The majority of parents do their absolute best to make sure their child has a healthy and happy upbringing. Sometimes they make small mistakes, but their love is obvious.
However, there is a big difference between parents who make small mistakes and parents who are toxic.
Toxic behaviour is often difficult to see, and it is even more difficult when the toxic people are your own parents. Normally this behaviour has been going on since early childhood, so it seems totally normal for many people – but it isn’t.
Toxic parents can cause a lot of emotional and mental damage to their children, and the children often grow into damaged adults. They struggle to form normal and healthy relationships, and this is mainly because they continue to accept their parent’s toxic behaviour.
If you have experienced any of the following things, you may have a toxic parent.
1. They need you to look after them.
Often toxic parents will ask the child to look after them as though they are the parent. They ask the child to fix their problems while supporting them, which puts a lot of emotional strain on the child. The parent doesn’t notice this strain, and thinks it is normal and healthy to expect so much from their child.
2. They don’t want you grow up and be independent.
It can feel great to know that your parents still think of you as their little kid, but there is a line. Toxic parents are not proud of your independence; instead they fight against you becoming fully independent. They question your decisions constantly, and they often bother and harass you until you change your mind.
3. They are passive-aggressive.
Toxic parents often claim to be fine, but they clearly act like someone who is annoyed. They give short, sharp responses and sulk – they may even ignore you. This behaviour is often upsetting to the child as they feel like they should give in to their parent’s whims, just to get rid of the horrible atmosphere.
4. They prioritize their feelings over yours.
In any normal relationship, both parties class each other as equals. Toxic parents always dominate the situation, and their emotions are often more volatile and irrational. Most of your conversations revolve around how the parent is feeling, or why the parent feels upset or angry.
5. You also prioritize their feelings over your own.
It isn’t just the parent who prioritises their feelings – the child does too. As they have grown up prioritizing their parent’s needs, they don’t question the relationship as it seems normal. The child will often feel worried or stressed because they know their parent is upset, and so they put their own emotional needs to the side.
6. They ignore boundaries.
Toxic parents often have no boundaries; they will try to bring up personal problems and intimate details of their life that are not appropriate to discuss with their child. If the child says that they are uncomfortable talking about certain things, the parent will become confused and offended, and they may try to guilt trip their child.
7. They frequently point out flaws.
Most parents are very proud of their children, and they often sing their praises. Toxic parents are more likely to point out their children’s perceived flaws, such as making comments about their intelligence, weight or appearance. They often intentionally target things that the child is insecure about, and then they will pass the comment off as a light-hearted joke. If the child doesn’t laugh, they will be judged for ‘not having a sense of humor.’
8. They tell you about their problems and ask you to keep secrets.
Parents are supposed to protect their children, but often toxic parents expect their children to protect them. They often tell their children their secrets before demanding that their child doesn’t tell anyone. The secret is often something unhealthy, such as an affair or alcohol addiction. This puts the child under a lot of stress, as they feel like they have to cover for their parent – even if their parent is doing something dangerous or unhealthy.
9. Your inner voice is more critical than supportive.
Toxic parents can destroy their child’s self-worth and it starts when their child is young. They will make negative comments about their child throughout their childhood, reinforcing the opinion that the child is stupid or unworthy.
Often toxic parents don’t outright call their child stupid, but they do other things to reinforce this belief, such as overly controlling behaviour. This makes the child think that they are incapable of making their own decisions.
10. You feel responsible for them.
As toxic parents heavily rely on their parents, the children often feel responsible for them. They often validate their parent’s behaviour, believing that the abusive behaviour was acceptable as they were a bad child.
They don’t want to leave or abandon their parents, because they feel like they can look after them, even though this isn’t true. Toxic parents often see their child as the main problem in the relationship – they think that their child is difficult and self-centred, and they see themselves as loving and nurturing.