Easy Tiger Parent System™

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Jennifer McLeod

How Do You Stop Or Deal With Manipulative Parents?

Born To Win!: Success Strategies for Young Businesses and New Entrepreneurs

1 August 2007

Hurray for Ben! The wicked witch of the East End is Dead!!

Hurray for Ben! The wicked witch of the East End is Dead!!

My 11 year old son called Ben a ‘girl’ because he was sobbing and crying as a result of the emotional, psychological, mental and physical abuse that he had suffered at the hands of Stella, Ben’s dad Phil Mitchell’s fiancée, of the soap Eastenders.

Many boys like my son, and other people, who have never had such experiences as Ben has had, may be of a similar opinion, mainly because they do not understand the seriousness or the complexities of the damage that has taken place as a result of the abuse.

Thousands of children suffer a range of abuse each year at the hands of someone that they know, which is contrary to the general public’s perception of strangers being the main abusers and perpetrators. Abuse can take on so many different forms and shapes and sometimes it can be easy for some parents or relatives to fall into minor elements of abuse with children and young people without realising it. For instance, trying to make a child feel guilty, manipulation and/or the withdrawal of love, or threat of the withdrawal of love to make children do things that they do not want to do. This is particularly the case with adults or parents with low self esteem, self image and low confidence levels.

What normally happens is that the child or young person gets drawn into the cycle of abuse, where the abuser uses coercion, manipulation or threat, until the child or young person find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction, as is the case with Ben Mitchell, and in a lot of cases, they find it difficult to get out of the situation, especially if they haven’t got any support, or think that no one would believe them if they told. Thanks, however, to the courage, support and encouragement of Ben’s friend for him to tell someone, Ben gathers up the courage to stand up to his abuser, Stella, at the time when it mattered most - on the wedding day!

Whilst this is a story from a television Soap, abuse very much happens right under our noses in real life, with people left feeling total disbelief, like Peggy and Phil Mitchell, that it could have happened under their roof. The other normal reaction to finding out about abuse is for people to look for someone else to blame for the abuse taking place. Some people blame themselves, blame other adults or even the child or young person caught up in the frightening, humiliating and debilitating situation. Phil Mitchell, the dad in this situation, is starting out on a self-loathing path in his attempt to both blame himself and to deal with the situation. He is at the stage now where he is emotionally unavailable to his son Ben and unable to support him in any way through his own guilt of what ‘he let happen’ to Ben. Eastenders has shown us how easy it is for families to completely miss and/or ignore signs of abuse in our fast paced society.

Children with circumstances like Ben Mitchell are likely to be vulnerable and typical easy preys for abusers, through absolutely no fault of their own. For instance, Ben the character, lost his mother at an early age, came to a new country to a father, brother and family that he doesn’t know and who do not know him. He is therefore searching for something and someone to fill the gap caused by the loss of his mother and the loss of his mother’s love. His dad, character Phil Mitchell is also looking for someone to help fill that void in Ben’s life, to the extent where he overlooked Ben’s mood changes and obvious unhappiness caused by the abuse.

All children ultimately want to be loved and to belong and will gravitate to the person(s) who appear to be providing that love and meeting that need, even if it is in the form of mixed messages from the abuser. As Phil Mitchell says, it doesn’t matter what Stella, the adult, was going through, what mattered was that she was the adult and Ben the child. There are many adults like the character Stella in our society today who have emotional and psychological challenges stemming from their own childhood experiences and conditioning. Adults, however, can choose to get help, support and guidance to deal with these emotional and psychological challenges through a range of counselling, therapeutic and coaching remedies. Therefore, the adult needs to take responsibility for their actions for the abuse and equally, responsibility for their non action if they suspect that a child has been abused. Above all else, do not blame the child or young person for what happened. It is in no way their fault and the child needs to be told that repeatedly and supported and loved throughout the recovery from the experience.

Here some possible signs to watch out for if you suspect that a child, any child, is being abused (emotionally, sexually, physically or psychologically):*

The child or young person:

  • Changes their character in a dramatic or pronounced way when a particular person(s) is in the same room or nearby

  • Becomes withdrawn

  • Becomes a bully, very aggressive or is being bullied

  • Seeks extra attention

  • Has unexplained bruises or have far fetched explanations for the bruising

  • Has genital infections or bruising not normally associated with children

  • Is acting in a promiscuous way, not normally typical of their age.

    *NB: These signs are not to be taken and used in isolation as they could also be the result and symptoms of other issues occurring in the child/young person’s life.

    What you can do:

  • Listen to your children and believe your children

  • Talk about the situation rather than ignore it or pretend that it didn’t happen. It won’t just go away.

  • Get counselling or other therapy for your child/the child and yourself

  • Visit the GP and request a health check for the child or young person. Get a referral from the GP to another service, e.g. child psychiatrist or psychologist

  • Constantly reassure the child or young person and remind them that it was not their fault.

  • Give them lots of love

  • Get support for yourself so that you can be emotionally available to yourself and therefore be able to support the child or young person

  • Get more information from your local Citizens Advice Bureau about support that might be available in your local area. For instance, Open Door or Head 2 Head are voluntary and charity organisations which specially provide a counselling service and therapy for children and young people in Birmingham and Tipton, West Midlands.

    With Inspirational Blessings
    Jennifer McLeod