The messages we get from our parents as we grow up determine the way we see the world as an adult. If all things go well, we grow up to be independent with a secure attachment to the family base. However, when dysfunction happens, we become locked in a cycle of codependency that ties us forever to what we had and should have left behind. This has an impact on our self esteem, our relationships and our view of the world around us and is very hard to change without professional help. Let me give you an example :
In a case I know, the mother was very direct with punishment. There was shouting, occasional spanking and punishment was administered immediately. While this is still a parenting style that is less than appropriate, the children knew exactly where they stood with this parent. Consequently, the relationship between the adult children and the mother is exactly that…matter of fact, emotionally cold and one dimensional. Take on the other hand, the style adopted by the father. He was not heavy-handed, never spanked but used the term “you have disappointed me” frequently as an aftermath to the punishment administered by the mother. Imagine the effect this has had on the children. Two vastly different approaches but with the same end in mind..you have to please me and fulfill my wishes. The result is a codependent bond with the father who stills uses subtle messages to control his adult children, leaving them to fill in the gaps. They are as dependent on him now as they were as young children. He is the “king of the castle” who controls everything and everyone around him (surely a sign of his own insecurities). The son has moved away but just close enough for dependence to happen and daughter is in a never ending spiral of trying to please a perfectionist father who gives the message that everything she does is not quite good enough. This has cost her the chance at happiness and will only really find it when someone comes along who is strong enough to help her break this bond or someone weak enough to fall in line with the father and be controlled as well.
This example tells us that not only the effects of direct punitive punishment can be damaging. If you do not directly communicate with your child in a functional way, show them clear, safe boundaries and “coach” them through in securely attached way, you will be doing as much damage to them as if you constantly took the belt to them. I empathize deeply with the family in this story, especially the children who truly believe that they are independent. The facts, unfortunately tell a different story.