Myths and Realities

Myth

Reality

My child doesn’t even know what's going on when we're fighting."
Children do know that their parents are in conflict. They may see their father hit their mother, or throw or destroy objects. They may hear their father threaten their mother, or give her the "silent treatment." Even if they are not in the room, they can hear yelling, screaming, crying and slapping. They witness the after-effects of the abuse, such as a swollen lip, black eye, mom being "sick", or having belongings destroyed.
Parental conflict has no real effect on children – they are not involved."
Parental conflict is one of the strongest predictors of childhood problems. Children are even more damaged when parental conflict involves their father's abuse of their mothers. When this occurs, children may feel terrified for themselves and their mothers, anxious that it will happen again, afraid that they will be taken away, helpless to do anything, and angry at both parents. They may be hurt physically while trying to protect their mother. They may experience learning disruptions, speech and language problems, attention and behavior problems, and stress-related physical ailments (sleep problems, headaches, rashes, stomachaches). They may be too ashamed or feel too "different" to interact with other children, or may be aggressive or hostile in their interactions with peers since that is what they’ve learned.
My child may be upset for a little while but s/he’ll get over it soon enough."
Witnessing abuse has long-term effects on children. Children who have witnessed domestic violence are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, alcohol/drug abuse and juvenile delinquency, bullying, and violence in later relationships.
My children know that they shouldn’t hit. My "infrequent" acts of violence won’t change that."
Children learn by what their parents do, not what they say. Boys who witnessed domestic violence while growing up are more likely to abuse their female partners than boys who didn’t witness domestic violence.
My children know that our fights are not their fault."
Children often feel guilty in response to their parents’ conflicts. They may feel that they caused the abuser to become angry, and thus the conflict is their fault, or that they should have stopped the abuse. They also may feel guilty for loving the abuser, or for siding with the victim.
You can be a good father and a "bad" husband."
When you hurt your child’s mother, you hurt your child.
Children today sometimes need a "good whack" to get the message."
When children’s parents hit, slap, pinch, grab or push them, children do tend to comply – but only in the short term. In the longer term, behaviour problems increase. This is because when children experience violence at home, they learn that it is OK to "use your hands" to deal with disagreements, to make someone stop doing something they don't like, or to make someone do something s/he doesn't want to do.
Children today have too much control over their parents."
Although parents sometimes feel like their children are "running the show", the reality is that parents, not children, are the ones who have the ability and rights to make decisions for the family. When these adults are emotionally or physically abusive to get what they want, children learn that control comes from being bigger, stronger and meaner than others. They also don’t have the support that they need from their parents to learn how to make good decisions for themselves and "be in control" of their own lives.