Most parents want nothing but the best for their children. They work hard to provide a safe, loving environment where their children can grow, learn, and thrive. However, not all parents are capable of providing such an environment. Some parents, intentionally or unintentionally, exhibit toxic behaviors that can negatively impact a child’s emotional and mental health. These behaviors can cause long-term damage that often requires therapy to address.
1. Lack of Affirmation and Security
Some parents believe that tough love is necessary for their children’s success. They think that by being critical and withholding affection, their children will learn to toughen up and become resilient. However, children need love and support to develop a healthy sense of self and build a positive self-image. If they don’t receive this from their parents, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and a lack of confidence.
2. Being Overly Critical
It’s natural for parents to want their children to do well in school and in life. But when criticism becomes the norm, it can lead to a harsh inner critic that can be debilitating. Children who grow up constantly being told they’re not good enough, that they’re lazy or stupid, will internalize these messages and struggle with low self-esteem as adults.
3. Demanding Attention
Parents who demand their children’s attention and time may think they’re bonding with their kids, but they’re actually creating a parasitic relationship. Children need space to learn and grow and should not be expected to be their parents’ substitute for an adult companion. A healthy parent will allow their children room to explore and develop their interests without the pressure of constant attention.
4. Toxic Jokes
Parents who make mean jokes at their children’s expense are engaging in an undermining tactic that can damage a child’s self-worth. Parents who have legitimate concerns should address them honestly and non-critically instead of resorting to ridicule.
5. Justifying Terrible Behavior
Toxic parents can twist any situation to suit their needs, leaving their children feeling like they’re to blame for their parent’s abusive behavior. Children who are constantly blamed for their parents’ negative behavior often internalize the blame, leading to self-doubt, anxiety, and depression.
6. Dismissive of Negative Emotions
Parents who dismiss their children’s negative emotions and emotional needs are doing a disservice to their kids. Children need adults to help them process emotions, not make light of them. Being dismissed can lead to depression and an inability to handle negativity as an adult.
7. Scary Parents
Parents who use fear as a disciplinary tool are doing long-term damage to their children’s mental health. Children who grow up in a household where they feel scared are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression as adults.
8. Ignoring the Feelings of Others
Parents who consistently prioritize their own needs over their children’s needs are teaching their children to suppress their emotions. A healthy family dynamic involves consideration of everyone’s feelings, not just the parents’.
9. Co-Opting Goals
Parents who become overly invested in their children’s goals to the point of taking over can cause real damage. Children whose parents have taken over their goals may struggle with motivation and direction later in life.
10. Using Guilt and Money to Control
Parents who use guilt and money as a way to control their children are not fostering healthy relationships. Children should not feel beholden to their parents because of material things.
11. Silent Treatment
The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse that can make the recipient feel like they’ve done something wrong, even when they haven’t. Parents who use the silent treatment are causing long-term damage to their children’s emotional health.
12. Ignoring Boundaries
Parents who refuse to recognize their children’s boundaries and privacy are creating a pattern that can be difficult to break. Children need to learn how to set boundaries, and parents who disregard these boundaries are robbing their children of essential life skills.
13. Parental Happiness
Parents who make their children responsible for their happiness are placing an unrealistic burden on their kids. No child should feel responsible for their parent’s happiness. Parents who coerce their children into sacrificing their own happiness for their parent’s are setting up a toxic dynamic that can damage their children’s mental health.
Toxic parenting can cause long-term damage, leaving its victims struggling in adulthood. The behaviors above are signs of toxic parenting, and recognizing these signs is the first step to breaking the cycle. Children who grew up in such an environment often need therapy to learn how to break free of the patterns they learned growing up.