7 Characteristics of Toxic Parents You Should Avoid at All Costs
Even the most loving and well-meaning parents can engage in toxic behaviour without even realising it.
When asked what the signs of toxic parentsare, some mums and dads will claim that it has nothing to do with them. After all, they work hard to provide their kids with everything that they need.
But remember: Even the most loving and devoted parents can engage in toxic behaviour without knowing it. The key is attaining an objective self-awareness, so that you can keep yourself, and your parenting habits, in check.
Ahead, we’ve put together some commonly overlooked signs of toxic parentsyou should guard yourself against.
7 Signs of Toxic Parents To Watch Out For
Think about your everyday interactions with your kids. Are you helping or hindering them from growing into their best selves? Are you giving them the attention, encouragement, and understanding that they need to gain confidence and become more self-assured? Most importantly, are you giving them room to grow?
Take a closer look at the following signs of toxic parents, and correct harmful behaviour before it’s too late.
1. You wallow in your own negativity
Being a parent doesn’t magically make your insecurities and struggles go away. But once you have kids, you now have the responsibility to police your negative words and actions. Whether you intend to or not, wallowing in negative thoughts and feelings can greatly affect how your child relates to the world, too.
“No kid is perfect, but parents often don’t realize just how much their own thoughts, rather than their children’s behaviour, contribute to their own emotions,” child psychologist and author Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD, tells Reader’s Digest.
2. You limit them through labels and comparisons
Do you pigeonhole kids into certain characteristics and behaviour? If you label kids or compare them to others you could be limiting them without even knowing it. As your child grows up, they will develop varied interests and skills. Allow them to do so by first acknowledging that they have the freedom to be who they want to be — but of course, with your guidance.
Don’t call your child “shy” just because they’re scared of public speaking. Rather, focus on the strengths they do have. Are they caring towards others? Do they possess a quiet confidence that keeps them from indulging in peer pressure? Highlight the good, while guiding them to correct bad behaviour. Remember, most importantly, that misbehaviour does not make them bad kids.
3. You try to be too much of a friend
Yes, cultivating a close relationship with your kids is an admirable goal. But don’t be so determined to be your child’s BFF that you forget that you are, first and foremost, their parent. Kids need to be given limits with love. Being firm and disciplining kids as needed gives them space to grow and learn.
How can you keep from being more of a friend and less of a parent? For starters, don’t disclose age-inappropriate information. Co-dependence, when taken to extremes, is not healthy. Why? There is a risk of role confusion, especially if your child is still too young.
4. You hinder their independence
In the same way that trying to be their friend can be harmful to their healthy development, so too is hovering. It deprives them of chances to gain independence. While doing everything for them might seem like good parenting, sometimes truly healthy parenting means taking a step back and letting them learn age-appropriate tasks with minimal guidance.
Yes, it’s sweet to think that they’ll always be your baby in your heart, but remember that you are trying to raise a well-adjusted adult, not simply caring for a child.
5. You entrust them with too much, too soon
Quite the opposite of over-parenting is just distancing yourself from your child’s growth. You overlook the fact that a child might be too young for certain conversations or tasks. You might think that forcing them to do things can build up confidence and independence, but doing this can actually result in the opposite.
Don’t detach from them. Always keep guiding them, even if they’re independent for their age. Kids might outgrow certain habits, but they will never outgrow needing to feel that their parents truly trust them. They also need to know that you have their back when they encounter struggles along the way.
6. You don’t respect their boundaries
Psychology Today defines this as unhealthy enmeshment. This can take the form of being overly invested in your child’s life or even living vicariously through them. How? By forcing them into certain activities, like sports or pageants, that they don’t really enjoy.
Kids shouldn’t be burdened with having to set boundaries for mum and dad. When a parent asserts their presence in every aspect of a child’s life, especially in their children’s teens, it can diminish a child’s sense of self. A growing child needs to be able to get to know themselves and to truly love who they find. They can’t do this if their every thought has to be filtered through what mum and dad think about it.
7. You think you’re truly listening, but you’re not
Communication isn’t a one-way street. This is true for adult interactions and for parent-child relationships. Don’t talk over your kid. Don’t interrupt them. One of the greatest challenges for a parent can be simply letting a child speak without trying to step in and fix something.
Listen intently and thoughtfully before responding. If you communicate in a way that makes your child feel heard and understood, they will grow up consistently open and confident to share their thoughts and feelings with you.
Other more obvious signs of toxic parentsare being emotionally unavailable, unreliable, inconsistent, manipulative, overly critical, and the like. It’s important for mums and dads to know that even what they think is good for their kids now can truly affect their self-worth and ability to adjust to life as a future adult.
What other signs of toxic parentswould you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.