Is Any of This With My Mom and Stepdad Abuse?

Published: December 12, 2017
Dear TeenHealthFX,
Last night I was working on my homework when my mom was saying how I told the boys that they were going to go to bed early when she said that I better not go straight to bed and lay down like a beached whale. I told her to stop calling me that and I said that her telling me that does not make me want to exercise and she told me to shut up and then I kept going saying how I dont call her a whale so she should not call me one either. She than said to shut up and that she did not ask for a response and I said that I did not ask for a mother who would call me a fat whale. I am not sure what she replied back but I know that she said that if I continue to talk she would come over and punch me in the face. So I told her to go ahead and she came walking over to me raising her hand to me so when she began to swing I put my hands out to smack her hand away hitting her in the chest. After I did that she hollered for my stepdad saying I hit her. while I moved my hands to her arms so that she would not hurt me when he came out and I let go. That is when she grabbed my hair and began to pull and shove me to the ground. and told me that I am not the adult and I should not be telling her what to do. After that she kicked me one time when my stepdad talked to me about how I could get diabetes if I dont ever do anything besides sit on my but and go to bed and the only time i get up is to get food. He also told me that if I ever hit my mom again he would be involved and that I would not like how it would end. Is any of this abuse? or is it just dicipline? and is my step father allowed to hit me at all or smack me in the mouth when I talk back?
Signed: Is Any of This With My Mom and Stepdad Abuse?

Dear Is Any of This With My Mom and Stepdad Abuse?,

TeenHealthFX can easily imagine the distress you are feeling about this situation and we are sorry to hear you are dealing with something so difficult right now.

Child Abuse:

As for your questions about abuse, there are four types of child abuse: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect. The two that could pertain to your situation would be physical abuse and emotional abuse. According to ChildHelp:

Physical abuse of a child is when a parent or caregiver causes any non-accidental physical injury to a child.”

“When a parent or caregiver harms a child’s mental and social development, or causes severe emotional harm, it is considered emotional abuse. While a single incident may be abuse, most often emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that causes damage over time.”

Effective Discipline:

As for your question about discipline, according to Pediatrics Child Heath:

“The goal of effective discipline is to foster acceptable and appropriate behavior in the child and to raise emotionally mature adults. A disciplined person is able to postpone pleasure, is considerate of the needs of others, is assertive without being aggressive or hostile, and can tolerate discomfort when necessary.

The foundation of effective discipline is respect. The child should be able to respect the parent’s authority and also the rights of others. Inconsistency in applying discipline will not help a child respect his or her parents. Harsh discipline such as humiliation (verbal abuse, shouting, name-calling) will also make it hard for the child to respect and trust the parent.

Thus, effective discipline means discipline applied with mutual respect in a firm, fair, reasonable and consistent way. The goal is to protect the child from danger, help the child learn self-discipline, and develop a healthy conscience and an internal sense of responsibility and control. It should also instill values.”


What all of the information above boils down to is that the way in which you described your mother and step-father responding to you are not examples of healthy, effective discipline. And it is certainly possible that a child services professional would determine that their behavior is abusive in nature.

That said, FX thinks that it is very important for you to speak to a trusted adult about what is going on at home so that someone can intervene on your behalf. Someone at school – such as your school nurse, a guidance counselor, or your principal – would be a good choice. If you have any concerns about how your mother and/or step-father would react to your telling someone about this, you need to tell that to the adult you speak to so that they can make sure you are in a safe situation. A professional from child protective services may need to get involved and determine whether your environment is safe for you. They may mandate counseling for you, your mother and your step-father.  

If you are concerned about talking to someone at school, you could also start by contacting someone at the National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). The most important thing is that you do not try and deal with this alone. So please reach out to someone as soon as possible about what you are dealing with so you can get the support and guidance you need right now.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX