Defiant Boys: one mother’s story of the problems of parenting after domestic abuse

We are immensely grateful to the reader who wrote this post for our blog. Jeff C and I know that this woman has been through almost unspeakable abuse. May God reward her with showers of blessing for sharing her heart and struggles with our readers. Please pray for her and her boys and their ongoing safety.


It was the message that touched me the most. Pastor Jeff had “called my name” as we say back home. For the first time a Pastor I knew said out loud “what your husband has done to you is wrong; Abuse is sin.” He validated my pain and showed me from the word of God that I was right to leave my abuser. He told the story of how he once saw a mom with her two sons at a store or some place. He could tell she was abused by the way the boys openly disrespected her, ignored her in public and just made a nuisance of themselves. That woman was me. Today, and for the past five years.

Today I took my sons to church — again. It’s the only place I ever take them now. It’s their only hope. Or rather the house of the Lord is. I want them to be godly men. But they will not listen to me. It’s a 2-hour battle every Sunday to get to the 1-hour church service. It’s only seven minutes by subway, yet we are always late. Have always been. Even in our former church where all they did was watch cartoons and played with friends during the adult service, yet I would spend hours looking for one child. Just so we could go to church. Yes, I know. They are out of control.

They would refuse to get dressed, argue about what to wear, run off and hide, start fighting. I am ashamed. How could I have done this to myself? I thought I married a godly man, but my sons have an inherent negative bent. I see it, I know it. It is not normal. And I was losing what little was left of my mind from my abuser.

They have no regard for me, or for other adults. They have no fear. Except when they want something. How do I live like this? How do I go on with this shame? Today, they ran between the pews during the sermon. Boy 1 walked into the sanctuary from the toilet clowning and talking to himself at the top of his voice. Boy 2 would not stop running and then crawling from pew to pew, ignoring me completely. I should go home….I should stay….I should not let them make me miss worship — again….I should change church….I should keep coming. They need to be exposed to the word and people of God….I should pick a larger church…. But I am so tired all the time. But you can’t be tired you’re a Mom! Moms never get tired. And I still have to be careful about where we go. I wonder, does one ever truly leave the abuse behind? Will we ever be free, safe?

Their (mis)behavior shows the world what they’ve witnessed. It’s how they’ve seen their father treat me. How they’ve seen my colleagues, their teachers, the agency support staff treat me and talk about me in the boys’ presence. Each time we walk the streets I hear their misbehavior say to the world: “She is an abused woman. A single mother. That’s how sons of single moms (mis)behave. She’s co-dependent.”

What else do they say? “She’s crazy, did you know she has PTSD? How sad.” Or “She’s too hard on them, she should be kinder.” “She has no right to insist that they be good children, boys will be boys.” They’ve said that to my face. They’ve said it to the boys. The boys have said it to me. And I see it in the boys’ actions. My gut is not wrong. It’s the same way their father treated me. People around me treated me. Those helping me / us did it. On the other hand, I have been told it’s because I tolerate it. I let them. So it’s my fault. Yet every boundary I put up the boys defy. Every consequence I impose is defiantly resisted.

I deign to spank them because they have witnessed and experienced violence in the home. I have withheld privileges, imposed consequences, and been told it’s abuse. I teach my children about manners and respect and courtesy. We read the Bible and pray, I try to get each boy to do his devotions each morning. I ensure that we go to church every Sunday. It’s rare to find a church like this, where moms like me are accepted. So am I this control freak who wants to direct the course of her sons’ lives? Yet I want them to walk a more honorable path than their father. I pray for them to be good husbands and fathers. I have been told it is impossible. Each time I reached out for help in our community (and I received tons of it believe me) I was told that as long as they only did that to me at home, it was OK. This is my cross and to bear it and hope that they outgrow it. They probably will….

I refused to believe that and kept reaching out for help. One day I knelt in tears huddled in my room, my 5 and 7 year old calling me names and trashing stuff in the next room. As the labels flashed through my mind, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder”, “Conduct Disorder”….I “stumbled”, as the Lord led me, upon this site. This Bible-based parenting coach has been working with our family for over a year now. I have seen great improvement, yet the people around me at the time continuously and deliberately undermined my role as a mother, and we would lose whatever progress we had made just from one contact. Sending the boys notes, talking to them behind my back. Telling them they have the right to choose what they want to do and no one, not even their mother should tell them otherwise. I have sat them [the people] down and talked with them. I have explained that my sons need tough love and discipline. I have requested and then insisted that they clear things with me first before talking with my sons. I have been ignored.

And so, thirsty, worn out and afraid, I up and moved towards the scent of water. I saw a glimmer of light and rushed toward it. I moved us to “The Big City”. And the Lord met me more than halfway.

Today as they shouted and screamed and jumped and ran on the streets of “The Big City”, I tried to restrain one boy. They both shoved me. In the middle of the street Boy 2 then calmly lay down on the road yelling “I want to die”. It’s his favorite act when he doesn’t get his way. It was a side street usually not busy, so I turned and walked off. They just carried on playing and yelling at each other as though nothing happened.

Just like Pastor Jeff’s sermons, my parenting coach empowered me from God’s word to stay the course and discipline my sons. I will keep going to church with both boys. I will keep disciplining them as best I can. I will not stay in shame. This is not whom I am. It is what was done to me.

Today, I sat in church struggling to hear, straining to catch the message. Truth is I have loved the habitation of His house, and the place where His honor dwells. From my youth. And I haven’t been to church in English for 4 years.

[March 20, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to March 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to March 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to March 20, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (March 20, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

30 thoughts on “Defiant Boys: one mother’s story of the problems of parenting after domestic abuse”

  1. I will not only pray for this woman and her children, but will also pray that God silence the voices that are interfering with this mom’s attempts to raise Godly children. Satan is indeed fighting her.

    1. Amen, Brenda R! We don’t need all those voices nagging at us.

      I, too, can relate to this brave woman. I wish there were easy answers. I must say, though, that the journey has been very rewarding and I thank God for the opportunities that arose because of post-separation issues with the kids. At the time, you don’t see how you could ever come out unscathed, but the Lord is brilliant in the way He turns things around. I have a miracle story with one child, and unfortunately, a rather tragic story as well, but all is not over and I am hoping for another miracle-ending.

      A testimony that encourages me is that of John Trent’s. His book, “The Blessing” tells of how he and his brother were brought up by his dear mother after their father abandoned them. They turned rebellious and made life hell for their mother who held on dearly to God. Her prayers, however, were answered and her inspiring life was celebrated at her funeral, where masses came to honor a humble, frail woman, who had nothing to offer but her kind and generous soul. His father remained a bitter, malicious man ’til he died, and nobody but his sons attended his funeral.

      Praying that this woman doesn’t give up, but holds on to the hope that one day, her faith will be rewarded in some way or other.

  2. I can relate on so many levels and I hear her pain, particularly the pain of others who judge, undermine and blame the mother / wife. It seems like you can never do anything right. Now on the other side of abuse, one of the things I am working on is processing and forgiving those who were not there for me, found fault in me, blamed me for my own abuse, mistook my emotions and reactions to abuse for the problem and instead of believing me, supporting me and strengthening me, made me feel accused, and actually revictimized me, “knowing” they were “right”, of course. And they had Bible verses to “prove” it.

    The one thing God spared me, and I will pray fervently for this woman, is that He told me when I was pregnant with my third girl that He would not be giving this man a son because his influence on a boy would perpetuate the cycle. Good thing I love little (and big) girls!!

    1. processing and forgiving those who were not there for me, found fault in me, blamed me for my own abuse, mistook my emotions and reactions to abuse for the problem and instead of believing me, supporting me and strengthening me, made me feel accused, and actually revictimized me, “knowing” they were “right”, of course.

      Lisa, this is a BIG topic, isn’t it? I find in myself that forgiveness of myself is harder to do than forgiving my ex-husbands. They were just jerks; the church folk who mistreated and hurt me were people who should have known better (or so I think / thought). I think that’s why I find it harder to process.

  3. One more thing. I am learning the value of choosing my help and my friends wisely. Learning who is “safe”. If I had known how to do that before, I may not have suffered so much. When you are suffering abuse, you don’t need others who pile on in your life and you are not obligated to listen to someone because they are a Christian, quoting the Bible, or have “authority” over you. They can still be wrong, blind in areas, or have their own agenda or worldview that they want to impose on you.

    1. Amen, Lisa.
      Sometimes, however, it is very hard to choose good help and friends if one lives in a place where one does not speak the main language, or one is in a small community where there is not a lot of choice because it’s such a small puddle. So I agree with you; I just wanted to acknowledge the difficulties of those survivors who find this guideline hard to follow despite their best intentions and honed discernment regarding who may be safe or unsafe.

      1. Thank you for adding from your experience. The LAST thing I would want is to add another burden.

    2. I so agree and this is what was revealed to me this morning! First of all people do not know the abuse you suffered and they think they know the answers — “stay together in marriage at all costs!” That is exactly what I did for fear of what the church would think or say. I finally found our Priest who said “NO”! How refreshing but oh soo late — I feel like I have given up 20 plus years of my life for what? Acceptance of others and the church. I could go on….

  4. I will pray for her and her boys. I know first hand the residual effects of abuse on children. They do learn to disrespect you when that is being modeled at home by their father or in my case stepfather and father.
    I agree praying for the silencing of the voices of those who oppose and undermine any mother trying to raise Godly children is important. I will be praying also!
    Thank you for the post, Barbara. There are many of us in the same situation.

  5. I understand this issue with my own children maybe not to the degree she does, but definitely see the effects of abuse. So often I question myself in my dealings….
    ….am I just wanting power and control over my children, where does power and control stop and parenting begin?
    ….do I require the children to follow their father’s orders when I feel that he may be exercising control over them or are they free to set their boundaries and ask for them to be respected?
    ….am I guilty of verbal and emotional abuse to my kids when I find myself in frustration over an issue and just want the kids to trust my judgement instead of having to give a reason in explicit detail so they understand and accept it in their mind. And if they don’t see reason for my judgment then I am just not trusting them because of where I have come from.

    These things plague my mind and I want to do right by my children (13, 10, 7). We have left their dad to break the chain of abuse that has existed for generations just wanting to be sure to make the changes necessary and not just deepen resentments. Any guidance would be appreciated.

    1. Desiring Healing, I remember all those questions plaguing me as I raised my daughter through the teen years. I’ll try to answer more later today, but in the meantime, know you are not alone in those kinds of perplexities.

    2. Am I just wanting power and control over my children?
      Where does power and control stop and parenting begin?
      Do I require the children to follow their father’s orders when I feel that he may be exercising control over them or are they free to set their boundaries and ask for them to be respected?
      Am I guilty of verbal and emotional abuse to my kids when I find myself in frustration over an issue and just want the kids to trust my judgement instead of having to give a reason in explicit detail so they understand and accept it in their mind?
      And if they don’t see reason for my judgment then I am just not trusting them because of where I have come from?

      I think that these questions illustrate how we survivors of abuse often have very active consciences and we try to scrupulously work out whether or not every decision of ours is ethical and fair.

      This in itself is not a bad thing. But when our active consciences have to function in the atmosphere and pressure of our abuser’s criticism (current or historical but still deeply remembered and embedded in our thinking), and when our children are being defiant or lazy children and copying the abuser’s way of criticising us in order to avoid taking responsibility for themselves, then we are really under the pump.

      I think that with defiant kids, we do well to take a similar (but not identical) approach to the way we respond to our primary abusers. If a child or teen is using responsibility-resistance tactics and puffing up our lots of fog from the fog machine, then we have to try to keep a clear head, see the tactics for what they are, don’t let ourselves be dragged into believing the lies, histrionics and evasions, and be gentle with ourselves where possible, knowing we will not get it perfectly right.

      Even though we make some mistakes along the way, the outcome for the child is not entirely in our hands. The way kids mature (or don’t mature) is not just our responsibility. We do our best to influence them with the light we have, and the energy (or lack of energy!) we have at the time. We pick our battles. We make judgement calls on which hills to die on and what to let pass. We decide whether to confront, correct, give consequences for and which behaviours we want to tackle at given stage. With kids who have become very defiant and dishonest, we often do well to select one or two behaviours that we want to modify, and work on them. When we have those things in-hand, getting consolidated, then we may pick another of the child’s behaviours or routines to tackle.

      God is able to pick up the missing stitches and turn a child into a responsible adult. And if the child refuses and resists, well that is the child’s choice.

      For myself, I never despaired of seeing my daughter mature, but for a long time it seemed like there was not a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. And then in her early 20s God did some little things (big things, by little happenstances) and she has become so much more responsible and loving and caring, it has been wondrous to watch and be part of. But I am not saying that this brings me any glory. I have no idea how I would handle the pressure that some mothers are under with defiant boys.

  6. I wish I could hug the writer of this and hug her boys, as well…. It seems so terribly unfair that others would judge you, friend. Or your boys. They should be helping you. I hope they are. To leave an abusive relationship and then have the kids be disrespectful and naughty is yet another blow. I remember how disrespectful my kids were when we first left Germany. They had learned that it was OK to yell at me, to hit and to drag each other around. They did not have much respect for women, at all. Fortunately, like yours, they were little enough that it wasn’t to late. You can do this, friend. It will exhaust you….but all of your efforts will pay off. I am cheering you on!!! xoxo

  7. When I finally got a restraining order against my abusive husband, I had a battle on my hands with my teenaged daughter. She called me a b***** often, and refused to do anything I said. One day, she threw a glass at my head in the kitchen. I ducked and it flew by me, and shattered the glass in the oven! I spent many hours praying to the Lord for strength. Of course she had no respect for me! I had allowed her father to treat me disrespectfully in front of her for years. I had to work hard to gain it back, by setting boundaries with her. If I said “no” I had to follow through. If I threatened to punish, I had to do it. It was painful.

    She went off to college. I worried but continued to pray. God is so good! He took that difficult situation and turned it into something amazing. She met an godly young man. They grew up together over 5 years, and had the most God-honoring wedding I’ve ever seen last year. Now, they are working toward becoming full-time overseas missionaries. Only our LORD can do things like this! I praise Him!

    [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    1. That gives me such hope, Caroline, as I’m sure it does the woman who wrote this. I so related to what she wrote! The disrespect, the lies, the threats, and then adults coming alongside the out of control child and condemning me while encouraging him in his behavior.

      Thank you to the brave author of this post! It always helps to hear that my experience isn’t isolated. That this is just part and parcel of leaving abuse.

  8. My boys are similar….it is beyond exhausting — especially the oldest. It’s been a source of shame, guilt, worry and burden for many years. Were they this way because I was a push-over to love? Or the other end….too insistent on rules, respect, and order? Now I really SEE. This is not about me….this is the result of disrespect and parental alienation….Lord save!!! Please don’t let my boys be abusers and narcissists!

    1. I — as alot of women — seem to be in the same situation or were. I have an ADHD boy, 10 who is SO defiant! It makes me so mad that him and the other 2 littles (7, 4) come back after visitation with anger, no respect, etc. to me. The 10 year old because of ADHD is violent, yes throws things, swears etc. My 12 year old son is not like that but he also doesn’t visit with his Dad? It is SOO exhausting to go through this after finally ridding yourself, for the most part, of the abuser. I am glad we are here for each other, even though it doesn’t lessen the pain. At least we know it is not just us and second-guessing ourselves —- ALL THE TIME!
      So many good responses!

  9. I feel sad for this woman and her children. I pray that she stays strong and that people will be helpful to them along the way. Like others on here, I can relate to what she is going through especially with my son. It’s exhausting when you’re treated like a doormat from your husband and children, or have him undo the progress you’re making. A counselor told me to give them positive and negative consequences for their behavior. It’s difficult being consistent and trying to get out of the mode of literally forgetting what took place and just taking the path of least resistance. I really admire this woman’s courage, especially with all the outside criticism.

  10. Thanks for this. I have been dealing with my grandson who my husband and I raised from birth. I finally left my abusive husband about six months ago. Every day is a challenge and dealing with an angry teenager certainly adds to the stress. I decided to get him in an anger management group. He feels like it is too much because most of the boys in the group are much worse than he is. Some have been to juvie [Internet Archive link]1 according to my grandson. What I am hoping to find is appropriate resources. Books aimed at teens with an abusive parent would be great. Even something that would help him deal with his anger. I am not letting him out of the group. There is only two more weeks left then we can figure out what he needs to do after that.

    I am praying for this mother and her sons. I hope that she finds the right way to help her children get through this time.

    1[March 20, 2023: We added the link a page on the slang term “juvie”. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

    1. Books aimed at teens with an abusive parent would be great.

      I shall email Dr George Simon Jr to see if he knows of any such books or resources. I don’t know how much the What’s OK At Home site [What’s OK At Home used to be called Bursting the Bubble. Editors.] would help a boy like your grandson, Wisdomchaser, but it might be worth poking around on it. And if anyone else has suggestions, feel free to put them into this thread.

  11. Please listen to your heart when raising your boys. You know them better than anyone and God loves you and He will help you! I so wish I had done this when my 3 boys were little. I felt like I was the worst mom in the world because my sons were so wild. Teachers told me to put them on Ritalin [Internet Archive link]1 (which I refused), women with sweet quiet little girls gave me glares, I was so insecure about my ability to raise my kids. My husband hid in his “Four walls” (his name for our bedroom) during most of their childhood. He emotionally and verbally abused me in front of the boys and I worry so much about their future relationships. But I spent a lot of time with them and prayed and loved them and now they are my greatest joys. They are very far from perfect but I am so blessed I lived through their childhood. I know you are carrying a very very heavy burden as a single mom but you can do it!

