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Ways a parent can be subtly abusive:

 26 Zolnier, Mon, 7th Mar '11 8:12:41 PM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
So any way the parents could try to justify their actions in their minds?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

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 27 Wheezy, Mon, 7th Mar '11 9:39:26 PM from Tampa, FL. Again.
(That Guy You Met Once)
@Snowfoxofdeath: Exactly. If anyone thinks D Jay's case is "subtle, " then I'm assuming their definition of "real" child abuse involves knives. I would not use those extremes of mental and physical abuse in the story, if I were the OP.

edited 7th Mar '11 9:41:10 PM by Wheezy

 28 Zolnier, Mon, 7th Mar '11 10:45:23 PM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
Yeah it isn't very subtle.
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
 29 Wheezy, Mon, 7th Mar '11 11:04:50 PM from Tampa, FL. Again.
(That Guy You Met Once)
Any way the kids might try and cope?

Usually, IRL, kids either:

edited 7th Mar '11 11:10:18 PM by Wheezy

 30 Zolnier, Wed, 9th Mar '11 5:04:56 AM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
So weird question, but does anyone know of a reaction an abused kid might have to seeing a normal family?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
 31 Tidal Wave 17, Wed, 9th Mar '11 5:27:16 AM Relationship Status: Singularity
He might feel something, like a "Why is their family so different" feeling.
 32 Zolnier, Wed, 9th Mar '11 5:31:37 AM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
So how might the parents try to rationalise the way they treat their kids?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
A father that is a strong believer in The Spartan Way might encourage a destructive sibling rivalry, by pushing each kid to excel over the other, and constantly berating the one who falls short. The unreasonable and impossible demand that BOTH excel over the other simultaneously can be horribly abusive.
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 35 snowfoxofdeath, Wed, 9th Mar '11 7:27:08 PM from San Francisco Suburb
Thou errant flap-dragon!
The child would feel jealousy and longing, and the abuse would seem even worse to him after catching a glimpse of what family should be.
"So weird question, but does anyone know of a reaction an abused kid might have to seeing a normal family?"

I've heard of abused kids whose best friends had healthy families fantasizing about being adopted by that family, or even trying to get adopted by them.

Also, the kid might be very puzzled by some things they do, because kids tend to assume their own family is normal. I heard a story of a girl whose father gave her oral sex at bedtime every night, and when she had a sleep-over at a friend's house she was surprised that her friend's father didn't do this.

Regarding D Jay's case, I agree, there is some very obvious abuse going on in his life. But he's also described a lot of subtle mindgames being played on him. If you imagined parents exactly like his except without the physical abuse and starvation, they'd still be subtly abusive.

One particular form of subtle abuse that can really mess a kid up is 'emotional incest'. It's basically a milder form of sexual abuse, where the parent (usually father, towards a daughter) treats the kid like a lover. They don't do anything overtly sexual to the kid, but they confide in the kid, take the kid on dates, talk about how beautiful the kid is (the way they'd talk about a sexual partner, not a child), and get jealous if the child tries to date someone age-appropriate. This also tends to distance the kid from the other parent or set them up to compete with each other, and when there's more than one child the others are often The Unfavorite. You could even have a thing where both parents pick different children to do this with, and each parent's favorite child is hated by the other parent.

Another form could be acting like fairly good parents but teaching a very warped view of the world to the child, like telling the child that everyone outside their family is evil and dangerous and plotting to hurt them.

Spousal abuse can also be very hurtful to a child, and it could take the form of being overly controlling and insulting while never actually hitting the spouse. (Incidentally, contrary to what's commonly believed, there's no gender difference in the rate of spousal abuse.)
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
 37 Zolnier, Thu, 10th Mar '11 6:09:21 PM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
So how do you think a parent like this would react to their kid being bullied?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

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 38 Crystal Glacia, Thu, 10th Mar '11 6:19:33 PM from Cedarpointland
patience, young padawan
In the same vein as supposedly "caring" about the child, the parent might fly into a psychotic rage at the bully.
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 39 snowfoxofdeath, Thu, 10th Mar '11 6:20:57 PM from San Francisco Suburb
Thou errant flap-dragon!
"Deal with it. It makes you strong. And don't tell anyone about it, or they'll make fun of you for being a coward."
 40 Zolnier, Thu, 10th Mar '11 6:45:58 PM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
So how might the parent react if they notice that the children have become closer to their extended family than to them?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
Well about rationalising their behaviour, here's how somebody I know tries to rationalise insults: "I'm not a hypocrite, I say things as they are".

