Life and Inspiration

How to Deal with Toxic Parents

There’s nothing worse than being emotionally abused, unless you’re being abused by the very people who raised you – your parents.

Undoubtedly, it’s the goal of almost every parent to ensure that his child is happy, successful, and has a decent upbringing, but what happens when your parents are so blinded by their love and concern for you, they go to extremes just to see that they achieve this goal and successfully play their roles as parents?

As it’s often the case, most parents criticise their children’s mistakes, call them names, belittle them, and sometimes, give them the silent treatment, with the notion that it’s for their children’s benefit, when, on the contrary, their behaviour toward their children only causes emotional and mental damage to them (the children). If one or both of your parents are like this, chances are that they’re toxic parents.

Most toxic parents don’t know they are what they are, and you wouldn’t know whether or not your parents are toxic if you fail to notice these signs that are easily ignored:

1. They are overly critical.

Your parents might genuinely love you, yet they can’t go a day without criticising you. I’m talking (or writing) out of experience. I have a critical mum who criticises my mistakes even before I make them. Lucky for me, I’m not so sensitive so it doesn’t really get to me.

But if you are a sensitive person and one or both of your parents are critical of you, I can imagine how low your self-esteem is, and how poorly you think of yourself.

As little children, we trust everything our parents tell us, whether or not it’s the truth. So when they say something negative about us, we believe every bit of it. We adopt our parents’ views about us without realising that they are their views, not ours. Which is why when someone tells me he’s unintelligent, I wonder if he’s unintelligent because he is, or because his parents have told him he’s unintelligent so many times he now believes it’s true.

If your parents, like most parents, are overly critical of you, don’t hate them or wish you never had them. Simply understand that they love you but just don’t know how best to express it.

2. They turn you into their clone.

I’ve discovered that my mum doesn’t like me doing the things she doesn’t do, like blogging for example. The few times I’ve mentioned blogging in our conversations, she has almost always made a snide remark about my “wasting time on my phone when I could be doing something meaningful.” Having accepted that she’ll never support the idea that I write and blog, I don’t talk about the blog when she’s around me anymore.

It’s not nice to have parents who control your choices, call you names and belittle you, nor is it helpful when they have negative views of your life and are pessimistic about your future.

If your parents control your choice of a date, job, hobby, and/or lifestyle, then you should know you’ve got two toxic individuals as parents.

3. They hold you accountable for their happiness.

Toxic parents would always tell their child how much they’ve sacrificed for his happiness just so the child feels remorseful about his shortcomings. But no child should be held accountable for his parents’ happiness and no parent should place unrealistic expectations on the role their children are to play in their lives.

We are all responsible for our happiness, even if your parents tell you otherwise. We all have our lives to live so don’t live your life trying to please your parents. You’re not responsible for their happiness.

4. They justify their bad behaviour.

Do your parents make you feel like you deserve whatever curse, abuse, or insult they throw your way? If so, then they are toxic to you.

Toxic parents would never admit they are wrong. They believe that as parents, they know best and whatever methods they employ in your upbringing is for the greater good. They make you carry the blame when you’re wrong and even when you’re not; they make you bottle up your resentment toward yourself but there’s only so much you can endure before you break.

Dealing with toxic parents is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Gone are the days when I would go to a corner and sulk when my parents say something negative about me. Now, I just laugh because I’ve realised that no one can look down on me without my permission. And the same goes for you.

To deal with your toxic parents, and reclaim your life, you must take the following steps:

1. Accept you’re not them.

You’re not your parents nor whoever they always compare you to. You’re very different from them.

Toxic parents would expect you to behave like them, set goals similar to theirs, be involved in the things they were involved in back when they were kids, and would force you to take the choices they themselves would take if given the opportunity. They would want you to become them, but you shouldn’t let that happen.

2. Accept that you weren’t born to be a duplicate of your parents and so you have every right to make your own choices, your own silly mistakes and learn from the experience. Remember, it’s your life, not theirs.

