This is a delicate subject, for both the parent and the adult child. It’s difficult to talk about and just as difficult to accept when you notice you could possibly be a toxic parent.
When you’ve grown up understanding things in a completely different way than today’s generation, you may be confused, even hurt by accusations of toxicity.
According to the internet, there are numerous traits of the toxic parent, multitudes even, and some of them seem a bit far-fetched. But, if you reacted solely to the information you gathered online, you’d be dying of an exotic illness according to your cold symptoms.
However, I respect the beliefs of experts and offer a list of the more obviously harmful traits.
To be honest, when coming to any conclusion about whether you were a toxic parent, I think you should use discernment and ask your adult children how they feel. Use this list as a foundation but make your assessment with your family’s help.
How to tell if you were a toxic parent
Now, it’s time to listen and do a bit of introspection. There will be no witch hunt here, just a little information about toxic behavior.
Just so you don’t feel too uncomfortable, I fit the bill of some of these traits myself. Will I crucify myself today? No. Will I consider the information? Yes. So, put on your seatbelt. It’s time to take a bumpy ride.
1. Not apologizing
If you cannot apologize to your child for saying or doing something wrong, then you have a toxic trait. No matter that your parents may have taught you to have an authoritative stance, it’s not about that, and it’s also frowned upon.
Okay, here are the facts. Your child is a human being. They deserve to have the same respect as you do.
Now, many of us parents have made mistakes, but secretly, we’re afraid that if we apologize, it means weakness. I know this because it was how I felt for most of my oldest child’s upbringing.
But this attitude is not healthy. If you know you’re wrong or your child says you hurt them, you should apologize. If you refuse to apologize, this is toxic behavior.
2. An extension of yourself
Your child is an individual, not an extension of you. Therefore, they have their own opinions about life in general. And the older they get, the more of their own opinions will surface.
Many parents, including myself, discourage children from having strong opinions. But we must remember, there is a difference between disrespecting your parents and formulating your own beliefs, morals, standards, and such.
After all, isn’t this what we teach them anyway, how to develop a healthy mindset? And guess what? What we see as a healthy mindset for us may not be the same mindset your child develops. And this different mindset they have can be just as healthy as our own.
Being a toxic parent means thinking your child is just an extension of you, while they are a completely different individual.
3. Not allowing space
Many parents refuse to allow their children privacy. However, it’s important for them to have a bit of privacy to develop healthy emotions and feel trusted.
Because let’s face it, we don’t want them to have privacy because we sometimes fear the worst, right? Or at least we think their desire for privacy is for minor deceptive reasons. Am I right again? Be honest with yourself.
Not allowing your child privacy is a toxic trait, and we, as parents, should step back a little bit.
If you give your children space, they will see how much you trust them. This develops healthy respect between parent and child, and it also develops a healthier character. Children who are trusted, despite their mistakes, later develop healthy mindsets as well.
4. Guilt-tripping your children
Okay, so your children cannot come home for Christmas, now how are you going to respond? If you try to make them feel guilty for not coming home for the holidays, then you’re being a toxic parent.
This applies to anything you want your child to do. No, you aren’t supposed to make your child feel guilty when you don’t get your way. Their lives are not, again, an extension of yours. They have separate existences and deserve the right to say no sometimes.
It’s the same thing if your child doesn’t want to be hugged by certain people. Do not make them. And do not try to make them feel guilty for refusing to give out hugs. There are reasons your child does or does not want to do things.
The best way to approach this is to talk it through. If your children aren’t coming home for the holidays, ask them why and listen. Do this without anger and judgment.
5. Trying to be their best friend
You are a parent, not your child’s friend. I’ve made this mistake before and regretted doing so.
For one, when trying to be your child’s best friend, you can throw discipline out the window.
Children do not see their friends in the same way as their parents, so when you place yourself as their friend, you’ll be treated as so in all aspects. It’s easy to imagine all the problems that will come from that.
No, you shouldn’t try to hang out with your children and their friends, you shouldn’t dress like them to be cool, and it’s not really a good idea to drop in on your adult child when it comes to visiting them.
Being your child’s best friend may not seem like a toxic trait, but it is. It can damage the parent/child relationship and destroy the respect you have for each other.
Let’s try harder
Okay, so this is just a sample of the traits of a toxic parent. The reason for such a shortlist is because there are so many other traits and things that you’re not supposed to say, that I will just stick with the most common.
As not to overwhelm parents and demean their hard work, let’s work step by step. And also, let’s have your opinions on these things and other toxic traits you’re familiar with. I would love to hear your opinions on this topic.
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