Children won’t always equate that they may have been subjected to parenting that was toxic or even how the toxic parenting works. But there is always a dividing line between 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 sadly some parents’ mistakes can 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 sadly fall into line with toxic parenting.
Failing to provide emotional security
Emotional security is the measure of the stability of an individual’s emotional state and it starts in childhood. It’s the foundation to all parent. Sadly, that’s not always what happens. 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. Some parents may fail to talk to their children about the things that concern them emotionally.
Parents being over-critical
Some parents may be over critical with their children, that whatever criticism is handed out is constructive. It’s easy for parents to criticise, they become impatient because they want the job done quickly, or simply because their child fails to grasp things they’re being told the first time.
The odd time may even be considered normal, but when a parent continually criticises and becomes overly critical, without giving their child any credit, that’s when they know their parenting is toxic. Perhaps it’s not something we all equate.
It’s 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 over time to criticise themselves, well into their adult years.
In a child’s formative years, their brains are like sponges. What we tell them will eventually stick, become their inner voice, therefore it’s important we keep reinforcing positive words and actions.
Words that hurt
Parents may get angry from time to time, but in the longer term, parents’ tone and language and towards each other, will define how their children respond back. When parents regularly use raised voices and words that instill fear into their children, it’s usual that their actions will follow the same pattern.
Children need to be loved, connected and feel supported. From my experience, a parent needs to change when children begin to feel threatened, fearful and scared.
Other toxic parenting behaviour might include:
- Causing a child to justify their behaviour; parents putting their feelings before their child’s; parents not allowing their child to express themselves; 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. But as the adult now, if how you’ve been parented falls into one of the above categories, these ways will now need to be changed.
If parents aren’t capable of changing, or don’t want to change, sadly, distancing ourselves is often the only way to do it.