Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My sister and I have been conflicted about our parents for a long time. All through our childhood, our dad used to beat us (and our older brother). We vividly remember him coming into our room at night and choking us for not going to sleep right away. I was about 4 at the time, my sister 6. Our mother did nothing about it and sometimes even watched! These days she remembers it as trying to "defuse" the situation. Our parents think they were model parents and even encourage me to punish my 1-year-old baby the same way they punished us. They talk down to us, and my dad has given me a very inappropriate nickname. He smacks us around the back of our heads as he walks by (we're in our 20s now). My mother calls us failures because we didn't go to college. Our parents also let us smoke from young ages (14 and 16) and never gave us any sort of sex talk. We just can't stand their attitude, and we're not sure what to do. We need an unbiased opinion.--Confused About the Folks

DEAR CONFUSED: Your parents are dangerous. They demeaned and physically punished you. When you were children, they didn't teach you right from wrong. They didn't protect you. Instead of raising you to embrace the world (and have the world embrace you right back) they laid down a legacy of abuse and failure.

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Do not let them continue this into the next generation. Your local department of children and family services may offer free parenting classes. Learn how to parent respectfully and to see how good your instincts are (I think they're great).

You need to protect yourself and your child. You don't say if you live with your parents (I hope not). But if you do, I think your first goal should be to get away from them. Secondly, you should put every ounce of your energy into making an awesome life for your baby -- full of discovery, joy, love, kindness and respect. Never leave your child alone with your parents.