Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:
Arleen’s children did not always have a home. They did not always have food. Arleen was not always able to offer them stability; stability cost too much. She was not always able to protect them from dangerous streets; those streets were her streets. Arleen sacrificed for her boys, fed them as best she could, clothed them with what she had. But when they wanted more than she could give, she had ways, some subtle, others no, of telling them they didn’t deserve it. When Jori wanted something most teenagers want, new shoes or a hair product, she would tell him he was selfish, or just bad. When Jafaris cried, Arleen sometimes yelled, “Damn, you hardheaded. Dry yo’ face up!” or “Stop it, Jafaris, before I beat yo’ ass! I’m tired of your bitch ass.” Sometimes, when he was hungry, Arleen would say, “Don’t be getting in the kitchen because I know you not hungry”; or would tell him to stay out of the barren cupboards because he was getting too fat.
You could only say “I’m sorry, I can’t” so many times before you began to feel worthless, edging closer to a breaking point. So you protected yourself, in a reflexive way, by finding ways to say “No, I won’t.” I cannot help you. So, I will find you unworthy of help.