When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping your children heal the wounds of witnessing abuse
Berkley Books 2004
Children find injustice sharply painful, and feel a debilitating powerlessness when they observe mistreatment that they cannot stop. One way in which they sometimes can escape the heartbreak of witnessing cruelty is to convince themselves that no injustice has actually been done; in other words, to see the abuse as necessary or deserved, and to see the victim (you) as inferior. So if your child can just decide that Mom is to blame for Dad’s viciousness, or that she’s crazy or absurd, then-poof!-life has just gotten a bit more bearable.
The abuser may actively encourage the children to take this way out, manipulating them into blaming their mother and looking down on her. A child can then gain the additional reward of getting in good with Dad, which can mean being on the protected list, safe from his insults, rages, or violence.
In order to keep your authority from being further eroded by this dynamic, discuss the question of personal responsibility explicitly with your children. Explain to them that that their father has to take complete ownership of his actions and cannot blame you-or them-for his explosions.