Moment Of Clarity

Abuse Signs: Could Your Partner Hurt Your Child?

With the rash of children being killed by their mother's boyfriends, now is a good time to talk about the warning signs.
Credit: Thinkstock

A teen father allegedly biting off the nose of his own infant.

A man accused of killing and burying his girlfriend’s toddler.

A dad recently convicted for placing his newborn in the freezer and battering her to quiet her crying.

With the rash of news about children allegedly being injured or killed by their mother’ boyfriends and in some unsettling cases, the fathers themselves, now is a good time to talk about the warning signs single parents should look for if they are unsure about a partners’ co-parenting skills or thinking of introducing their new romantic interest to their children.

GOLDEN RULE: If you are dating, never bring your partner around your children until you have thoroughly assessed them and determined whether you want to have in your child’s life– for the long haul. It is your responsibility to determine whether that person is emotionally stable, mature, and able to handle the stress and the demands of raising children at any age. If you notice any red flags, you need to rethink leaving your children alone with your partner or dating him or her altogether.  You may have to come to terms with the concept of being single longer than you prefer.

If you are wondering what to look for, here are some potential abuse signs:

1) Getting angry quickly. If your partner overreacts to little things, chances are he may find your child’s age-appropriate shenanigans irritating and overreact to or become angry with your son or daughter. If you’re unsure whether your partner gets angry quickly, look at how you two talk with each other and how your arguments progress, and then end. If you notice that your partner becomes very loud, moves into your personal space, becomes condescending, or starts to call you out of your name, chances are he or she will talk to your child that way if your child is alone with them.

2) Violent, disruptive, or outright crazy family. Oftentimes, behavior is learned from the environment in which someone was raised. When you meet your partner’s family, and you should make it a point to visit and meet the family several times before introducing them to your kids, notice how they talk to each other, respect boundaries, and if there are any underlying issues that might pose a problem. Emotional distress, trauma, and resentment builds up in families and are often taken out on children.

3) History of abuse or trauma. If your partner has had a history of abuse or trauma determine whether or not they have gone or is willing to get help. If they have not sought help and feel like the trauma is not an issue, the affects of the trauma are likely resurface. In other words, if your child inadvertently does something to stir up your partner’s trauma or abuse, your partner will likely respond to it. Keep in mind that not all people who have been traumatized or abused will go on to traumatize or abuse children. However, if he has not fully worked through the trauma or if your partner’s coping skills are inappropriate, it is possible that he could do to a child what was done to him.

3) Minimizes or is unable to manage emotions. Being able to manage emotions is essential as an adult. We are faced with a number of dilemmas and challenges that push our buttons and require us to have self-control. If your partner does not have self-control, it is unlikely that she will be able to calm your child down and will instead act out with your child. If you notice that your partner is clearly angry, sad, irritated, etc. and upon mentioning it to her, she denies what she is feeling despite the overwhelming evidence, she could be emotionally unaware or detached. If this is the case, she is unlikely to realize when she is having a meltdown or getting out of control until it’s too late.

4) Alcohol and drug use. If you notice that your partner relies heavily on drugs or alcohol, that’s a problem. Alcohol and drug use may serve as a way of escaping his emotions or reality. It becomes an even bigger issue if he has a history of anger, abuse or trauma.

5) Insists on having things done their way. If your partner is unwilling to see other ways of handling a situation, she is probably closed-minded and lives in a black and white world. This is going to be a problem if she is left around children because children are creative, playful, and don’t necessarily listen all of the time.

6) Desperately wants to meet your children. If he keeps pushing you to meet the kids before you feel comfortable, then something else is going on with him and it’s not your business to find out what it is – just graciously exit the relationship.

7) Nothing is ever his fault. If your partner is unable to see their role in a situation, unable to understand another’s perspective, or take responsibility for his behavior, you should seriously consider terminating the relationship.

8) Responds poorly under pressure. How does your partner respond when the pressure is on? Does she lash out? Do she pull away? Do she drink or turn to substances? These are things for you to think about as a parent who is single, because the way that she responds to pressure is an indicator of how she will respond when alone with your child.

9) Physically abusive. Once your partner puts his or her hands on you, it is very likely he or she will do the same with your child; and, if he or she physically abuses your child, the relationship should be discontinued without a second thought.

10) Your child does not like him or her. If everything checks out and you decide to introduce him or her to your children, notice how your child reacts to them. If he or she is nervous, afraid, or outright defiant (for whatever reason), then you need to cut your losses and deal with what may be causing him or her to respond this way. Although you may not NEED your child’s approval to date, you don’t want to set up an environment for the perfect storm. Besides, children can ‘sense’ and pick up on things that parents miss because they are too close to the situation, causing them to miss the red flags.

While any red flags should be taken seriously, any combination of the above should make you, as a parent, pause and strongly re-evaluate whether the person should be introduced to or remain a part of your child’s life; it is better to be safe than sorry.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Listen to your gut and trust it. If he or she is really there for the long haul, your partner will understand that being introduced to your children is a big deal and won’t pressure you. They want to make sure it’s a good situation for everyone and will be willing to become a better person to ensure that happens.

These are some tips and red flags for you to consider when you are a parent who is dating or considering cohabiting. If you are ever unsure, even if it is the child’s father, then seek the advice of a trusted friend, clergy or mental health provider.

Download your FREE Guide to Keeping Your Child Safe When Dating here.

With love and light,


Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt.

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90% success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!