I posted ARE YOU MY FATHER? 3 days ago. It was about a poster with that question on it.
Then I got to thinking. How do these shelter kids see and explain their father or father figure's extreme, fluctuating behavior?
Typically, the batterer is good to babies and small children. He often treats them well and hides his behavior from them by sending them to their rooms or waiting until they're asleep when he batters their mother.
As the kids get older, they are often instructed to take the small kids out of the room. Or they have learned to leave when he gets abusive and hide or wait somewhere else. Often, older kids (nine to teenage) start to defend or protect Mom verbally or physically when she is in danger or being hurt.Two teens told me they once pulled their stepfather's hands from their mother's neck when she could no longer talk.
Once the kids see him as "bad", the batterer begins to abuse them, if he hasn't already. Usually his expectations are so high that they are already anxious and depressed from his biting criticism when they fail to meet his inappropriate expectations.
They may act out in school, withdraw, fear or defy authority. Violence in the home may spill over to the community as these kids become violent themselves. Many become the victim of a bully or batterer.
How does a child survive a batterer's incredible, inconsistent personality change as time goes on? Or the frightening mood swings that may occur daily, hourly, or minute-to-minute?
Some identify with the batterer. Become violent. Blame Mom for her imperfection and their miserable life. Some conform as best they can, enjoy the good times, try to forget the bad times.Some leave home, become mentally ill, commit crimes, or join gangs.
Most carry significant wounds, psychological as well as physical, into adulthood.
The ones who manage to develop more normal expectations and enter adulthood with reasonably intact self-esteem may have the right personality, a mom who becomes stronger and supports change, a mentor at a significant time, high intelligence and drive. Who knows?
I believe that true survival of a violent home may be the luck of the draw. Why do some victimes reject this lifestyle and some repeat it?
Think about being a mentor to a child in trouble. You might be the change factor that saves his future family.