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Bad Childhood

Blog: Bad Childhoods Don't Justify Bad Behavior

By Dr. Laura on May 20, 2024
A broken mirror reflects a fractured reflection of a woman holding her face in her hands

Does it really matter why someone does the wrong thing?


People can have anxiety, suffer from physical ailments, have had bad childhoods and so on, but you don't give them a pass and allow them to take their problems out on you because they are broken in some way.


When I spoke to Shanna, she had endured 26 years of her husband yelling at her, yelling at their kids, lying, sneaking and cheating. When she called me, her husband was finally in therapy, working out his mother issues, and Shanna was wondering if his bad childhood and their β€œvery different ways of managing stress” required her to continue treating him with patience and grace.


It's very simple. The β€œwhy” behind bad behavior doesn't matter. What matters is how you respond, especially when children are involved. Had Shanna gotten in her husband's face decades earlier and told him, β€œThe yelling has to stop or you have to leave,” perhaps he would have gotten the help he needed instead of getting progressively worse. But that's not what Shanna did. And when ultimatums like that don't happen, there's no real motivation for the offender to stop.


It's abject nonsense to believe that people are stuck in a certain mode of behavior because of how they were raised. Does he yell at nuns? Police officers? No. When he has to control his temper, he does. But, Shanna's husband was never forced to face the real consequence of losing his wife and children unless he changed dramatically. And so he didn't, and his wife and kids suffered.


ULTIMATUMS are the way to go when there's a pattern of ferocious behavior. But -- and this is very important -- the time to issue an ultimatum is when you have the courage and means to follow through on it, and not until then. You might hope that the threat itself will be enough to make some magical change happen, but that's not usually the result. An ultimatum is final. It's a demand that, if not met, will result in direct action.


Don't excuse someone's bad behavior time and time again because you perceive them as being wounded in some way. If that's truly the case, they need to get help, not take you and your children down with them.


Remember that life is finite. I think that's one of the most important things people forget. You only have so many days to be alive. How do you want to spend them? And what do you want to teach your children about how to live?


You can listen to my full call with Shanna here.


Now, go do the right thing!



How have you dealt with a bad childhood in order to live a good life? Share your stories with me here!



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