Emotional Child Abuse is Debilitating

by David
( Wuxi, Jiangsu, China)

Child Abuse Story From Bigdaveinchina: 
This account is based on my observation only, not on any therapeutic participation. Years ago, when I was in my prime as an English teacher in Canada, I was given a class of gifted bilingual students. One boy seemed not to belong and seldom produced any work that I was inclined to praise. He had the aura of defeat around him, his shoulders struggling under a weight that always seemed to be there.


Parent/teacher night found his parents sitting across from me. The father, a respected principal in the community, appeared prematurely worn and lacking in confidence. One look at the mother and things became clear. However successful the man might have been in his career, his strength of mind had been eroded years ago. He was now in the process of wrestling with his wife's double emasculation. What she had killed in him he was now witnessing again as his son had no defense against this emotional powerhouse.

She conducted herself with borderline civility, expecting me to be apologetic for her son's lack of excellence. Instinct told me that polite compromise and deference weren't going to have much effect. The father and I shared a look which said, 'This ought to have happened years ago'. He knew this look was telling him to save his son.

My impatience and distaste for this bullying, well-meaning, and absolutely wrong-headed woman came to a head. I suggested she leave her son alone and let him grow at his own rate without breathing down his neck.

She threatened to speak to my superiors about my insensitivity, and I pointed out our school's principal to her. Probably for the first time in years the father stood up, announced that she was going to speak to no one, accompanied a handshake with the words "thank you" and dragged her off to inflict her female wisdom on the next unsuspecting teacher.

The next day the principal mentioned, in confidence, that she had very influential friends. He also mentioned that her husband had stood up for me most enthusiastically.

To be honest, I don't know if this anecdote has a happy ending or not. This kind of abuse is difficult to counter and teachers often resort to conciliation rather than confrontation. Many men, as well, don't carry around the same degree of lethalness.

As a last thought or two, I'd argue that boys need strong men to emulate; without these, they're being shortchanged. I'd argue that the flipside of nurturing is abuse. When the nurturing produces a feeling of suffocation, you know something is very wrong. Abuse, after all, is forcing someone to be what they don't want to be—a sex toy, an intellectual giant, a social butterfly, a gifted pianist, etc. It's the invisible, debilitating effects of abuse that are less sensational, can be marked with an asterisk, and just as enduring as the unforgettable breath of physical violators.

A Video Reading by Darlene BarriereNote from Darlene: I regret that I can no longer continue the practice of commenting on visitor submissions to the degree I have in the past, as I am currently writing a book on healing from child abuse. I ask that you please read my post of June 24, 2009 titled Announcement Regarding my Comments for a complete explanation. I welcome you to follow my progress on my Facebook page at Healing from Child Abuse. When you get there, don't forget to click onto the Become a Fan link. I do hope to hear from you there.

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Comments for Emotional Child Abuse is Debilitating

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Jul 14, 2009
This kind of abuse can be inflicted by both mothers and fathers...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

We're in agreement, David. I believe a child is most influenced by the same-sex parent; and as such, that parent is vital in the child's development of self. I believe that boys and girls equally need strong same-sex role models to emulate. What I see as different is society's definition of strength in men and strength in women. Society itself holds a bias in its perception on both the male and female sides in this definition. A man who does not stand up to a domineering woman is considered weak and unmanly; while a man who does is considered assertive and strong. A woman who does not stand up to a domineering man is considered compliant and feminine; while a woman who does is considered aggressive and bossy. And when it comes to the dominant one, the man is considered manly, while the woman is considered overbearing. We react emotionally to these situations based on our perceptions.

David, what you point out in referring to the experience you use as an example is emotional abuse; and emotional abuse is often invisible, but debilitating nonetheless. Both mothers and fathers are capable of inflicting this debilitating form of abuse on their children. In my experience, it is not exclusive to one or the other.

The fact that you stood up to this mother and pointed another way for her to engage with her son is to be applauded. She needed a wake-up call. The way you dealt with the situation may well have acted as a catalyst to bring about change in the boys life: that must be the goal; and you went about it thoughtfully and brilliantly. Thank you for sharing this story and your thoughts on the matter with my visitors and me.

A Video Reading by Darlene Barriere
Darlene Barriere
Webmaster: www.child-abuse-effects.com
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir


Jul 14, 2009
all parents should read this observation by teachers
by: maurice

The amount of teachers who have said to me through the years they wish parents would get the balance when acknowledging their childrens giftedness and academic abilities instead of emotionally draining their children with pressures and bullying to get on well at their studies for the sake and name of the family status in the community. Darlene how right you are both parents are at fault in this area. Maybe the mammies are in the excess. I have known wonderful gifted children/teenagers who become so stressed out with such pressure and are emotionally debilitated taking a long time to acknowledge who they really are in their own right. Again we are lucky the majority of parents get the balance right and the their children blossom and do their best to achieve at their own level of academic ability. No harm at all for a comment like this on your site Darlene. David you were a true professional in letting this woman know the damage she was doing to her son. You also helped the Father to stand up and be heard and express his fears in this whole area of her dominance even over him. Thank You David most appropriate to share with Darlene and her visitors.

