This is certainly a complicated situation. I believe you when you say your parents love you. In your letter, you work hard to be fair and acknowledge that you can be rude so it seems you love them too. That being said, it is never, ever acceptable for someone who is bigger, stronger, and carries parental authority to physically and verbally hurt a child. Your parents apparently felt that fear was a good method for making you behave. All it did was make you resentful and as angry as they are. So here you all are now — in a house where love is overwhelmed by anger and where power (who has it and who doesn’t) has become more important than enjoying each other. What a shame.
I can’t tell you why your folks act the way they do. It probably comes from how they were treated while they were growing up. And I can’t tell you for sure why you continue to be rude – although a good guess is that you are getting even.
You are big enough now to stop the physical abuse. That’s certainly a relief for you. But are you mature enough to work on putting a stop to the cycle of emotional abuse as well? Ideally, your parents would take this role and make things different. But since they’re either not able to or don’t understand why it would make a better relationship, it is up to you.
You are old enough and educated enough to stop using rudeness to make a point. Instead, you could just calmly tell them both that you love them, that you know they love you, and that people who love each other don’t hurt each other so you’re not going to participate in it anymore. You can offer that you will work on not being rude any more but that you want them to stop yelling at you and threatening you. Leaving to sit in the car was a great way to demonstrate this. You didn’t add your noise and anger to your father’s noise and anger. You didn’t insult him. You just took yourself out of it. That was an adult and effective way to handle his irrational outburst.
My guess is that your parents don’t want to lose you, especially since you are an only child. If you keep affirming that you care but refuse to get sucked into the cycle of abuse, you will eventually start seeing results.
I wish you well.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on August 13, 2006.