Being a parent, you are bound to fail at one point or another. There is probably a fair chance that you will struggle regularly to play your crucial part positively. Many parents are genuinely doing their utmost to give their children a healthy and happy upbringing, but still, such parents can end up making mistakes unintentionally. That is how they are termed as toxic parents because their mistakes leave a “permanent scar” on their children. Whether a parent is intentionally being toxic or not, it can cause permanent mental and emotional trauma to the child so much that it winds up influencing them tremendously even once they have grown up.
So How Can You Identify A Toxic Parent?
A toxic person can be violent, often cynical, emotionally unstable, unsupportive, or generally detrimental to the individuals surrounding them. Many people have unresolved trauma from there past, and usually those people turn out to be parents themselves. Their unresolved trauma is then projected onto their children because they are unable to find relief. That is how children often end up being a victim of toxic parents. Parent’s toxic behaviour can severely affect the child to maintain a healthy relationship in the future and can make them prone to substance abuse and other negative effects.
It is important to understand how parents can be toxic as well, and how you can identify the signs if you encounter such a situation, and deal with it. Here are the 8 signs of a toxic parent.
1. Failure To Provide Support and Security
Many parents tend to believe that displaying tough love is a significant way to make sure their children will look after themselves better in the future. Even if you think this behaviour may have had a positive effect in your life, but if you break apart due to some apparent failure, then it is likely because of your parent’s inability to provide enough support and security when you were young. Where tough love may work out sometimes to discipline your children, it should not be the only approach taken by a parent, as it can harm the child mentally.
2. Refusal To Accept Their Mistakes
Sometimes parents can turn out to be very rigid and stubborn, when it comes to take responsibility for their mistakes. In such an environment, this can have a negative effect on the child growing up. Often children tend to lose respect for their parents when they are unable to stand up for what they did wrong. The parent could shift the blame, refuse to accept their mistakes, or even acknowledge that they must have caused any damage. Instead, they will shift their negative behaviour, and refusal to take responsibility for their mistakes onto their children. This will leave room for toxic parents to project their terrible behaviour onto their children, which they will grow up to internalizing. As a result, children end up accepting themselves as the culprit by internalizing the blame for their parent’s mistake.
3. Harsh Judgement
Parent’s harsh judgement and criticism can give rise to negative traits in the child. For example, if either one of your parents is over critical about how you look, eat, spend your time, it will lower your child’s confidence in you, and lower their self-esteem. Sometimes parents forget that children grow up and the same rules won’t apply to them as they did when they were little. Every parent shares their criticism every now and then. A toxic parent becomes overly critical about what their child is doing. They often think that approach will prevent their children from making mistakes, but instead, the child ends up being overly critical of themselves and can have trouble gaining confidence.
Toxic parents usually use emotional manipulation and gas lighting behaviour to escape a situation and portray themselves in the right. Often parents use emotional blackmail as a tactic to guilt trip their child into submission. This is a sign of toxic parents, as they are usually unable to accept their mistakes and blame their children for their failures. They use guilt, emotional blackmail, and projection to get what they want. As they don’t want their children to go against their word, and can’t stand them being independent either.
5. Lack of Care Towards Child’s Emotions
Parents who fail to foster the emotional needs of their child and pay attention to their negative feelings create an environment in which the child may feel powerless to communicate how they feel in the future. Nothing is wrong with making children see the bright side of each scenario. Being utterly unaware of the child’s negative emotions and emotional needs, this can result in depression and distress making it difficult for the children to manage negatively and stress as adults. As a result, children end up regretting opening up to their parents, and lose their ability to confront their emotions. Toxic parents may not care about their children’s negative emotions, instead, they will probably use them against you when they want to get something done by guilt tripping them.
6. Lack of Interest
All parents have a set of dreams and goals they set out for their kids. Often, they forget they cannot control what their child is interested in. Parents would normally allow space for their children’s creative imagination to grow, rather than, curbing their interests because it doesn’t resonate with their goals. Toxic parents will always place their feelings and interests over their child’s. They will actively push children to ignore their own emotions and interests to please their parents. With the lack of interest, they may start competing with you, as they will threatened with your success. Rather than boosting their child’s success, they will resort to duplicating your behaviour and interest. Ultimately, it may have a negative effect on the child’s life, as they won’t be able to meet their goals because toxic parents are always trying to one-up and diminish your successes. This behaviour can be really detrimental.
7. Demanding Attention
Parents that are toxic often end up turning their children into their parental replacement by constantly requiring their attention. It can also be seen the parent-child bonding, but in reality, it is a toxic relationship as it hinders the child from following their own dreams, and working on their skills. There is nothing wrong with demanding attention from your child, but eating away at their space will hinder their growth. With their inability to process emotions, and find a relief, they can tend to be emotionally reactive as well. They may lash out at the child angrily for not doing something, as a result, the child will end up facing harsh punishment for something trivial. In the end, the child will grow up to be emotionally unstable. The chances of the child being stuck in a toxic situation as this one is their parents make them feel responsible for their happiness. If something falls apart in their life, they choose to shift the blame on their children for not doing something correctly. In the long run, the children will be unable to believe that they don’t have any responsibility towards anyone, and especially for their happiness.
8. Silent Treatment
Silent Treatment is also a toxic tactic that parents use to get what they want. Giving your child the silent treatment can have a detrimental impact on their mental health. This passive aggressive behaviour may always keep the child fearful of your reaction, and ultimately, make them feel guilty over something they had no control over. Instead of openly ignoring their children, parents should have the mental ability to confront a situation, and not project it onto their child. Toxic parents often think that there’s no need to set up boundaries between them and their children, and this results in them feelingsuffocated. Even as adults, they will be unable to set up boundaries between something that is emotionally troubling them. An example of such behaviour can be seen as, parents inability to knock before entering their child’s room. In the long run, the children will have difficulty forming their boundaries with other people.
Even if you find yourself stuck in any of the situations above, you may think it is impossible to get out, but it’s not. It is important to prioritize one’s own mental health over anything else. And even as a parent, it is their responsibility to accept their failures, and make improvements in their behaviour without forming unrealistic expectations from their children. Identifying with these signs can also help them realize their toxic behavioural patterns in a better way. However, the long term damage of toxic parents habits can have on their children is detrimental. It is important to know you can always speak up for yourself, and improve your behaviour. It may seem like you can’t cut off the toxicity from your life, but it is possible with persistent efforts. Especially so, you can avoid and move on from any damage that has been done to you in the past.