Neglectful Parenting and How You Might Idolize Them

Neglectful parenting and domestic abuse come in all shapes and sizes. What is often the case is that one parent in a relationship is more dominantly abusive and overbearing then the other. The unequal relationship between them is likely based on their past pains and unresolved issues and has formed, for better or worse, their symbiotic coexistence.

Neglect is as hurtful as abuse and is in itself a form of abuse. When you are born into a family where say, the mother is verbally and physically abusive, and the father turns a blind eye; in this case, the father is considered to be complicit through his negligent attitude towards the abuse.

Neglectful Parenting: Perspective is Key

From a child’s perspective, however, being subjected to abuse from one parent might mean that we idolize the neglectful parent. This may seem illogical from an adult perspective, but from a child’s point of view, this is a survival choice. When one parent is overly abusive, then the neglectful parent might feel as if they are the only one who understands.

Neglectful parenting and domestic abuse come in all shapes and sizes. What is often the case is that one parent in a relationship is more dominantly abusive and overbearing then the other. The unequal relationship between them is likely based on their past pains and unresolved issues and has formed, for better or worse, their symbiotic coexistence.

In the above example, the father feels just as helpless as the child to stand-up, protect and set boundaries. As a result, he perpetuates an abusive situation. He makes the child a victim of his/her shortcomings.

Accessing and Owning the Hurt of Neglect

When working through childhood abuse, the traumatic memories and emotions related to the abusive and overbearing parent will be more readily available to access and work with than those of the neglectful parent.

Once that residual emotion is owned and processed, it is necessary to work to change the child’s perspective of the neglectful parent and place it in a different light.

This is challenging and takes an enormous effort to access because of the idolization of the neglectful parent.

Attracting the Right People

The aim is to shift perception to an adult integrated perspective and to allow, feel and voice one’s emotions based on the new healthy perspective. It is to give back to each parent their responsibility and re-own healthy boundaries, self-respect, and values.

Sorting out the relationship we have with our parents is one of the most challenging tasks we have to do in our lives. Once we accomplish this, it will greatly improve all relationships and whom you attract to form those relationships.

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  • Donna says:

    Excellent writing and insight Roland. Recently, in EMDR reprocessing I saw how as a child I was unable to speak about the very abusive situation where I needed my parents to protect me. How overwhelming trauma can take the very voice away from a child. There are no words to say. I have been healing myself an entire lifetime. Regardless of this fact, I now see that each parental stance, each one carried their own trauma history presented the perfect weather for the next generation to experience trauma. More neglect than violent, easy to spot physical abuse. EMDR is really a miracle experience for me to gather insight from the memories I have silently and unknowingly painful carried a lifetime. One word that I could never stomach was forgiveness. None of us really know what we are doing until there is a knowing, a consciousness. Both my parents are gone, but inside of myself maybe both can live now in truth of my awakening heart.
    Thanks for all that you share freely~

    • Roland says:

      Hi Donna. Great to hear how clarity has come to you over the years and from you writing it seems you like you see the inter-generational play of trauma. The heart indeed is the place we need to come back to.

  • Hele says:

    Hi, I’m new to this blog. When you say “own the hurt” do you mean recognize it so it could be dealt with? I ask because I don’t want to own any of this. Thanks, though, for your interesting information.

    • Roland says:

      Hi Hele. I mean to actually start feeling the hurt and contain it and yes there will be some duality with it. Part of you will not want to come close to it while another part of you wants to heal and move on. A healthy therapy process will help you contain and work through the hurt part to release, process or integrate that energy which is present as emotion held within the nervous system. Hope this helps.

  • Lisa says:

    I completely identify with this. My father was the clearly most abusive bit my mum was too. However, I idolised my mother and felt she had no faults when I was trying to help her leave my father due to his abuse. After living with her for 18 months I realised she too was abusive; just much more covert. Now, I am having to process this new relationship dynamic. No contact is the only way for me until I’ve at least finished therapy. Thanks for this insight. I hadn’t realised until now that this is what I had done.

    • Roland says:

      Hi Lisa. Happy to hear it resonated with you.

    • AD says:

      Was she intentionally abusive – or just worn out from the man she married? Difficult to parent with a partner who sucks the life out of a Mom.

