attentive parent” is carefully constructed and presented in the presence of everyone outside of the immediate family. I had to cut -a lot- of important information because of the word limit.
My mother has severe mood swings that result in irrational outbursts. I have 3 younger siblings, and 1 younger step-sibling. My 11 year old sister is usually the focus of her anger. This is, specifically, the reason I’m seeking advice from Psych Central.
Screaming and belittling is a daily occurrence in my sister’s life and she’s come to expect it. She often says “I’m going to get in trouble no matter what, so nothing matters” when I encourage her to do things like work harder in school. On top of yelling, my mother gets “in her face” and cusses her out on a daily basis (not an exaggeration). My sister has said to me several times “I hate her,” “I wish I hadn’t been born,” and “I wish I could die.” My sister is, understandably, emotionally unstable and cries when these things happen, to which she is further berated for being “whiny.”
My step-sister, ten years old, is my other concern. Her mother doesn’t have custody of her, as she was recently in prison for drug charges. My mother tells her often that she’ll end up in jail or pregnant as a teenager because she’s bound to “be a whore” and “you should be so thankful to me for everything I do for you. I don’t have to do any of it, and if you don’t start being more respectful/obedient I’ll stop.”
I filed a CPS report for psychological abuse after my sister first said she wanted to die because she’s miserable at home and the case wasn’t reviewed. I plan on transferring to a school out of state, and I believe it would be in my best interest to make a clean break from my family, but I can’t do that until I repair the situation. I have no doubt I would be essentially disowned if I tried to confront her. And, if I’m being honest, I’m afraid to share my thoughts with her. I know that’s probably cowardly, but I need advice on the next best options for addressing these problems.
A: My first question when I read this is “Where are the fathers?” You are a wonderful, caring older sister ,but you need some help from the other adults in the family if this situation is to change. You can’t repair what’s going on at home on your own. So where are the fathers? Do they understand what is happening to their children? Your mother’s behavior is inexcusable and can damage the kids emotionally for a long, long time. The dads need to make it clear that she can’t keep it up and they need to get your mom whatever help she needs to manage her emotions and to learn how to be a mother.
If the men have dropped out of the picture, how about other relatives? Is there anyone you are close enough to that you can have a heart to heart about what is really happening at home? Yes, I know. No one likes to have their cover blown. Your mother will be furious if you start letting other people know how bad it is. But you have an escape route in that you’re going to college. The younger ones are stuck there. Maybe it’s worth being “disowned” if the kids get the help they need. Think about it.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Jul 2014
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). My Mother Abuses My Younger Siblings. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 4, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/31/my-mother-abuses-my-younger-siblings/