Recently I was in a therapy session with an eleven-year-old boy and his parents. The parents were feeling frustrated the child often whined and complained about having to do chores in the home (even though he does his chores most of the time). What frequently happened was that the parents would badger him about his complaining which frequently led to more verbal conflict between them.
The son reported he did not feel loved by his parents and reported that name-calling as well as his parents telling him they did not want him around contributed to that feeling. When I brought this to his parents attention both parents reported they were unwilling to do anything different until their son changes his behavior. You could literally see the son sink into the chair after his father's pointed words.
I am worried about this family. I'm worried because the parents anger and frustration lead them to withdraw their affection and more positive interactions from their child.
I know they are not intentionally wanting to harm their son, but the cumulative impact of months and years of this will result in their son having a hardened heart towards them. I've worked with enough with families to know that as this child gets into his teenage years, the parents will have a harder and harder time getting compliance from him. The son will not see his parents as a source of support in his life. He will in turn reject them just as he feels rejected by them.
What will happen then? The son may turn to delinquent peers for acceptance or using drugs and alcohol.
Now the eleven-year-old is being immature and difficult in his responses, but I hold the parents responsible for setting the emotional tone in the home.
The take away is to be very careful as a parent not to harden your heart to the point you are disengaged and angry at your child on a regular basis. There is not one child I have worked with who has not longed for support and acceptance from their parents. There are some children though I have worked with that feel receiving love and support from their parents is not possible.
If you find yourself in that situation make sure you get the help and support of loved ones and professionals to break the pattern. Your child's future depends on it.