    1[March 20, 2023: We added the link to Wikipedia’s page on Methylphenidate (Ritalin is a brand name.). The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

  12. The author of this post has sent me the following as an email, so I’m sharing it with you all here:

    I am grateful for the opportunity. I have read the comments and am especially encouraged and lifted by the prayers. It’s sad that there are many in similar situations.
    Please extend my thanks to everyone.

    Blessings to you, dear sister! Thank you for being part of our community, even though you don’t feel safe enough to comment publicly. 🙂

  13. “The Explosive Child” is a good resource for parenting out-of-control children. The book doesn’t specifically address abuse, but it does show how to teach relationship skills that children could be lacking due to the abusive environment.

  14. Here is a discussion on Biblical Encouragement for Overwhelmed Parents, from the Dallas Theological Seminary The Table podcast series. It’s not bad. It refers a bit to single parents and blended families. It does not address the abuse survivor’s peculiar dilemmas in detail (the kind of thing that this post described), but it has nothing in it that would be condemning to people who have divorced for abuse.

    This podcast is the second video where DTS interviewed that speaker, so you might like to look at part one as well for general tips about raising kids. But be aware that part one does not mention single parenting or blended families at all.

    1. Hi, Barbara,
      I am just reading this post b/c this is what I am struggling with right now, an angry, defiant teenage daughter with lots of self-image problems. I feel so helpless, even realizing that a lot of counselors don’t “get” emotional abuse and I don’t know who to turn to or who can help her or help me help her. I wondered if you had contacted Dr George Simon about resources for teens. I am so tired of the hourly struggle it is to parent her. I am afraid for her and wonder what will happen if she doesn’t get help. I know this post is very old, so I don’t even know if you’ll see this. Thank you so much.

      1. Hi, Clarity, I read all comments that get submitted to the blog; it doesn’t matter how old the post may be, the comments come up on my “back-of-blog” view in order of their submission. So never fear that I or other admins on this blog will not notice you comments. 🙂

        Have we contacted Dr George Simon about resources for teens? No. TWBTC, can you please do so?

        But it’s unlikely that Dr Simon will have particular resources to point us to, so don’t hold your breath on that. He has a full workload I’m sure, already. But maybe if you go to his blog Dr. George Simon you might be able to search for items about teenagers.

        Have you looked at our Resources page Children of Domestic Violence? (You probably have already.)

        My daughter went off the rails in her teens. She is now in her mid-20s and has become much more accepting and affectionate towards me. While our relationship was problematic (for quite a few years) I figured that I just had to ride it out, accepting that she was not willing or ready to face some truths. I had to put up with a lot of disrespect from her in those years.

        Thank God that in the course of time, by the grace of God, and via the perspectives and inputs from her friends, she has come to see me as first OK, then even cool, and now “her best friend”. I am very fortunate. I know that many many survivors don’t have this experience, and I feel for all who don’t. But I do encourage you to keep sticking to your integrity — what you know is right and wrong behaviour — and let God work on your daughter in His own good time…. You can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet. But you can draw strength from knowing that you are not willing to drop your values.

  15. Wow, thank you for your post. My ❤️ heart goes out to you, my dear sister, and your 2 boys and I will be praying for you.

    I too want my son to be a godly man. He’s 17 years old now and told me last year that he refused to go to church. His father who is now a full-pledge satanist (he used to teach the Word of God in church) told my son that he does not have to be forced to follow that “religion stuff”. My son started to speak to me like my abusive ex-husband did. When I asked for help and advice from some of my friends from my previous Christian community (I changed churches and have fantastic pastors now) I mostly got shaming comments alluding to how I needed to be stronger with him or how in other people’s home’s their kids respect them and go to church. Comments like this just add to my sense of shame and helplessness, depleting me of any energy left to tackle the situation.

    For a while I prayed for godly role models for my son. But now I just pray for God’s divine intervention in my beloved son’s life. Last year when I shared with one of my spiritual mom’s that I felt like Hagar with Ishmael — when they were sent away, I was corrected and told that I am a Sarah — a woman of promise and so is my son. I get that, but what I was referring to was the sense of abandonment, disconnection and loneliness we feel when facing the tasks of parenting alone while healing and helping our children heal, without allowing them to continue to engage in abusive behavior. It’s exhausting.

    My main comfort is in the Scriptures that speak to the widows, the fatherless, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the broken-hearted, the poor….knowing that our God gently leads those with young….

    (Isaiah 40:11 [Paraphrasing]) He will feed his flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs with His arm, and gather them in His bosom and gently leads those that are with young.

    Thank you, Lord Jesus. ❤️

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