“My Kids Are Fine” Hurts So Much

It takes everything in me not to go off when I see parents in denial about the impacts of their “discipline” methods (read: punishment, since discipline means to teach), shaming and hitting most of all. I have no desire to cut down or berate any parent. My concern comes from my own childhood wounds. Seeing what passes as effective discipline often sends my heart rate soaring as my brain pulls up those decades old experiences with punishment. I find it hard to bear the flippancy of people who announce, “my kids are fine.”

I have had to leave many a conversation in person and on social media, because they so deeply trigger my C-PTSD. And, as bad as it gets for me, I can still move through life mostly successful in the things I attempt to do. All sorts of people are subject to very bad experiences and they grow up to live what appear to be pretty typical adult lives.

Doesn’t mean they are fine.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) like bullying, spanking, sexual violence, and the like significantly and negatively impact us. We have objective evidence of this fact. If a parent is harming their kids on a daily basis, those babies are not fine. Not by a long shot. What they are is survivors. And, the brains of survivors do what they must to get by.

When children chronically experience ACEs, they will typically fight, run away, freeze up, or give in. These are the basic human responses to trauma. They are involuntary and protective.

Write up in text below image
Source: SpiritualSelfHelp.com

The graphic above explains that “most people have one or two dominant stress responses that they typically fall back into as their main mode of reacting to stressful triggers and situations, or perceived threats” and details the four stress responses as follows:

C-PTSD: The Four Stress Responses

Fight

  • Self-preservation at all costs
  • Explosive temper and outbursts
  • Aggressive, angry behavior
  • Controls others
  • Bully
  • Can’t ‘hear’ other points of view
  • A pronounced sense of entitlement
  • Demands perfection from others
  • Dictatorial tendencies

Typically mislabeled as:

  • Narcissist
  • Sociopath
  • Conduct disorder

Flight

  • Obsessive and/or compulsive behavior
  • Feelings of panic and anxiety
  • Rushing around
  • Over-worrying
  • Workaholic
  • Can’t sit still, can’t relax
  • Tries to micromanage situations and other people
  • Always on the go, busy doing things
  • Wants things to be perfect
  • Overachiever

Typically mislabeled as:

  • OCD
  • Bipolar
  • ADHD
  • Panic disorder
  • Mood disorder

Freeze

  • Spacing out
  • Feeling unreal
  • Hibernating
  • Isolating the self from the outside world
  • Couch potato
  • Disassociates
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulties making decisions, acting on decisions
  • Achievement-phobic
  • Wants to hide from the world
  • Feels dead, lifeless

Typically mislabeled as:

  • Clinical depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADD
  • DID

Fawn

  • People pleasing
  • Scared to say what they really think
  • talks about “the other” instead of themselves
  • Flatters others to avoid conflict
  • Angel of mercy
  • Overcaring
  • Sucker
  • Can’t stand up for the self, say no
  • Easily exploited by others
  • Hugely concerned with social standing and acceptance, fitting in
  • Yes person

Typically mislabeled as:

  • Codependent
  • Victim

The vast majority of people who experience consistent, harmful punishment, such as spanking, will experience one or more of these stress responses throughout their lives. We run into trouble when these responses are so present in our lives that they come to be viewed as a part of our personality or as a disorder for which we need intervention. And, it begins in childhood when parents claim “my kids are fine” when, in reality, their children are experiencing an obvious stress response. If we see any of the signs of stress responses in our children, we must be willing to seek help from a mental health professional who can assess what is happening and provide tools for healing.

I experienced harsh punishment as a child, which seems to be unnervingly common for Autistic children. Our behavior is misunderstood and traditional punishment often doesn’t work as intended, so the harshness escalates. Add to that the bullying and exclusion we undergo, and it’s difficult to make it through childhood without deep wounds. My fall backs are fight and flight. I shift between rage and debilitating anxiety as I encounter even minor stressors.

Recently, I felt like punching my husband and walking out after he ate some food I had been saving for myself. I was absolutely infuriated. Heart racing, chest hot, bristly feeling skin. Over a little snack. I don’t want to be this way. It’s not healthy. And, despite years of therapy and an entire professional toolkit of coping mechanisms, my brain refuses to give up these stress responses I developed as a child. But, the reality is that I am improving every year through meditation, reparenting myself, and, yes, even the work of peaceful parenting.

So, I ask every parent to stop saying “my kids are fine” unless you know for a fact that they are. And, if they aren’t, help them. Please.

3 thoughts on ““My Kids Are Fine” Hurts So Much

  1. I would love to share this with my teacher friends on FB. I believe it is important to understand the source of the behaviors exhibited in their classroom and schools. Do you post on Facebook?

    Liked by 1 person

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