How To Traumatize Your Children | Review & Notes

Knock Knock. How To Traumatize Your Children. Who’s There, Inc., 2007. (191 pages)


To state the obvious, this book is satire with a heavy dose of sarcasm. To state an additional given, this book will not be for everyone, though, perhaps, …it should?

This kind of “humor” can sometimes illuminate deep realities in ourselves in ways that could make us potentially more receptive to the advice/guidance than if it were told in a more direct and serious manner. Admittedly, some of this hit too close to home, and given the decades of experience I’ve had working with youth and families, too much of this book evoked true sadness and lamentations at the children I’ve seen grow up to be, well, traumatized, only to repeat the cycle.

If you can stomach the genre, there’s plenty of wisdom to be had in these pages.


Chapter 1

Introduction: Trauma with a Purpose

When it comes to trauma, there’s no wrong way, there’s only poor execution. (22)

…almost half of all all adults believe their parents would have benefited from therapy. (23)

Chapter 2

Building the Foundation: Dynamics of a Universal Trauma

Unreliability: The Enemy of Security and Trust

The larger impact of unreliability is that it erodes trust of all kids–trust that others will care, trust that others will tell the truth, trust that others will be there when the going gets tough. (29)

Your responsibility as a parent is not as great as you might imagine. You need not supply the world with the next conqueror of disease or major motion-picture star. If your child simply grows up to be someone who does not use the word ‘collectible’ as a noun, you can consider yourself an unqualified success. – Fran Lebowitz

…rarely follow through on your promises. … If you keep your child off-guard in the most primary of relationships, by the time he is an adult, he will have completely lost the ability to trust and will most likely be untrustworthy himself. (32)

…never respond to your child in a predictable way. … This will nurture your child’s fear of the unknown, and gradually he will start hiding things from you and declining to seek your counsel, both of which point him in ever more problematic life directions. (35)

There is one exception to the rule of inconsistency, however: over rigid parenting that fails to take into account anything about the child herself will also provide trauma and torment, generally resulting in a child who cannot think for herself. (37)

Your Child’s Cues and Needs: Ignore Them

…determine your traumatic parenting style and stick with it, even if your individual children are very different from one another. (39)

…the most effective path to trauma lies in each parent having a different approach to child rearing. (41)

Children have excellent intuition, and they will suspect that your parenting is not authentic. (44)

Chapter 3

Exerting Control: Your Child, Your Property

Should You Be a Controller?

The controller is a special type of parent, best suited to individuals with leadership skills and a strong perfectionist drive, generally undergirded by a stimulating (48) combination of failed dreams and entrenched self-loathing. (49)

The basic rule of thumb is, if it irritates you or you have an opinion on it, take control. (50)

There is no such thing as ‘fun for the whole family’. – Jerry Seinfeld

You Are the Boss

From the moment your child is born, she is a generation younger than you. What does this obvious observation mean? You know better! you have spent a lifetime developing dogma and wisdom, most likely from the school of hard knocks, and by golly, your children will benefit from it. As a parent, your role is to micromanage their every move, and their goal in life is to please you and follow your orders. You did not have children in order to submit to their feeble whims. Instead, your offspring are lumps of clay to be molded in your image. They are lucky to have you as a parent because you know everything. (52)

Your Children Are Your Property

When they accept your charity, starting with that baby formula they couldn’t get enough of and those pacifiers they carelessly and repeatedly lost, your children relinquish all rights to self-governance, privacy, and choice. You wiped their butts–why wouldn’t you read their diaries? (54)

Criticism is one of the most useful tools for the controlling parent. Not only does it serve to punish poor behavior as well as reinforce your position as property-owning boss, it undermines their self-confidence so that they believe (correctly) that they couldn’t survive without you. A child with poor self-esteem is more easily controlled than one who has developed confidence through praise and independent exploration of the world. (57)

Results for the Controlled Child

If you work hard to maintain absolute control over your children, there’s so much to look forward to in their adulthood. Your precious offspring will be characterized by the following blessed traits:

  • Rigid and uncreative.
  • Self-doubting and afraid to take risks.
  • Driven to perfection but never satisfied.
  • Believe everybody is criticized or finding fault in them.
  • Have difficulty knowing their own emotions.
  • Expect others to take advantage of them, because no one is to be trusted.
  • Plagued by psychosomatic ailments such as stomachaches and headaches.
  • Passive-aggressive, subject to procrastination and resistance.
  • Unable to attend to their own needs, instead focusing on others to their own detriment.
  • Seek relationships with controlling significant others.
  • Prone to eating disorders and addictions.
  • Deep down, hate and resent their parents but cannot individuate and separate from them in adulthood. (64)

Chapter 4

Your Child Is an Honor Student: Pushing for Perfection

Should You Be a Pusher?

