Most parents would never think of themselves as being dysfunctional. They would also never imagine that they could be abusive to their children. But what does a dysfunctional family look like and how does a home become overtly dysfunctional?

Dysfunctional families never accept responsibility.

Have you ever met a person who was never, ever at fault? No matter the circumstance, they are always the victim. It was the other person who was wrong. They are experts in blame shifting and denial, and you will never hear them say they are sorry.

Dysfunctional families keep secrets.

Could you imagine allowing a sex offender near your child? Probably not. But it happens all the time. Family members are, without question, the ones who are most likely to perpetrate. Secrets can destroy. If you’ve grown up in a family of secret-keepers, you know exactly what I mean.

Also, those that grow up in a family of arguers usually think it’s normal behavior. It isn’t! Plenty of parents argue, which is not inherently bad. The problem comes when the parents do not have the presence of mind to argue when the kids are not present. Parents should have adult conversations in private. Heated arguments in front of children are both mentally and verbally abusive. They send terrible signals about how conflict should be handled.

Dysfunctional families treat children like adults.

In a dysfunctional home, parents tend to expose their children to things that are inappropriate for their age. Frequently, children of divorced parents find themselves relaying messages or brokering deals. These are all examples of matters that children have no business handling. It’s totally fine to assign simple tasks and chores to children, provided they are developmentally appropriate. But emotionally-based, stressful responsibilities are for adults, not children.

Dysfunctional families are breeding grounds for abuse.

Abuse comes in lots of forms — physical, sexual, verbal. The most common of all seems to be emotional abuse. Since it is difficult to prove that emotional abuse is taking place, it is seldom validated. Emotional abuse is pervasive and dangerous, but it often does not look like other types of abuse. For example:

If you use drugs in front of your children, or watch pornography, or engage in illegal activities, that is emotional abuse.

If you have small children and you involve them in adult issues such as finances and bills and legal troubles — that is emotional abuse.

If you and your spouse fight with one another in front of your kids using fists or words or both — that is emotional abuse.

If you threaten to kick your minor kids out of your home, that is emotional abuse.

If you withhold love from your children because you are too self-absorbed to spend time with them — that is emotional abuse.

If you blame it all on them — that also is emotional abuse!

All of these dysfunctional acts by parents will reap negative consequences in the future. To some parents, it may seem that their kids will never grow up. But they usually discover much too soon that instead of a kid’s laughter, chirping crickets can sing a sad song. The sound of a kid’s laughter is now in the homes of their adult children. Hopefully, they will not repeat the same mistakes they saw their parents make.

“Occasionally I hear the far away sound of my precious little girl’s laugh, then a whimper, followed by ‘Daddy!’ It is then that I realize it was only a distant memory. This is God’s way of reminding me that I had my turn, and there are no more do-overs!” Wayne Hudson

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