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          Coping Steps for Verbally Abusive Parents

          September 09, 2002

          Do you verbally abuse your child? Are there times you are simply out of control? There is no excuse for this kind of behavior and it must stop. Use these eight steps for coping and put an end to the abuse. You can also use these same steps if you are emotionally or physically abusive.

          1. Identify the first sign of meltdown.
          To begin to cope with your behavior, you have to identify the first sign that indicates you’re beginning to spin out of control. It may be dry mouth, red ears, flushed face, butterflies in your stomach or heart palpitations. What signals the start of your meltdown? It is imperative to identify this sign, because it is part of a chain of behavior to which you’ve become accustomed. Your first sign can lead to the second link in the chain, which is where you can make an important decision.

          2. Consciously choose to cope.
          You can use your first sign of meltdown as a cue to cope, rather than as a cue for meltdown. When you feel the sign you’ve identified in step one coming on, you can make a conscious decision to use it to begin your coping sequence.

          3. Make an incompatible response.
          You need to get past your impulse moment. In order to do so, you must make it impossible to abuse your child. What should you do? Leave the room. Go outside. Do whatever it takes that guarantees you will not abuse your child.

          4. Write down and evaluate destructive thoughts.
          Have a book that you use specifically for your coping sequence. After you make an incompatible response, write down and evaluate your destructive thoughts. Instead of verbalizing a destructive thought to your child, write it in your book. Then read it over, and realize you almost said this to your child.

          5. Tell your accountability person.
          You are abusive because you can be — you have no accountability. In order to stop, you have to take responsibility. Choose a friend, a family member or someone else to be your “Accountability Person.” You will be accountable to this person. Every time you write down a destructive thought or avoid an abusive situation, call this person. Read him or her what you wrote in your coping journal, and talk about how you feel.

          6. Reward yourself for control.
          Most likely, you’re as hard on yourself as you are on your children. You feel guilty and say bad things to yourself when you are being abusive. Remember, you need to love yourself when you make the conscious decision to cope and not abuse.

          7. Engage in positive interaction.
          When you’re through the impulse stage, go back into the room with your child. Give your child a hug, pat him/her on the back, do something positive.

          8. Long-term: get counseling.
          You need to see somebody on a regular basis to deal with what’s happening inside of you. You can go to a counselor, a pastor or a social worker; somebody who will listen and continue to guide you in the right direction. Make sure that you are taking care of you.

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