Thank you for posting this! It’s a pretty common element in the background of MC’s that they are being physically abused by one or both of their parents. The most common one I see is MC’s getting slapped after shouting at their parents and then the parents screaming at them about being ungrateful, or the parents make their kids slave away at three jobs so Mommy can drink or gamble it away all while calling the MC useless. The MC then uses it to justify leaving the parents, or this is used to show that a less than stellar love interest is the better choice than being at home.
To me, writing things like this is an easy way out. It’s a weak plot point.
It’s not that I don’t like to see this depiction in these stories - these things happen and need to be discussed openly so we can work toward preventing it, so we can talk about why things like that are wrong and help prevent it from happening, but I’d like to see it used properly. All forms of abuse by parents shape the psyche of a child and create behaviors in them - mostly it’s distrust, paranoia, fear of things they shouldn’t be afraid of, inappropriate dependency on others, inability to make meaningful connections…things that MC’s would need to overcome. They don’t just spring back up because LI has forced them into a kiss.
What I’d like to see is abuse used as a vehicle for some great character development instead of just a shallow reason why the MC needs to be rescued. Their abuse can give them their fatal flaw that keeps them from loving, and they need to overcome it so they can trust another LI who, for the love of God, is a good guy that isn’t going to just be another crappy chapter in MC’s terrible life. I would have much more respect for a story that tackled things like that instead of walking away thinking how shallow it all was.
So if you decide to write a story with a crappy parent, here’s a quick guide to popular abuses other than physical. These are examples of mental, emotional, and financial abuses in that order:
~Silent Treatment: In which the parent will completely ignore the child for long periods of time.
~Manipulation: In which the parent will make a child fear that certain outcomes will occur (such as abandonment, death, or harm to parent or others the child cares about) to get the response the parent wants.
~Playing the Victim: In which the parent will play the victim to make the child feel like they have wronged the parent. Also, one parent can use this while making the other parents out to be the abuser, thus trying to divide the child from the second parents.
~The Stare: I’m not talking about the look you mom gives you when you’re being a brat at the mall. This is an intense look with no feeling behind it. It’s not a warning. It’s not something they are using to try and communicate something with you. It’s a stare that’s only purpose is to elicit fear and submission.
~Gaslighting: In which the parent lies about the past to purposefully make a child doubt themselves, their judgment, their memory, and the sanity.
~Unapologetic: In which a parent refuses to take responsibility for their actions. They ‘forget’ promises or commitments made to the child, lies, and dismisses the feelings of the child.
~Personal attacks: Criticizing, calling the child names, mocking the child and their responses, judging their feelings and opinions. This is NOT a parent who does this out of attempts to be funny or because they care. This isn’t Dad calling son ‘butthead’ or Mom saying that daughter is wearing too much makeup. This does NOT come from a place of concern, even if misplaced. This comes from the parents trying to elicit a negative response from the child, with the intent to cause the child to feel bad about themselves.
~Blame: In which the parent insists that something that went wrong is solely due to the child.
~Nitpicking: The child needs are made out to be far less important than the parent’s own. None of the child’s accomplishments or attempts are ever good enough. This isn’t a parent saying your dream of being the Queen of England is impractical, this is a parent saying your dream of being the Queen of England is stupid because you are stupid.
~Shame: Parents shares information about the child without the consent of the child to elicit a feeling of shame or embarrassment. Rule of thumb of this is if the parent knows that you will find a retelling of the story funny or knows you have shared it yourself before, then it’s not abuse. If they bring up a story that will make you cry or you won’t be able to look that person in the eye for some time, it’s abuse.
~Inferior: When a parent repeatedly makes the child out to be inferior to another - this can be a sibling, an athlete, or a movie star. If the intent is to make the child feel badly about themselves and their skills, it’s abuse.
~Extension: The parents makes the child out to be an extension of the parent, rather then their own person. To the parent, the child is not thought to be their own person, and thus their cares and considerations do not matter to the parent. The child may or may not be aware of this.
~Alienation: Parents speaking negatively about others to child in attempt to isolate child from others. A parents can try to isolate a child from their friends, from family, or from other parents.
Here’s the run down on Financial abuses:
~Denied Access: Money or possessions given to child either through means of gift or inheritance are taken by parents and all access made by child to them are denied. Has back accounts made in parents name and has child’s money put into there for the personal use of the parents. This isn’t grandpa giving mom 15,000 to put into a college fund and mom using some of it to pay for daughter’s high school tuition. This is mom spending it on new cars for herself or paying for her and the pool boy to have a trip to Hawaii.
~Theft: Parent exploits the child financially, steals their money or defrauds them.
~Credit: Parents takes credit cards out in the child’s name.
~Career: Parents punishes the child for trying to receive an education or attempting to work.
These abuses, as you can probably see, are trick because they aren’t always so obvious. Many of them can easily be interpreted as regular parenting - the rule of thumb is if the parents intent is to elicit a negative emotion in the child, it is abuse. There is a lot of grey area here that makes it tricky - a parent telling their kids there might be a monster under there to keep them in bed after dark is kind of an asshole move, but it’s not necessarily evil. A parent that doesn’t give their child breakfast and cites the child getting out of bed the night before is abuse.
I hope some of you can find use of this!