The toxic parent. Can parents really be toxic? The majority of parents do everything they can to raise healthy, happy children who turn into well-adjusted adults. While every parent is likely to make a few mistakes along the way, they are usually corrected as soon as they are noticed.
Unfortunately, there is a type of parent that habitually makes mistakes that create a toxic home environment that leaves kids dealing with emotional issues well into adulthood. Since kids grow up thinking that their family is normal, it can be years before they realize that their parents have been contributing to their unhappiness all along.
Toxic parents engage in a pattern of behaviors that slowly chip away at their child’s self-esteem and prevent them from growing up to be independent adults. Unlike physical abuse, which can be defined by clear lines most of the time, the psychological games toxic parents play with their children are often hard to detect.
If any of these signs ring true regarding how you were raised as a child, then it is possible that toxic parenting may be creating challenges in your life that you need to overcome.
10 Signs You Have A Toxic Parent (And What You Can Do About It)
1. They Dismiss Your Wins
In a healthy family, a child’s accomplishments are met with praise and rewards. You should expect for your parent to listen with pride as you describe your latest promotion or how you scored the big win in your favorite team sport.
Toxic parents, however, will be disinterested in the news. They may even mock you and claim it was all just good luck.
2. They Criticize Everything
Constructive criticism is a good thing since that’s the only way children learn basic life skills. Sadly, some parents take criticism to an extreme, and constantly being told that you are doing everything wrong leads to you developing a harsh inner critic that ruins your self-esteem.
3. They Are Addicts
Children of parents who abuse drug and alcohol addiction must deal with mood swings and other negative effects of substance abuse. It is also likely that you are called upon to hide the addiction from the rest of the world so that your family appears normal to others. You may even still be trying to cover up your loved one’s drug problem, which is a sure sign that your parent-child relationship is unhealthy.
4. You Justify Their Behavior
It is normal for a child to crave their parent’s love and affection; so many children make up excuses for their parent’s negative behavior. You may find yourself claiming that they are just tired when they don’t want to hear about your life. Alternatively, you may excuse their critical attitude as them just having a bad day. When you find yourself constantly justifying their behavior, you need to look at if it truly is excusable.
5. They Play Mind Games
Does your mother give you the silent treatment for weeks after an argument? Or, perhaps your dad cancels your plans whenever you don’t do what he wants. These types of behaviors would be inexcusable from your friends, so why should you take this from your parents? Healthy parents talk through disagreements, and don’t hold grudges once a conflict is resolved.
6. Their Jokes Are Not Funny
There are some topics that are just not acceptable to be joked about, yet you still find yourself being the butt of your parent’s rude jokes. In fact, others have been uncomfortable when your parent mocked your weight or awkward childhood habits. Simply put, your parents should never embarrass you or make you feel that you are less than enough.
7. They Discourage Self-Expression
There are times in life when you just need to vent, or maybe you want to talk to your parent about how their behaviors make you feel. Yet, your parents shut you down anytime you begin to express a negative emotion. Over time, this can lead to you internalizing your emotions and developing symptoms of depression.
8. They Still Inspire Fear
Once you’ve grown up and moved out of the house, you shouldn’t be afraid of your parents anymore. However, you notice that you still cringe every time the phone rings with their name on the screen. In a healthy family, adult children answer the phone without fear and even look forward to hearing from their parents.
9. They Try to Compete
Normally, children and their parents are on the same team, and working together is part of being a family. Toxic parents are not team players, and you may find them outright taking over your goals. For example, your parent may buy a new car just like the one you recently bought, only they’ll add on all the fancy features. On the surface, it may be flattering, but when it happens time and time again, this behavior is maddening.
10. They Ignore Boundaries
A toxic parent still believes they run your life, and their need for control means they will ignore healthy boundaries that most people follow. They may walk into your apartment without knocking, or show up at your work unannounced. This is especially troublesome if you have asked them not to do these things in the past, yet they continue to do it.
Discovering that you do indeed have a toxic parent is upsetting, yet it is the first step towards reclaiming your life. While your approach may vary depending upon if you still live at home or have already moved out as an adult, these strategies can help you minimize the damage your parent’s toxicity has on your life.
Visit a therapist for help from a third-party perspective
Minors living at home need to reach out to a trusted adult if a parent’s toxic behavior is outright abusive
Establish boundaries and stick to them
Accept that your emotions are valid, and find positive ways for self-expression
Bring back up support to family gatherings
Research toxic parenting relationships and learn more about how to cope
Limit your involvement with your parents. If they won’t be nice, you don’t have to visit. You don’t even have to interact with them at all. You never have to deal with a constantly toxic parent!