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Break the cycle of toxic parents: traits, effects, and dealing tips

Picture your childhood as a ground for developing insecurity instead of being a safe place. For a lot of people who have grown up with abusive parents, this is their actual life. These destructive parental characteristics can cause devastating damage to a child’s well-being. Hence, the first thing is to understand the traits of toxic parents that can lead to these patterns lasting for generations.

This article will analyze the signs of toxic parents and its negative influence on people, describing ways to escape from this harmful pattern, and, consequently, achieve healthier family relationships.

toxic parents traits

Traits of toxic parents: How do they act?

The best parent-child relationship is that the parent is a supportive figure, which is also the foundation for the child to build confidence and emotional resilience.

But for some, childhood is an invisible battlefield, and they bear the scars that stay with them for years and years. These wounds are caused by parents who show “toxic traits.”

Acknowledging these was the initial step in overcoming the cycle and establishing a healthy family relationship for both you and your future generations.

Here are some common traits toxic parents show:

Controllers in disguise: They take over all the decisions, whether it is big or small, and constantly ignore your opinions and requests, thus, you lose confidence and independence.

Masters of manipulation: Guilt trips and emotional blackmail are their tools, which is a sure way for you to do what they want.

Verbal barbs, not praise: Their words are laden with criticism, which ultimately destroys your confidence. Accomplishments are received with indifference, while failures are highlighted.

Masters of blame: They always shift the blame and move it to you or external factors, pretending you are the cause of their problems.

Emotional blackmail experts: They are ready to take away their love or affection if you don’t follow their will, thus making a kind of emotional rollercoaster.

Competitors, not champions: They perceive your accomplishments as a threat to theirs, which is the main reason for the unhealthy rivalry that you feel instead of pride.

Emotional vampires: They steal your emotional energy, always trying to get reassurance and confirmation from you. Thus, you feel exhausted.

Privacy invaders: They disregard the set boundaries, poking through your things and requesting you to constantly show what’s on your phone.

Emotional neglect: They are emotionally inaccessible. You are therefore forced to face everything on your own while they ignore your feelings. You may feel lonely and unsupported.

Favoritism on display: If you have siblings, they most probably reveal the favoritism, which is leading to the creation of a clash in the family.

Traits people may have without knowing

Apart from this, some toxic traits of parents can also be not so obvious. Adults may unknowingly exhibit these five traits:

Over-controlling: Parents, who are always in the driver’s seat, steer their child’s life in every direction.

Living vicariously: The imposition of an unrealized dream or ambition on their child.

Emotional enmeshment: The crossing of the parent-child boundary lines or the child being the emotional support for the parent.

Perfectionism: Parents who make someone believe that they can achieve high or keep telling someone that they are not perfect.

Projection: Parents criticize their children for their negative traits or emotions.

How does toxic parenting affect a child?

The cunning nature of toxic parenting is the reason why its effects are usually not noticed. It silently creates a emotional landscape. These negative outcomes may appear in various forms, thus affecting a child’s well-being in the short term and possibly even for years down the line.

Emotional toll

  • Low self-esteem: The constant criticism and negativity can be really harmful to a child’s feeling of self-worth, leaving them insecure and inadequate.
  • Anxiety and depression: The unpredictable character of a toxic parent’s behavior raises anxiety and even depression in the children.
  • Fear and confusion: The cunning and emotional blackmail make a confusing atmosphere, and children may become walking on eggshells, afraid of the next outburst.
  • Difficulty expressing emotions: Toxic parents usually rule out healthy emotional expression, which is the main reason for the difficulties in forming healthy relationships and communicating needs in later life.

Psychological impact

  • Distorted reality: Gaslighting, a strategy some toxic parents use, can warp a child’s perception of reality, which, in turn, makes the child doubt their own judgment and sanity.
  • Attachment issues: Kids who don’t get the same reliable and kind support every day find it hard to create strong bonds and cannot trust and make healthy relationships later on.
  • Eating disorders: The children of toxic parents may use food as a way to deal with emotional problems, and this may lead to the development of an unhealthy relationship with food; the children may either be the ones who won’t eat or the ones who will overeat.

Physical manifestations

  • Sleep problems. The persistent insecurity can interfere with a child’s sleep which in turn makes them tired and hence, they are not able to concentrate at school.
  • Headaches and stomachaches. The stress and anxiety that result from toxic parenting can turn into physical problems such as headaches and stomachaches.
  • Weakened immune system. The regular stress of toxic parents shuts down the immune system, thus making the children of such parents more prone to illnesses.

How do toxic parents affect adulthood?

The wounds caused by toxic parenting behaviors are usually never shallow. They dig deep, leaving marks that will last into adulthood, affecting every aspect of your life.

The harmful effects can create a long-lasting image that silently shapes how you perceive yourself, interact with others, and deal with the world as an adult.

Echoes of the past

  1. Low self-esteem — An unending stream of negative comments from close family can destroy your self-confidence in a way. You may have issues with the feeling of being not good enough, which can result in a lack of confidence and hesitation in following your goals.
  2. Difficulty with trust — A toxic parent’s volatile and frequently deceitful actions make it difficult to trust others in your adult life. Sometimes, you may feel the need to get your partner’s approval or be afraid of them being unfaithful in the relationship.
  3. People-pleasing tendencies — In a household where this was the norm, your worth was dependent on pleasing your parent, which can result in a lifelong craving for approval in adulthood. You may choose to put the needs of others above yours, which makes it hard to set boundaries.
  4. Attracting similar partners — The unhealthy relationships learned in childhood are often repeated in adulthood. You might unintentionally be drawn to the opposite sex who has the same toxic characteristics as you, thereby continuing the same pattern.