Okay, ways of being subtly abusive... Really getting under their skin, playing on their weaknesses. For example, they could tell the Extreme Doormat who goes out of their way to please everyone that all they do is hurt people, or they could tell the Stoic Woobie who hates being pitied that they know how emotionally vulnerable they are, and their facade isn't fooling anyone.

Or they could do something nice for the kids, then for several days or even weeks afterwards, be like, "This is how you repay me?" over everything. Guilt trips. If the kid gets The B Grade, the parents could be like, "Do you have any idea how much we paid to get you into that school?"

There's putting the kids down all the time, making them feel like their efforts are for nothing. Again, The B Grade. The parents could act really disappointed and tell the kids they're not going to get anywhere. That'll lead to the kids either not even trying any more, or trying too hard. And if they actually do perfectly well, I'd assume the parents would find or make up a fault. Or just not reward or even so much as congratulate them, instead saying something along the lines of "It's normal, that's what you're supposed to get."

Being really condescending. Talking to the children as if they were five years old, explaining things several times and really slowly, with lots of hand movements as if they couldn't understand through words alone.

Then there's Why Did You Make Me Hit You?, of course. Even if they're not physically violent, a parent could do something like smash loads of plates, then cry and ask the child why they made them do that. Displays of aggression can really, really terrify a child, even without physical abuse. (My stepfather once smashed up a portable heater in front of my sister. Made her cry, and she's not somebody who cries often. He didn't do the whole "look what you made me do" thing though, thank goodness.)

As for the parent noticing the children are closer to their extended family, again, they could resort to guilt trips. "Ungrateful little brats. After all we've done for you, you spend all your time with them? Don't you care about us?"

It all boils down to them being manipulative bastards towards the kids.

edited 10th Mar '11 7:55:33 PM by Xandriel

What's the point in giving up when you know you'll never stop anyway?
 42 Zolnier, Thu, 10th Mar '11 8:08:37 PM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
So if their kid's run away, how might they react?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
Depends what kind of parents they are.

If they see themselves as caring parents, they'll probably act all worried and trying to bring the child home - meanwhile completely ignoring why the child ran away. (Or they might actually realize what they've been doing and resolve to change, which could either stick, or be a temporary thing before they slip back into old patterns.)

Or they might be angry and resentful, thinking of the kid as bad for running away and wanting to punish them. This is especially likely if they were obsessive disciplinarians or were using the child to meet their own emotional needs.

Lastly, they may not care or notice, if they tended more towards neglect than actual abuse.

Regarding how they'd interact with authorities concerned about the runaway child, they might either be suspicious and fearful of their dirty secrets being found, enjoying the attention while not acting upset enough about their missing child, or be quite distraught (maybe excessively so).
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
 44 D Jay 32, Sat, 12th Mar '11 2:22:40 PM from Cornwall Relationship Status: Wanna dance with somebody
Matkaopas
Hi, guys. :D

I find it kinda funny how two of the replies to this thread have been the exact same sentence. I laughed. xD

..so! You want some examples of abuse that are more subtle than the ones given in my thread? Alright, I'll give you some. Remember, though, the characters shouldn't be able to realize this is abuse until after they've heard a LOT of how most people don't do it. And a lot of this stuff has already been said. Tropers, man. Gotta love 'em.

Relying on the kids for help in coping with their own mental problems (mum confides in us boys about most of the shit dad says to her). "Please don't do this, or else your dad'll be mad at me." "If my mum ever saw me doing that, she'd (bed with no supper, smack my bottom, something)." "There's a list of things a son can't say to his father, but there's no list of things a father can't say to his son." Brother points a knife at kid, parents give brother minor scolding while yell at kid for "provoking" him.

Ooh, here's a good one, a rule my dad has almost made me believe: "It is your own fault for getting offended/getting mad/getting upset." Really, that's.. just a brilliant example. The only reason I don't believe it is because I've started to notice he's saying the opposite lately, how "It's your own fault for offending me."

More examples! Does something ever happen to the kid to injure him or harm him? "You need to stop being so clumsy." Does the kid ever get into any arguments with the parent where the kid gets offended enough to cry? "As soon as you get emotional, you automatically lose the argument." Or "I can't talk to you when you get like this." Or "You always make me out to be the bad guy, asshole, " under some contexts.

Actually, getting mad at people for getting offended sums up a lot of subtle abuse. Pair it up with "I'm the parent, so I'm right, " and "If you don't shut up, I will smack you, " then you'll get yourself a kid who gets so used to the abuse that it seems like the norm. The kid may grow up to be a jerk, or if he makes the right choices, a nice person.

