A toxic parent, by definition, is someone whose negative behaviour inflicts emotional damage on a child's sense of self. This negative behaviour can come in many forms (emotional, physical, ect...) but regardless of how the behaviour manifests itself, it can go on to affect a child throughout their entire life.
After spending a lifetime being made to feel insecure about yourself, it can be difficlt to accept the there is a way to heal or in some cases to even accept that anything was ever something wrong with your upbringing.
It took me many years to admit that my mother was guilty of anything, other than maybe not always makig the right descisions. It only dawned on me in my early twenties that my mother was not as innocent as she liked me to believe and even then, it still took me a number of years and many therepy sessions to realise just how toxic my mother is.
Signs of a Toxic Parent
There are many signs of a toxic parent and not all of them will apply to everyone's situations but any of the behaviours listed below are signs of a toxic parent.
- Their feelings always come before anyone else's.
- Being passive aggressive is their normal — with doses of the silent treatment.
- They use guilt or money to control you.
- Everything you do is critcised — even when you succeed, it's not enough.
- They do not want you to be independent.
- They ignore your boundaries — such as talking about subjects inappropriate for a child.
- You're made to feel responsible for them.
- They've shared secrets that you're not allowed to tell anyone else — such as an affair.
I recently read this list to my older sister to see what she thought and wasn't surprised to learn that my sister had noticed many (if not all) of the above behaviours in our mother. She, however, had worked it out a lot sooner than I had and so had already had a great deal of time to try and recover from its effects by the time I raised it with her. She taught me that having a toxic parent is not a life sentence and that there are ways to move forward with your life whether you choose to keep them in your life or not.
Healing From a Toxic Parent
From those negative voices in your head to the inability to accept failure in a healthy way, there are many side effects from having being raised by a toxic parent, but these are not things that you need to suffer with for the rest of your life. Below is a list of things that can help with regards to healing from the damage done in childhood.
- Accept your right to love and respect.
- Don't repeat the behavior that you experienced as a child.
- Sometimes, you need to remove them from your life.
- Other times, it's best to install boundaries so that you can maintain a relationship.
- Believe in yourself and accept that you will sometimes fail in life — we all do.
- You can't get blood from a stone and you can't get approval from a toxic person.
- Grieve for the relationship you wish you had — the heart needs this to heal.
- Forgiveness — For them, for yourself — anger doesn't help when it's time to move on.
Healing is a long process. It takes time and effort to move on from what has scarred us in the past. Even now, I am still working on healing from the damage done by my mother, but the way I look at it is that it's always best to remember that sometimes the best gift anyone can give you, is teaching you how not to behave.
What are your thoughts? Ever had a toxic person in your life? If so, what did you choose to do?