Hitting My Daughters and the Anonymous Plea for Advice

Hitting My Daughters and the Anonymous Plea for Advice

BullyThis week I became an “anonymous poster” on my own Facebook Page.  I get daily messages from men and women who ask me to post anonymous questions but I never thought that I would need to follow that path. I was faced with a situation that I didn’t know how to handle. I wanted to be cautious about overreacting and I needed input from others who could take a non-emotional stance.

Facebook Post: I am in California and I have full physical and legal custody of our two children- my ex has very limited visitation (no overnight visits). My children confided in me that their father is hitting them- not hard enough to leave marks but he is physically striking them across the arms or legs.

While they are normal children who can push buttons, they are very well-behaved and I have never used any type of physical punishment to discipline them. They confided that it happens fairly often for fairly simple things (mud on the carpet, etc). How would you handle this situation? ###

I posted anonymously because I needed to be clear of my direction before I spoke publicly about the situation. Up until this weekend, I have had a sense of peace over the holiday season knowing that there would be family members coming and going from Seth’s home. When people are around, he is usually on his best behavior. After picking the girls up on Saturday night, they admitted to me that Seth had struck my youngest daughter for standing on the couch. There was family present in the home at the time- Seth’s mother, Cleo, and his aunt were both in the kitchen. The girls then went on to describe multiple occasions in the past few months when Seth has struck them—and they described the very minor “infractions” that led up to him striking them. I was speechless.

I believe that every family should have the right to decide what punishments are used in their home- within reason, of course. I am adamantly against spanking or physical punishment in my home—I believe that there are so many tools available in today’s day and age (Positive Discipline, Love & Logic, etc) that spanking should be a last resort. This was something that Seth and I agreed on before our daughters were born. We agreed that we would never spank the girls.

“Seth” has been physical with the girls on multiple occasions since we separated in 2009. He can maintain a charming smile on his face while simultaneously squeezing my daughter’s wrist in public for anything that he feels is disobedience or could embarrass him. After striking my oldest daughter last year, there was a court order made that prevented him from inflicting any type of physical punishment on the girls. With the pending parenting evaluation, I am shocked that he would be physically hitting them.

I did two things upon waking this morning:

1. I called Minor’s Counsel and made an appointment for 2pm this afternoon. My daughters were able to march into the office and use their voices to explain the things that have been happening.

2. I filed a report with Child Welfare Services.

Deep breath.  I am furious. I am angry. I am frustrated with our system.

Seth has the girls for a total of 6 hours for each visit and 30 minutes of that time is usually spent driving. It is mindboggling to me that this man can’t control himself when he only sees these beautiful little girls for about four days per month – 6 hours each visit.  Infuriating. I have not spent more than 24-hours away from the girls in the past 18 months and never once have they done anything that warranted physical punishment- they are two of the most well-behaved and polite children that I’ve ever known.

He knows what he is doing because he controls himself when people are around. He waits until no one is looking and then he resorts to being a 7-year old bully trapped in the body of a 39-year old man. As I was leaving the attorney’s office today, he was calling the courthouse to get the wheels turning for our parenting evaluation —the evaluation cannot begin soon enough in my opinion.

This brings me to another frustration within our system: I am terrified to talk to my own children for fear of being accused of “planting” things in their minds. If my daughter was hit by a 7-year old bully on the playground, it would open the door for all types of discussions—why people become bullies, why hitting is not okay, why they should immediately find an adult and get assistance for the issue. On Wednesday, I decided to call my daughter’s therapist for advice and to update her on the situation. She told me to have both girls journal about what happened or ask them to draw pictures about the incident. While I was able to give them the tools to write and draw (papers, crayons and pencils), I am more concerned about the tools that they need on how to handle being bullied by their own father. Dealing with a 7-year old bully would be much easier.    ###

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15 Responses

  1. I’m so sorry for your pain and frustration, I get it!!! Just when the waters should be calm, the tsunami hits! It actually makes sense when you use the decoder. He’s feels he’s being pushed up against a wall with the next eval and his frustration is misdirected. He’s like a rat in a cage, no where to go!