Parents who excel at pushing are often aficionados of public perception. If you always buy the best, care deeply what others think, and enjoy keeping up with the Joneses, you just might have what it takes to be a pusher. (69)

No matter how calmly you try to refer, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids. – Bill Cosby

You will naturally gravitate toward pushing if you exhibit any of the following (71) characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs, whether in parenting or in other aspects of your life, such as work or marriage:

  • What others think of you determine what you think of yourself.
  • You sacrifice yourself and work hard toward a higher goal, but that higher goal darn well better come through for you or your efforts will have been wasted.
  • Everybody else is the competition.
  • There are two types of people in this world: winners and losers.

Train Now: childhood Is for Sissies

We don’t get to choose our activities at work, so we would be doing our children a disservice if we were to allow them to chase butterflies and ponder their own imaginations. (73)

My Child Is an Honor Student: Where’s the Plus on that A?

We live in a scholar-eat-scholar world. Your precious child is up against junior Einsteins and baby brain surgeons. By the time your child hits kindergarten, if she’s not reading at a fifth-grade level, it’s all (76) over for her. As you no doubt know, academic success is now the caste system of contemporary America. (77)

Your child should be doing at least an hour of homework daily for each successive grade. Yes, that means she’ll be doing 12 hours of homework a day by her senior year of high school, but no one ever promised academic achievement would be easy. (77)

Results for the Pushed Child

  • Terrified of making mistakes, avoiding failure rather than targeting success.
  • Never satisfied with accomplishments, never good enough, never feel like they measure up.
  • Inflexible, resin averse, unplayful, uncreative.
  • Prone to anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic complaints. (84)
  • Unsuccessful at directing and negotiating their own lives after so much structure.
  • Frequently bored and unable to find passion in activities.
  • Likely to bow out of pursuits they once worked so hard to master.
  • Resentful of their parents.
  • Struggles with addiction.
  • Anger issues. (85)

Chapter 5

It’s All About You: Narcissistic Parenting

Narcissism is ver hip, very hot, very now. Once upon a time, people cared about the community and the world they lived in. Now, however, families more frequently put themselves above the good of the group. … Some skilled parents, however, take this typology to a new, individualized level of advancement by actually putting themselves ahead of their own children. (89)

Narcissistic parents refer all outside events to themselves, interpreting a child’s behavior as having been intended to reject, insult, or harm them in some way. (92)

You will naturally gravitate toward narcissism if you exhibit any of the following characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs, whether in parenting or in other aspects of your life, such as work or marriage:

  • You fantasize about omnipotence.
  • You love being the center of attention.
  • You find it difficult to understand why others struggle with their petty problems. (93)
  • Deep down (unacknowledged to others, of course), you feel defective. (94)

Chapter 6

Whatever They Want: Indulgence Begets Entitlement

Indulgent parents are a special breed. While they tend toward the wealthier end of the spectrum, with today’s consumer credit booms even less affluent parents can afford to buy their children whatever they want. (111)

The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children. – Price Edward, Duke of Windsor

You will naturally gravitate toward indulgence is you exhibit any of the following characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs, whether in parenting or in other aspects of your life, such as work or marriage:

  • You’re lazy.
  • You believe that whatever will be will be, and your job is only to watch fate unfold.
  • You had kids because you came up with some great ideas for decorating the nursery. (113)
  • Only other people’s children behave poorly (which, of course, is attributable to poor parenting). (114)

Undeserved, unlimited praise is one of the best ways for a parent to instill a deep sense of entitlement. (120)

Buy Your Child’s Love

Result for the Indulged Child

  • Chronic boredom thanks to never having learned to entertain themselves.
  • Low tolerance for frustration.
  • Demanding and self-centered.
  • Face a harsh reality when they get into outside world without parents to pave the way.
  • Bosses will hate them because they think they’re special without having to work for anything.
  • Believe rules don’t apply to them.
  • Don’t respect other people’s rights.
  • Try to control people; manipulative.
  • Don’t know what the difference between needs and wants. (127)
  • Insist on having their own way.
  • Poor money-management skills.
  • Whiners.
  • Dependent on parents into adulthood. (128)