      • Sherry says:


        I had this in my own parents, and yes. She is intentionally abusive. If you do not act abusive with the postman or grocery clerk, but CHOOSE to be covertly abusive with family, it’s a choice and is not helpful to a victim to have them think that abuse is not conscious. It is. When people have been in abuse a long time, sadly they can become abusers themselves. It’s still no excuse.

  • Madeleine says:

    Did EMDR , suffer from Fibromyalgia a chronic pain condition.Father was a Schisoprenic and alcoholic. I harboured huge suppressed anger towards my father. I found that I was trigerred into defense mode by any man resembling my dad subconsiously. I however not understand why one of my female therapist would trigger severe anxiety that I could only explain as a child left in a dark room by her mother. This woman resembles my mom. My father passed away and I always loved my mom and defended her against him. Since the EMDR I have sort of started distancing myself from my mom. Her older sister lost her house and moved in with my mom and I get angry when I see my mom bullying the old lady. Seems like something you are talking about. Unfortunately my Therapist does not know how to help me and rather decided to abandon me.

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  • Nancy says:

    This is the trickiest thing to heal. For me it was my mother who was overbearing and controlling, mentally and verbally abusive. My father was gone a lot, either working or hiding behind his newspaper and sports shows. He really wasn’t involved much in our parenting. My mum just died two weeks ago and my heart aches for my dad more than my myself. I can see how I idealize him. It’s so hard to access any difficult emotions I might have toward him. I see so much of myself in him in the men I’ve chosen (so much like my mother) and the codependent urge to caretake my men as he did mum (especially in the end when she was sick)

  • Margaret says:

    In my case, my ex-husband was abusive to me. For 16 years I never saw him being abusive to my sons. It was hidden only when they were 14 did I become suspicious. Police attitude changed which then enabled me to get out of it. If I had known I would have tried harder to get away from him. Although even on my attempts to get away. It made things worse. Through the attitude of the police, I was able to make a plan to get him out of the house which worked. My sons then started to tell about his physical abuse. Piece by piece over a number of years.

  • Arslan Ali says:

    I would say my father was so abusive that my mother didn’t have any choice in that. I may be defending my mother here, or idolizing her, but for me, the truth is: my mother wasn’t able to go outside alone; she wasn’t allowed to meet her relatives, and my father when he would go outside, he would lock the house from outside so that my mother couldn’t escape.

    But on the other hand, now in the present, I’m overly-protective about my mom, and I say to myself that it’s my responsibility now to do whatever I can, to keep my mom healthy & happy.

  • Sherry says:

    How does this apply when it’s alternately both parents who were abusive and neglectful? i.e. dad was physically abusive to mom, both forced me to watch. Both would be verbally psychologically torturing of me, neither was protective. Sometimes Dad was could be slightly more protective or so I hoped. Actually not true however.

  • Jennifer says:

    I have switched the idolising several times. Until age 6 it was my father as he had done some protection of me from my depressed and rejecting mother, but then when we moved my mother pushed him out emotionally so I blamed him and hated him for abandoning me, idolising my self centred mother. When she forced me into an abortion my father did not even speak of it to me. Later I saw my mothers nature and my fathers sense of humour so I switched the idolising to him and decided that men were safer than women. I persisted with this split view of the sexes, being frightened of women with a duty of care for the next 45 yrs until I had a male therapist who abandoned and rejected me. That brought me to my senses! You blog here has helped me to see this pattern much more clearly thank you very much.

  • Eva says:

    Strange thing reading this article now…I’m currently in a second therapeutic process and I think that the biggest realisation that I had untill now was that besides my abusive father (subject on which I worked in my previously therapeutic process), I also had a neglectful mother. I have always seen her as the victime of my father’s abuse, incapable of defending herself and defending us, the children and seen her as an idol of enduring. With much difficulty and suffering, I started to see her active role in being passive and uninvolved in all the episodes in which my father was abusing me. She never stood for me although I remember episodes in which I stood out for her, even though confronting my father’s verbal and emotional agresion was so overwhelming for me. Her role as a mother was just to care for our phisical needs (and she exaggerated here, as if she was trying to keep us infants all our lives), and the emotional needs were met by suprise…my abusive father. He had the availability to offer love and care.
    The funny part is that it took me so long to see this, I had my first therapeutical process at 21 and now, 10 years later after the death of my grandmother, which took the role of guiding me through my teenage, I finally saw it.
    I am working on it…

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