  2. I believe you did the right thing. It is not easy to keep your emotions from the children when they are expressing their worries because they need that support from you too, but I get where you are coming from! There was an incident when my son was with his dad and I was distraught on what to do. I should have called CPS. It wasn’t physical abuse, but definitely was neglect and endangerment. I let him know that I knew about the incident, but of course, he covered his tracks afterward. Next time, there will be a welfare check at the time and CPS will also have a report on file. It is the only way you can have an investigation that removes your opinion and cancels the argument that it is hearsay. I have learned also that he will create consequences for me despite my course of action, so it may as well be what I need to do! It is so hard, but you are handling it well! xx

  3. How heartbreaking and terrifying.

    I believe you handled this well. I also have times when I have to bite my tongue and let the therapists tackle something.

    Teaching moments just pass us by in the attempt to avoid handing out ammunition. Its very frustrating.

    Surely the girls will eventually have a problem with a bully in school, at which point you can have those conversations.

  4. Hi Tina, I have discovered something and created a place to discuss and create a counter strategy against the organized crime that runs our courts. I don’t know if you have time to look into it, but you should at least look at it… you are lucky to have an ethical judge, but, the fact that you are ‘scared’ at any time is an abomination against mothers and children. YOU should never have to be afraid, THEY should never have to be afraid, WE should never have to be afraid or out “justice” system… here is one of the reasons we must be afraid, VERY afraid… thanks for what you are doing, you are amazing!

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/212268832225924/

  5. Have the children felt safe enough to use their voices to tell their “father” that they do not want to be hit? If not this is something that needs to be addressed with their therapist(s). If so, how did he respond? (I am betting the former rather than the latter).

  6. Rebecca- Our first therapist wanted to work with the children to “find their voice” with their father and while I was skeptical, I trusted her authority. I couldn’t find my voice with him for 10 years– wasn’t sure how these little girls would stand up to him.

    To date, they do not feel comfortable standing up to him. They love their father but that comes with a great deal of confusion– when he is nice (cameras, public, etc) then he is VERY nice. The flip side of him is scary. To this day I have anxiety being in the same court room with him– he intimidates me without even trying and triggers my feelings from the past.

  7. This is suble but important and I believe the therapist from your description and the judge if provided info by minor counsel or therapist may also get it. This most likely will not be considered abuse or even regarded as significant infraction of no corporal punishment by cps or courtroom but the fact that the children are in fear of making him mad will or should concern therapist and court. That is the “angle” I would promote. Therapist should be easy to get interested if she believes they need to use their voice, they understand and know how to do it with you but are afraid with their father. As a parent with your history I would tell therapist you don’t know what to do – encourage them to use their voices and give their father a respectful boundary about hitting or respect their fear and go about handling this with court’s help.

  8. Deborah, is there a way to join that group under our page name rather than our real name?

    If my Ex husband’s friends told him I had joined a group like that under my own name, my life wouldn’t be worth spit…..

  9. Tina, I can second Rebecca’s comments.

    Like you, I also am still terrified of my Ex-husband “Andy”. (All credit to My Emotional Vampire on FB for the pen name for the ex.)

    I have made the decision not to attend any doctor’s appointments, school meetings, etc, when “Andy” is present.

    I have accepted that as long as he is present, I am not mentally present and cannot concentrate on whatever is under discussion anyway.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find the court mediator supported those decisions, rather than accusing me of refusing to co-parent. She was very supportive of my therapy goals (which is to strengthen boundaries and keep him out of my life & my head).

    You may find that this parenting evaluation is a very good thing if the girls can tell the evaluator, court officiers and therapists that they are not comfortable telling these things to their father.

  10. I’m so sorry to hear this is happening. I have gone through a very similar situation- there were marks- large bruise and scratches and he still got off without so much as a slap on the hand. I made the mistake of calling the police when my son came home with a baseball size bruise on his thigh (same size as a man’s fist) and scratches up and down his legs and arms. My 7 yr old was whimpering, terrified and pleading that he never has to go there again. Because the Narc had no prior record, the police took photos but did nothing but report to CPS. They never talked to the Narc. My son has ASD and because of that, the police detective would not interview him. He had to be referred to a “specialist” who was out of town for 2 weeks. The “specialist” had no experience with Aspergers and didn’t get much of anything out of my son. Many ASD children will not talk to strangers. My older 9 yr. old son, who was a witness, had to be interviewed at the police dept and felt scared and even the detective said he could tell he was protecting his father and wasn’t telling the whole story. The detective never made a report to the court or mentioned this. The Narc was interviewed over the phone. He never even had to leave his home or talk to the detective in person. CPS stayed out of it because the police were involved stating that there can only be one interview. The narc was able to charm his way out of the allegations. My son went thru court ordered therapy to be reunited with his father and I had to pay for it. I realized very quickly that in court my voice- as the mother- meant NOTHING. The only voice that mattered was the Narc’s, the police and the counselor. The judge looked right at the photos of the bruise and would not call it abuse.

    I would highly recommend that the journaling or artwork that the counselor recommended be done in her office. It will only hold merit if she witnessed the drawings to ensure that your girls were not led or influenced by you. I would also have her write a statement for the court if she feels they are in fear of their father. Sadly, it will be very hard to prove what he is doing is abuse. If they can have a voice through the therapist, I would be sure to include her statement to the court. Otherwise it will be heresay. You may even want to send him a carefully written email informing him that the girls have mentioned that they do not like being hit,slapped etc. and asking him to please stop and reminding him that you both agreed against physical discipline. Do not write it in an angry tone. This will show the court that you attempted to ask him to stop. Do not deny him any visitation through all this or you will be accused of alienating your daughters. It is disgusting that we have to take these careful steps and we can’t just march into court and have a judge demand he stop hitting your girls. But for now, that’s the way it is. It sucks.

  11. This is a tough subject. I know your frustration. My thinking is a little different. While we were married, spankings were agreed to by my NX and I, both. He was always rather boastful about it. Always saying he intends to keep his kids in line. Years after we had incorporated the discipline of spanking, he found out the courts rule in favor of no corporal punishment(I hate those words btw-I am not military personal, nor are my children and I do not, nor have I ever treated them as such) I have given a swat or two to the tail as one form, last resort form of discipline for poor choices they have made (especially when the worst kind of lying happens) and I am not a Narcissist, at least I do not think I am. I do not think I bullied my children into compliance more than attempt to redirect or correct poor behavior towards behavior or actions that are fruitful or do not result in harm for them or someone else. God gifted our children and I am God ordained mother/parent/authority to my daughters and I treasure both these little angels in the most God honoring way I can possibly do so. I do not spank any longer per court order, but I do know this for sure, and I think many of you can agree-God spanks a lot harder than I do ;), but He blesses exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ask or think-Be blessed all!

  12. Tina, I am sorry to hear this. I wonder if he told the girls not to tell you (since they just now told you).

    By the way, by telling you, I think the girls are standing up to him. My daughter was bullied in school and by her father, and I know it took time for her to bring up the issues to her teacher and the parenting coordinator. She was afraid of causing trouble but eventually spoke up despite the anxiety. So good for your girls for sharing the problem with you!

    And good for you for so tirelessly documenting the many problems with Seth’s parenting ability (or lack thereof).

    Fingers crossed, the evaluation will help protect the girls by limiting time and supervising visits – whatever it takes to shield them. Stay strong!

  13. Tina, I also think hitting IS a big deal, and you’re NOT overreacting at all! Hang in there.

  14. So you can feel better about the word… “corporal” literally means “of the body.” The military rank comes from the word “caporale” which means “of the head,” as in being in charge of something, a leader. English has rendered them antonyms, but they are unrelated ideas. It easy to confuse, but military corporals don’t administer corporal punishment; sergeants do!

  15. Tina, I found your blog because I am going through something very similar. (It’s eerie how similar all our stories are!) I left my husband 3.5 years ago and went through a 2.5 year court battle to finally be divorced. We now have a final order that states he has our two children two days a week but this week I have revoked him of that right. The kids have never liked spending time with him, they are scared of him and his tactics – all stuff you are familiar with. This past weekend it changed for the worse though. He shoved my son four times, pushing him down on the bed then dragging him off my his ankle and wrist, then ripped his glasses from his face and threw them at the wall (yelling ‘these are mine now!’). He also held a closed fist up to his face several times and seethed ‘I want to hit you so bad right now’. Scary stuff. My daughter witnessed most of it – she actually was with her dad’s gf and said ‘I feel sorry for my brother’ to which the gf replied ‘I feel sorry for your dad’. Talk about no sympathy for the real victims! Infuriated and scared i called CSA and they will be following up this week. Today I emailed my ex to let him know the kids will not be staying with him for now and why. I am on tenderhooks while I wait for his reply because – as you stated above – he still scares me. Knowing that important piece of information I know it is impossible to think my children could handle him properly. Thank you so much for all you have written here – it is very helpful to me during this stressful time.