Jul 14, 2009
response to Darlene
by: David(the author)

I'm not convinced that a woman will be viewed as "compliant" and "feminine" if she doesn't stand up to a domineering man.
When I consider my daughters' lives(in Canada)and the lives of my friends'daughters,I think we share the very opposite view.We don't want our girls to be compliant in preparation for longterm doormat life.We also don't want them to be overly androgynous such that we have to squint to see the softer side.I acknowledge,though,that they will decide what faces they are most comfortable with and also which ones are required with respect to particular circumstances.
No one is happy to see a person's independence chiselled away over time...

Jul 14, 2009
And what if the TEACHER is the bully?
by: Scott Canada

Through my experience it was the teacher that crushed me in the classroom through excessive and humiliating corporal punishment. It wasn't bad enough that I lived with the devil at home, but I had a teacher who liked taking my pants down for discipline and she knew I had nobody at home to go and tell. Quite a power trip for an educator wouldn't you say? If she didnt enjoy it, than why did she do it so often?

Jul 15, 2009
human beings ..thankfully 85% are true and genuine
by: maurice

Ok we all came across the not so nice human beings especially those who ruined our innocence and treated us badly by physically, emotionally, sexually abusing us. We all know now they were in positions of trust over us but who abused that trust and ruined our lives. I acknowledge the ones who speak out about those very sick people of their profession. Not defending them but naming and shaming them. That takes courage so I still say thank you to David for highlighting a very real life situation regarding females who abuse be they in whatever position in our society. receiving a more lenient & sympathetic hearing than that of the male who abuses. Sadly too most know that a number of females can be more cruel and devious in their abusing than males. Teachers thankfully are among those who abused openly in the classrooms of the world. from the most rural parts to the larger educational establishments in the cities. The false power and trust that Church, state people had the further one goes back in time was unreal. So Scott your teacher abuser was one of these. No doubt for that one you remember the nicer and more understanding loving ones who educated you. I in no way condone her or indeed anyone who abused us as innocent and vulnerable children/teenagers/adolescents/young adults. Great through Darlene's site we are loving and supporting each other in the healing of ourselves from those years. Darlene thank you. it is great I can open my heart felt feeling in safety and in love to all those who visit your site expressing their true emotions and feelings knowing there is someone who really cares and understands at the other side of the world and the email. It does me a power of good reading each one's sad, sad story of abuse and beginning the healing of themselves from it.

Jul 15, 2009
To Scott Canada
by: David(the author)

I think you answered your own question,Scott.The person who humiliated you physically wasn't a teacher....rather a child-hater that you had the misfortune to meet and endure.The profession has its share of these misfits who we regret not sending to an early grave.
The guy who loved to abuse me was a teacher of history.I guess I was lucky not to have come across him after graduation...I would have ended up with a criminal record.
I was perhaps 13 at the time and had no idea at all about a career path that interested me.He did,in spite of himself,teach me three valuable lessons...1.never to accept humiliation again and 2.never to inflict it on someone else and 3.equip myself to be the kind of guy no one would ever try that stuff on.
I couldn't always live up to the "nice guy" part of me that #2 alludes to and ,quite frankly,there are times that I just won't try.These memories obviously aren't a lot of fun to recall...maybe they had to happen before I found the strength to walk tall.
Keep the memory,Scott.Just don't let it poison you.

Aug 17, 2009
my pain and hope is not lost
by: Anonymous

Don't know you realize how normal is in China , they think differently , they favor the parent and always treat kid like a child and they are actually nice to people but something wrong inside their heart , they can be a real abuser without consciously realizing it let alone admitting it , the society is in denial , or something , they refuse to see who they are , refuse to discovery their problems until it's been seen and highlighted in other countries , the thing is , their problem is unique and without a methodology to check problems , bad things are always there, and victims are becoming abusers , the affect goes on generation after generation , and help, justice , the good thing , the public is losing faith with them, heart is lost , and the rare beauty in human shouldn't be let go let earlisy , someone is gonna fight.
saying this , is my own situation , smart enough to know what's going on in me , but no power to turn things around, the helpless feeling and the guilt me not able to help myself is eating me , makes me envoy India , not so smart country as china , but people are rising to treat themselves well , but here i see numb and excuses for themselves and no one cares , maybe that's too harsh , but i lost hope in them , i will find my own life, even the abuse is making it harder on me .
That's it , no mean to be political , just to be honest . if the truth are being appreciated more and more , well , truth is a good thing.

Aug 31, 2009
hi scott
by: Anonymous

I thought about that too.
The teacher probably enjoyed tormenting people.
What I don't get is why someone who gets power trips off hurting people would become a teacher. It's easy to pick on kids. People who pick on kids are cowards. why not become a CEO or politician or somthing. You can still pick on people then and be somewhat less of a coward

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