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What to Do When a Child Abuses a Parent

by Shara JJ Cooper, studioD

Parental abuse does not typically come up in child-rearing conversations, but it is something that happens — not just with adult children and elderly parents, but with children of nearly any age. Some children abuse parents who are overwhelmed and don't know how to handle stressful situations. Because abusive situations can spiral out of control, parents must take action to keep themselves safe while helping their children handle aggression.

Types of Parental Abuse

Parental abuse is a subject not often discussed. It is generally accepted that children are younger and smaller than their parents, which makes them weaker. However, some children have learned how to manipulate and abuse their parents. Causes can include family dynamics, societal values and mental disorders, according to the Canadian Children's Rights Council. Children can abuse their parents physically, mentally or financially.

Seek Help

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police department. Keep these numbers on speed dial at all times. If you are dealing with an ongoing abusive situation, call the National Parenting Hotline at 1-855-427-2736. You will speak with a trained advocate and they can help you find local resources. You may also get referrals from your doctor, therapist, women's center, women's shelter or family resource center. Don't feel embarrassed. Everyone's situation is different. Trained professionals aren't there to judge you; they are there to provide resources.

Involve your Loved Ones

You may feel ashamed, like you failed your child, but you are not alone. A lot of parents are going through the exact same thing. Talk to trusted family and friends and ask for help. Have them nearby when you are handling your child, especially on a touchy subject. For example, if you child gets enraged that you want him to stay home on the weekends, have some family or friends over during such times. Even if you lose the argument, you will be physically safe because there are a number of adults in the home. In extreme situations, it may be necessary for the child to leave the home for a period of time. Sometimes this is what they need to rethink their actions. Discuss this with the involved parties as well as with your family therapist.


Gather family and friends and hold an intervention. Use your family therapist, if appropriate. Talk to your child about what he is doing and how it makes you feel. Give him time to express his feelings, as well. Family and friends should share how they have been impacted by the relationship and what they would like to see change. Make your expectations clear and explain the consequences. This can be anything from limiting funds to sending your child to stay with other family members.

About the Author

Shara JJ Cooper graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2000, and has worked professionally ever since. She has a passion for community journalism, but likes to mix it up by writing for a variety of publications. Cooper is the owner/editor of the Boundary Sentinel, a web-based newspaper.