The cycle continues

  1. Parenting challenges — Kids who were brought up by a toxic parent have a hard time breaking the pattern when they grow up to be a parent. They might be unaware that they are copying the same negative behaviors, thus generating a chain of events that will affect generations to come.
  2. Difficulty with boundaries — The absence of respect for boundaries that are taught by toxic parents causes you to have difficulty setting boundaries in your own life. Thus, it may generate the problem of being unable to say no, which may cause resentment and burnout.
  3. Mental health issues — The long-term effects of toxic parenting can turn into different mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Such issues can greatly affect your general health.

How to deal with toxic parents as adults?

You may have detected the toxic traits of your parents, and their behavior is stressing you out and affecting your well-being. Now what?

The good thing is you are no longer a child who cannot do anything. As an adult, you are capable of facing this difficult relationship and putting your willingness and health first.

Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Set boundaries

Set clear boundaries with your toxic parent to protect yourself from their manipulative, critical, or overstepping tendencies. This could be done by reducing contact, limiting visits, or establishing strict rules about the right kind of behavior.

  • Practice self-care and -growth

Develop a positive attitude toward yourself and your life by doing the things that make you happy, relaxed, and self-empowered. Appreciate that your parents’ toxic attitude toward you is their problem. Concentrate on your transformation, and healing, and live following your values.

  • Respond with assertiveness

When dealing with toxic people, you should react firmly and peacefully without being defensive or hostile. This can help break the cycle of dysfunctional communication habits.

  • Consider cutting off toxic parents

When suffer from serious emotional, verbal, or physical abuse, the best option is to stop contact with the toxic parent for your own sake. This choice should not be done casually and will probably need professionals’ help.

  • Seek professional help and more support

If you are suffering from the emotional aftershocks of toxic parenting, be sure to consult a therapist or psychologist who can guide you to deal with those issues in an effective way. Trusted friends or a lover can also be a support who will listen to you and comfort you.

Getting out of the circle of being a toxic parent is a process. The time you dedicate to yourself is more important than family obligations or pressure from society.

Tips on how to avoid being toxic parents

Although every parent will inevitably make some mistakes, the main thing is to steer clear of the patterns that can slowly erode your child’s self-esteem and emotional health.

Here are some crucial tips to help you steer clear of toxic parenting and cultivate a healthy, supportive family dynamic.

Self-awareness is key: The first step in avoiding toxic parenting is to realize its signs that the past might influence the present. Acknowledging the poisonous patterns and, if necessary, obtaining a professional’s assistance will help stop the chain from breaking.

Communication: Open and honest communication is the basis of a healthy parent-child relationship. Focus on what your child is saying, do not baselessly judge them, support and guide them when needed.

Boundaries: It’s important to respect your child’s growing autonomy and personality. As they grow up, provide them with more space. Allow then to make their own decisions and have chance to learn from their errors. 

Celebrate growth: Toxic parents usually concentrate only on achievements, making their love every time dependent on success. On the contrary, give your child recognition for their growth and hard work rather than the result alone. This makes the learning process enjoyable and creates self-esteem that is not based on the judgment of others.

Bonus: How can you improve your modern parenting?

Modern parenting requires coping with the ever-changing digital environment our kids are living. Among other tools, parental control software can be useful, especially for the younger ones.  These tools can help you develop an equilibrium between observing your child’s online activities and respecting their privacy.

One of the apps that has this balance is FlashGet Kids. This secure parenting app allows you to decide the appropriate limits and filters for your child’s internet usage.

FlashGet Kids parental control

Some key features of FlashGet Kids:

  • Live monitoring – It allows you to monitor kids’ online activities. The app will sync their notifications to your phone and alerts toxic keywords, messages.
  • Screen time limits – To balance life, study, and entertainment, put fair time restrictions on the device and online activities.
  • Location tracking – Monitor your child’s movements through GPS tracking, thus ensure they are safe when leaving school and home.
  • App management – Block specific inappropriate or harmful apps on your child’s device, guarantee a better online environment for their age.

FlashGet Kids is a remarkable tool that encourages family members to communicate and trust each other.

Communicate honestly with your child about online safety and self-management, rather than secretly monitoring their every move.

The openness can generate a sense of responsibility and self-regulation as your child learns to use the online world.

Final thoughts

Those toxic traits of parents can be uncovered in everyday lives, which might impact the next generation in every way. Parenting in the wrong way can make the children emotional, have low self-esteem, and have problems in future relationships.

Thus, it is extremely important to break this cycle by getting support, educating ourselves, and taking proactive steps. A nurturing environment is also beneficial for us to heal from past traumas and build healthy family dynamics.

Keep in mind you can pick a different path, one that will put emotional intelligence, open communication, and unconditional love on top.

Kidcaring, Chief Writer in FlashGet Kids.
She is dedicated to shaping parental control in the digital world. She is an experienced expert in the parenting industry and has engaged in reporting and writing different parental control apps. For the past five years, she has provided additional parental guides for the family and has contributed to changing parenting methods.

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