Trauma Bonding

I posted a screenshot of a tweet which “poked holes” to put it politely- in the concept that there’s such a thing as “spanking out of love.”

Now, we’ve already discussed spanking on the MudRoom, you can go back and watch/read/listen, whichever modality best suits your learning style about that in the episode on corporal punishment.

We’re not re-opening the discussion on spanking as a valid form of child guidance here: that’s an open and shut case- it’s not. You’re never going to convince me otherwise. So if you want to debate that, kindly go find someone who cares.

This tweet called out the logic that a lot of people who spank use and called it what it is: trauma bonding. The concept seemed to intrigue a lot of people, and many, many people asked me for more information on it.

Therefore, I figured rather than answer 50+ people individually which, I love y’all, but I don’t have that kind of time…we’d just address it on the MudRoom! If more than a dozen people ask me the same question there’s generally hundreds more wondering about it too.

First, let’s just recap the tweet for those who didn’t see the post.

It said: “Pro spankers be like: I sit down to talk to my child before I hit them. Then after I hit them, I hug them and tell them I love them.”

News Flash! This is called “trauma bonding.”

Same behaviors displayed by domestic violence perps in adult relationships.” and it was tweeted by Dr. Stacey Patton.

Ready to be a wizard with words during your kiddo's next tantrum tornado? Sign up for our 'Parenting Power Phrases' mini-course! This magic scroll of wisdom will equip you with the perfect phrases to tame those baffling behaviors from your toddler, preschooler, or kindergartener. Be prepared, be confident, and ace the next curveball your little one throws your way!

What IS trauma bonding?

The term originates from Patrick Carnes, who developed the term to describe the quote “the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person.”

In other words: it’s training another person to conflate abuse and love. When you tell someone that- via their actions- they’ve “asked for” abuse, and that you’re abusing them because you love them- that it’s “for their own good.” You make them believe that physically or mentally abusing them. Creating a trauma, that you’re declaring that that was an act of love.

Notice I mentioned, either physically OR mentally. A LOT of manipulative punishments can result in trauma bonding as well. It is not mutually exclusive to physical abuse.

Trauma bonding is generally perpetuated by inconsistent positive reinforcement. Example; hitting someone and then showing them affection and telling them you love them.

It creates perpetual and unpredictable “honeymoon periods” where the victim is controlled by the constant fear of possible abuse, but also the hope of affection. It’s generally spoken about in the context of adult domestic violence situations- but it isn’t exclusive to them. It can occur in any ongoing attached relationship where there is a great deal of pain interspersed with times of calm. It’s often likened to Stockholm Syndrome, where a captive bonds with the very person who is holding them against their will.

I hope you can see the damage this can do to a child.

Something else I posted over the break was an infosheet from the Institute of the Developing Child at Harvard on epigenetics, and how a child’s early experiences can literally turn on or off gene expression and therefore very tangibly shape a person’s physical experience of the world.

If a child is caught in a traumatic bond with an adult, it can alter them down to their cellular makeup.

Not to mention psychologically, the harm that comes with believing that pain and violence are expressions of love. This belief that physical pain somehow leads to learning….well, we’ve debunked that eight ways to Sunday in various episodes, the ones on stress pop to mind in particular.

You cannot learn when you’re in physical danger. It’s impossible!

Your brain disconnects the section that deals with learning as a self-preservation method. Which is why disorders such as Dissociative Identity Disorder exist exclusively in people who have experienced trauma in early childhood.

Trauma is also an epidemic because early experiences of trauma cause numbing around expressions of intimacy.

People who have trauma in their history are more likely to end up in new toxic relationships because:

1) it’s familiar- and our brains like consistency and

2) it makes them feel- even if that feeling is fear.

That is Trauma Bonding.

On a super happy note to start our third season on, but one I felt was important to speak to and for as many parents to understand as possible. I’ve been in the room when someone who I otherwise found to be a rational human being starts espousing the benefits of physical abuse in raising children. I know what it feels like to be flabbergasted like that. It takes your breath away, you feel speechless, at least at first.

Heaven knows I’m rarely speechless and it takes a lot to shut me up. Some people believe so fiercely that they’re right. They’ve justified it to themselves so completely that they can ALMOST make sense sometimes…if you aren’t educated on aspects like this.

That’s the goal of the MudRoom!

You understand WHY children behave the way they do. Often what rolls over into why human beings behave the way we do. I

f you want to learn more about how to change behavior- that’s what we do in ParentAbility and we’d love to have you join us! You can learn more about that at here.

Okay, I’m going to leave it at that.

Thank you for being here with me. I know this was a bit heavy, but I wanted it to get it out of the way because I know a lot of you have spent time over the holidays hearing this crap and it can really shake your confidence.

To that end, I hope you all had wonderful holidays, welcome to 2020! I look forward to connecting with you!

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Drop me a comment.

Share this Post:

Leave a Reply


Generic filters
Exact matches only

About Allana

Hi, I’m Allana. I teach parents of toddlers and preschoolers why their children are misbehaving and what to do about it without yelling, shaming, or using time-outs. When not teaching parents about behaviour you can generally find me chasing around my two boys, reading cheesy romance novels, or hanging out with my own parents.

How to Get Your Kids to Listen and End Tantrums Without Stickers, Counting to 3, or Losing your Shit

Recent Posts

Follow on Facebook

Ever been stuck like a deer in the headlights thinking “What exactly do I SAY in this situation?!” when your child is misbehaving?

Let me give you the words to turn it around with my free parenting scripts.

Skip to content