Chapter 7

We Share Everything: Parent as Best Friend

AH, THE BEST-FRIEND PARENT. Closely aligned with the narcissist and the indulger, the best-friend parent is fortunate to have all her needs met by her child. (131)

You will naturally gravitate toward best-friend parenting if you exhibit any of the following…

  • In other relationships, you’ve been accused of being clingy or needy, with your identity becoming submerged.
  • When you’re walking around downtown or at the mall, you more frequently (134) admire what the kids are wearing than the outfits sported by people your age.
  • You are relieved at the prospect of no longer having to manage your own social life.
  • You really, really, really want your kids to like you.

Share Everything with Your Child

The mantra of the best-friend parent is “no boundaries.” (135)

Results for the Child of the Best Friend

  • Either utterly without emotional boundaries, or with thick walls up to protect themselves from parental intrusions. (145)
  • Terrified at having too much control over their parents.
  • Resentful that they had to grow up too quickly.
  • Sexually promiscuous.
  • Doubtful about the viability of marriage and close romantic relationships.
  • Impaired work ethic, lack of discipline.
  • Addicted to alcohol or drugs. (146)

Chapter 8

Validation Is for Parking: Killing Self-Esteem

Should You Be A Self-Esteem Killer?

Whether or not you’re entirely aware of it, you loathe yourself deeply, a gift you plan to share with your child. … Unlike most of the people in your life, your child will believe you when you tell her how inadequate she is. (151)

Promoting Sibling Rivalry

  1. Compare them to one another, especially unfavorably (e.g., “Why aren’t you as smart as your brother?”).
  2. Pigeonhole them. One child could be “the pretty one,” for example, while another is “the funny one.”
  3. Don’t treat them as individuals; instead, push all of them to excel at the same activities (then compare them, as suggested in tip 1).
  4. Pick favorites. Every parent has one, so it’s simply a matter of enacting the favoritism.
  5. Avoid alone time with individual children, except when reinforcing favoritism.
  6. Don’t interfere in sibling fights, even if the older, larger sibling is physically attacking the younger, smaller sibling. (153)

Criticism is best delivered in front of others, whether family, friends, or in public places, because humiliation will help your child learn. (154)

Results for the Child with No Self-Esteem

  • Depressed, withdrawn, pessimistic.
  • Fear of trying new things due to possible failure.
  • Easily frustrated.
  • Unable to find solutions for problems.
  • Blame others for their problems. (163)
  • Exhibit “learned helplessness,” passivity that results from repeated exposure to negative feedback and lack of belief in the possibility of making anything better.
  • Quitters.
  • Susceptible to peer pressure.
  • Can become bullies in order to vent their negative feelings.
  • Suicidal.
  • Addicted to drugs and alcohol. (164)

Chapter 9

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The Convenience of Neglect

So many individuals are well suited to be neglectful parents. Some neglecters choose addiction over their children. Others are depressed and emotionally unable to cope with the pressures of parenting. And many are so caught up in the rat race of career and social climbing that they don’t feel they can take time to perform parenting functions themselves, deceasing instead to outsource the work. (169)

Neglecters tend to have difficulty with intimacy, uncomfortable with revealing themselves to or becoming dependent upon others. (169)

…if you exhibit any of the following…

  • It always seems like people want more from you than you’re willing to give.
  • You continually pledge to make significant change after the next hurdle but never do so.
  • You’re always neglecting your spouse.
  • You don’t believe that children should affect your lifestyle. (171)

…the walls you build today will turn into tomorrow’s fortress around their hearts, so impenetrable that adult intimacy will prove all but impossible. (172)

Results for the Neglected Child

  • Needy and dependent, or problems with intimacy and emotional attachments.
  • Grow up too fast, experiment with sex and drugs.
  • Low self-esteem, feeling unworthy of love or happiness. (181)
  • Attention-seeking troublemakers.
  • Seek out withholding, emotionally absent relationships.
  • Anger issues, frequent fighting, aggressive.
  • Depressed.
  • Caretaking at the expense of self-care.
  • Problems with discipline and work ethic.
  • Pessimistic.
  • Drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders. (182)

Chapter 10

Conclusion: Enjoying Your Legacy of Trauma

When your children complain about something you did years ago, never take (188) responsibility for it. (189)

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  1. Pingback: Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children | vialogue

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