There is always a dividing line between occasional criticism and continual over-criticism, towards a child by a parent.
Most parents genuinely want to do their best to provide their children with a healthy and happy upbringing, but some parenting can be toxic and may result in future therapy sessions. Toxic behaviour, if allowed to continue, can cause emotional and mental damage to a child. Some of the issues below fall into line with toxic parenting.
Failing to provide emotional security
Emotional security is the measure of stability of an individual’s emotional state and it starts in childhood. It’s the foundation to all parenting. We’ve all heard about ‘tough love’. Tough love in childhood is when children are treated harshly or sternly, and they’re still expected to get on with and take care of themselves in later life. Conversely, when parents talk to their children about the things their children are concerned with, they become emotionally strong.
Parents being over-critical
Some parents may be critical of their children, but whatever criticism is handed out, it must be constructive. It’s easy for parents to become impatient, usually when their child fails to grasp things they’re being told the first time, and this can lead to being over-critical.
The odd time may be considered normal, but when a parent continually criticises and becomes overly critical without giving their child any credit, that’s when parenting becomes toxic. It’s also easy for parents to make the mistake of thinking that being overly critical is helping their children avoid costly mistakes, but any form of criticism if used regularly will cause a child to criticise themselves well into their adult years.
Words that hurt
Parents may get angry from time to time, but a parent’s tone and language will define how their children respond back. When parents regularly use raised voices and words that instil fear into their children, their children will follow the same pattern. In a child’s formative years, their brains are like sponges. What we tell them will stick and become their inner voice, therefore it’s important we keep reinforcing positive words and actions.
Children need to be supported and feel loved so they will want to stay connected. A parent needs to change their behaviour if their child begins to feel threatened, fearful and scared.
Other toxic parenting behaviour might include:
- Causing a child to justify his or her behaviour;
- Parents putting their feelings before their child’s;
- Parents not allowing their children to express themselves;
- Parents making toxic jokes about their child;
- Parents ignoring healthy boundaries.
Children get used to the way they’re parented, so they’re not always consciously aware that their parents’ parenting is, in fact, toxic. As an adult, if the way you’ve been parented falls into one of the above categories, then you’ve experienced toxic abuse. If parents don’t want to change, children will emotionally distance themselves.