Recognizing abusive behavior is the first step.

Breaking the Cycle of Abusive Parenting

by Karen Kleinschmidt

While there is never an excuse for child abuse, understanding that parents who abuse their children were likely victims of child abuse themselves can help foster an understanding of the manner in which they learned to deal with anger and frustration, according to Lisa Dunning, marriage and family therapist and author of, "Good Parents, Bad Parenting." She reveals that adult survivors of childhood abuse may be involved in domestic violence, may have low self-esteem, or they may end up in prison. Formerly abused children who find themselves becoming abusive parents or fear becoming abusive parents can take steps to break the cycle of abuse.

1. Recognizing Abusive Behavior

Adults have the ability to look at their childhoods and access whether they were abused as children. What may have seemed like normal behavior growing up may not seem so healthy now. Often, parents who were abused as children know no other way to parent; they simply repeat what was done to them, says Help Guide.org. The inability to avoid or stop hitting, pushing or screaming at your child when you are angry, feeling emotionally disconnected or completely overwhelmed by your child, difficulty meeting your child's needs on a daily basis and the concern of others can all be signs that you are exhibiting abusive behavior.

2. New Parenting Skills

Research and learn what normal child development and normal behavior for your child's specific age group is. Expecting the unexpected, such as asking a toddler to sit for long periods of time, will only fuel your anger and frustration. Get involved in a mom's group or a parenting group to meet others who can give you advice and support. Begin reading books or attending seminars to learn discipline techniques. Learning to control your emotions and having a discipline plan will put you on the path to breaking the cycle of child abuse.

3. Positive Interactions

Many parents have difficulty disciplining their children when they act out but those who, themselves, were victims of harsh corporal punishment or physical abuse may struggle even more, according to the ABC News article, "When Children of Abuse Become Parents." Children generally repeat what is modeled for them, so a household where there is constant yelling, threatening, spanking and shouting may produce children who hit and shout when they are angry. The principle of paying attention to negative behavior increases it while paying attention to positive behavior encourages positive behavior, is recommended by Alan Kazdin of Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic in a 2009 "ABC News" article. Kazdin advises that parents give specific praise to the positive things that children do through high-fives, smiles, praise or a touch. Reserve punishment for when it is necessary while using positive praise most of the time.

4. Professional Help

Although you may recognize that you are abusive or are at risk of abusing your child, you may continue to struggle to control your anger and make the necessary changes to discipline your child. Adults who were abused as children may find it difficult to change on their own. Seek the help of a professional therapist or local parenting group, or seek assistance from your local social services department for information about where to get assistance in your area.

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