When I began my battle, I was lost on what to do. How do I protect my son? How do I teach him how to be a good person, when everything I say or do is negated by a sociopath? I see this question a lot popping up in comments and forums.
While I have discussed this before, I want to outline some clear tips that I have learned. These are a combination of working with child therapists and my own research on how to be the more effective parent.
1. Teach your child not to be a victim.
- No one has the right to degrade them or hurt them.
- Silence will ensure maltreatment continues. Teach them to speak out about wrongs.
- Teach them that their thoughts and feelings matter. Ask for their opinion and really listen.
- Encourage them to develop their “inner voice” and to speak out even when they are afraid. Be a courage coach.
- If abuse is active, run through scenarios with them on how they can cope until the situation passes.
2. Don't be an unintentional hypocrite (this is a tough one.)
- If you tell your child something is wrong, make sure you don't inadvertently model that behavior (ie degrading people, denying your child's perceptions and reality, etc.)
- Don't use corporal punishment. Learn positive parenting techniques and alternative modes of punishment. If you want to know why, ask me in the comments section and I will be happy to explain.)
- Do be somewhat of an authoritative parent. The rules, once established, are ALWAYS non-negotiable. Let them provide input, but there are clear consequences for non-compliance.
- Follow through. This was hard for me. It breaks my heart to punish my child, especially given how miserable and depressed he is, but failure to follow through sends a message that there will be no consequences if they learn to manipulate you.
- Compliance with the rules of personal conduct carries big rewards. Even if you are like me, flat broke from the legal fight, you can still give them something. Things I use include having a party, letting my son choose one activity we can do together (and I do it, even if it means jumping on the trampoline for 30 minutes when I am tired, sweating and make up running in my eyes), a special dinner, a trip to the park, etc.
- Don't make it about material things, even if you CAN afford it. While toys are great, you want to teach them that the reward is about enjoying life -NOT things!
I'm not going to tell you that any of this easy. A lot of the time, it really sucks. I have my days where I want to shout at the world, “It isn't fair! I have to parent twice as hard as everyone else!” But I do it. I keep my eye on the final goal: to raise a smart, strong, moral, and empathetic child. Nothing says “revenge” better than shattering a sociopaths dream of creating a carbon copy of themselves.
What tips do you have for building character in your child?