More examples! <_< I've really got a lot of these, y'know. Never showing interest in what the kid likes, always pushing the parent's own interests on the kid. If the kid is legitimately uninterested, "OH, *fake yawn* SO BORING, y'know, I don't ever get that rude when you show me things." Never having time for the kid (example: Dad works late, gets home too tired; mum is housewife, always too busy/tired). Never in the mood for quality time or anything. Spoiling the kid just to shut him up (buying him toys so he can keep himself busy, not even paying attention to what the toy is; thanks to this, I learned my swear words early), later chastising kid for how spoiled he acts.

More! Comparing kid to other kids/siblings ("Why can't you ever be as good as _____?" "You're starting to end up like _____, change that!"). Parents might go out drinking/romantic dinners a lot, leaving kid(s) at home by themselves ("You're responsible enough to get your own dinner, right?"). Often telling uncles/aunts/other adults how bad kid(s) are. Telling kid he owes the parent for having supported him as he grew up.

Then, finally, occasionally having what they view as beautiful family moments where the kid gets a hug and "talks about their problems." Usually has the kid too insecure to tell problems. ("I don't want to tell you." "WHAT?! WHY THE FUCK NOT?! I'm your [parent]!" "I.. I don't know! I just.." Kid does not trust parent, or parent IS problem, but kid does not realize this; kid is just too insecure thanks to being raised through all the abuse. Parent yells at kid for not talking about problems.) After all this, the parent says everything is all better, and kid is left with impression that the parent truly cares, so the kid's just being ungrateful.

...there, that good enough for you, TC? I can give more.

edited 12th Mar '11 2:30:04 PM by DJay32

There is no Hell like the darkness of a human subconscious.
Make the parent use empty threats a lot, and bizarre punishments for minor faults. "You didn't hold your fork right when we had dinner. Now I'm going to call up all your friends and tell them to stop being friends with you, because you can't handle even the most basic things!" "If you're not nice, I will throw away all your stuff." Use a lot of threatening, make the parent imply that the child is worth less than other kids, and also use a lot of patologization ("You're ill in the head, if you aren't good I will send you away to the madhouse!").
 
 46 Zolnier, Sun, 13th Mar '11 7:46:13 AM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
[up][up]Your examples are a great help, especially the "parents tried to talk about the kid's problems" thing. And I wouldn't mind some more examples if your comfortable giving them.

edited 13th Mar '11 7:50:32 AM by Zolnier

Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
 47 D Jay 32, Sun, 13th Mar '11 11:39:03 AM from Cornwall Relationship Status: Wanna dance with somebody
Matkaopas
Now, it helps to understand some things about abusive parents.

They really think they know what's best, and they really think the kid is at fault. They really think their children are supposed to be treated worse than their friends.

If the parent is a hard worker, then the parent will often still be in the "working mindset" when they get home. They'll still respond to people in a business tone, getting loud when things don't go right, being harsh, or even treating their family like annoying customers. I know this because my dad has admitted to it.

If the parent sees something of him/herself in their child (i.e. arguing in such a way that it reminds the parent of him/herself), the parent will only get madder. The parent will be in denial that that's what he or she really acts like. As a result, if the kid ever says "Like father, like son" in an argument, things may... go haywire. Once again, I know this from experience.

A solid form of emotional abuse would be not only being generally mean, but even criticizing people's emotional responses. EXAMPLE: "You're a complete waste of time." "Wh.. but.. that.." "Calm down, dammit. It was constructive criticism. You should take it as a reason to improve yourself, not get overemotional over it."

Related to the previous is accusing people's tones of voice. "I'm coming home late today, honey." "Oh, okay." "What do you mean, 'Oh, okay?'" "What? I mean alright!" "No, you had a tone in your voice right there!" "I didn't!" "I heard it!" And so on.

Disregarding their kids' good things and only talking about the bad things is a common one. For instance, it feels like my dad's never proud of me because he never mentions the good things I do, only the mistakes and even the good things that he twists to make them sound bad. As a result, I seriously don't even know most of the good things I do. I'm rubbish around the house, yet I may not be. I just.. only ever get yelled at.

I'll give more soon. Bit distracted right now.

edited 13th Mar '11 11:42:06 AM by DJay32

There is no Hell like the darkness of a human subconscious.
A travelling scholar
Substance abuse is a common result to a bad childhood. Make sure it's actual abuse, or you'll come across as preachy and piss of a certain audience HARD.

 49 Grain, Sun, 13th Mar '11 11:49:53 AM from South Northwest Earth
Only One Avatar
Withholding praise gives kids low self esteem. Chastise the kid for doing bad things, but never reward the kid for doing good things.
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