3. Set healthy boundaries.

Some parents don’t like to hear that you succeeded in achieving anything. They feel disinterested in the news like it doesn’t matter. It’s almost like they believe that whenever you achieve something you (and they) should be proud of, it was all just sheer luck. If your parents are like this, then you probably should distance yourself from them a bit.

You know those things you say or do that trigger your parents’ criticisms so don’t do or say them whenever they’re in sight. Don’t hold conversations with them unless you really have to, and when you hold conversations with them, don’t talk about what makes you happy because if they are toxic, they would make you feel bad about yourself in the short while you’ll spend talking with them.

4. Understand toxic parents.

I used to have a difficult time dealing with my mum until I wrote a blog post about it a few months back and the few people who read it shared their stories with me, comforted and advised me.

You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand. So to deal with your toxic parents, you must understand why they are toxic. Read books, blog posts and articles. Surf the net, look for someone who has experienced or is experiencing what you’re going through now and seek his advice.

Don’t bottle up all those feelings of resentment. Speak up and let those around you know what you’re going through so they can help.

5. Surround yourself with positive people.

Most people think I exaggerate when I say I wouldn’t be where and what I am today if not for my friends – both the friends I’ve met in person and the ones I interact with on the internet. This blog, my Facebook friends, and most especially, you guys that comforted me when I had almost given up have been a great support and blessing to me. I’m constantly reminded that there’s love for me out there, somewhere, even if I can’t find it at home.

Surround yourself with people who mean the best for you – friends. Interact with people who would influence your life with their positivity, then rid yourself of every negative thought you have of yourself.

The truth is, you can’t change a person but you can change the way you react to that person. So instead of trying to change your parents, work on changing yourself, on changing the way you react to them. You shouldn’t trust your parents’ criticisms if it belittles you instead of correcting you.

Know that you are what you say you are, not what your parents say you are. Don’t give anyone, not even your parents, the permission to look down on you. Shine!

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14 thoughts on “How to Deal with Toxic Parents”

  1. This was an amazing post. Great examples and advice. Do I think my father was toxic? Absolutely. He still is. However, I can’t complain about my childhood too much. Somehow, I think I turned out mostly alright. I actually always liked those mean teachers, because they pushed me to do better. I think the same with parenting. Yes, in the moment, it definitely is not nice. But it helped me grow a thicker skin. While my dad did what he thought was best, now that I am grown up, he expresses that he would do things differently (in my opinion – worse).

    They do the best they can. At least in the average cases. So don’t take it too personally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading!

      I’ll admit, one good thing about having a critical mum is that she pushed me to become better, just like your dad did for you. As a kid, I was bent on living my life to impress my mum; I was willing to do anything that would make her tell me she was proud of me, so whenever she criticised me for something I did, I always tried to do better.

      Even now that I’ve stopped living my life to please or impress my parents, the act of striving to become better is already a habit and I have them to thank for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had critical parents who were narcissistic so I understand. It took me a long time to get it as I am sensitive. But in the end, I’ve learned so much by it so I don’t make the same mistakes with my own kids. I’ve forgiven them and tried to move on. But your post reminded me of so much when I was a child.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry if my post made you relive some of your hurtful memories, but I’m very, very glad you’re working to see you don’t make the same mistakes your parents made with your kids.

      My parents have left a scar on my emotions. They’ve taught me how to hate, and how to wish evil on someone. They’ve taught me how to be bitter and infect those around me with my bitterness, but like you, I’m working on myself, on the way I react to them. I’m trying to forgive them and I’ve forgiven myself for giving them the permission to turn me into someone I’m not.

      I really hope I don’t turn out to be a disappointment to my kids when I become a father.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I’m lucky to have a nontoxic mom. She’s the best!
    I literally didn’t grow up with my dad, so I wouldn’t know if he would have turned out to be a toxic parent.

    Liked by 1 person

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