Who are toxic parents and how to communicate with them correctly

Who are toxic parents and how to communicate with them correctly

Who are toxic parents, what are they like, and what are the signs to recognize a negative influence? The answers to all questions are in this material.

  • Who is this
  • Signs
  • Types
  • How to communicate
  • Expert commentary

The material was commented on:

Marina Bondarenko, psychotherapist, clinical psychologist;

Ekaterina Golovanova, psychiatrist, psychotherapist at the Semeynaya network of clinics;

Alexandra Menshikova, clinical psychologist.

Who are toxic parents?

Still from the film

Still from the film “Inheritance”

Toxic parents are people who, through unethical behavior, cause both physical and emotional harm to their own child. This is not just about minor children. Even as the child grows up, many parents continue to interact with the child in familiar ways, depending on the type of toxic behavior. Such people, as a rule, themselves suffer from the inability to build adequate, trusting and respectful connections with their children, and therefore find themselves in a repeating cycle of destructive behavior and reactive reactions.

There are no ideal parents, and many make mistakes from time to time and follow their own patterns and complexes. But in the case of toxic mothers and fathers, the child is in constant stress, which invariably affects the formation of his personality and problems with building strong relationships in the future. This is even reflected on a physical level: Dr. Richard A. Friedman, a professor of psychiatry, noted that long-term exposure to stress and trauma can damage the brain by killing cells in the hippocampus (1).

Clinical psychologist Alexandra Menshikova explains that everyone has their own threshold of perception and varying degrees of vulnerability: “Toxic behavior is when parents put their priorities above the needs of their children. This can include spending on oneself when the child is hungry, physical abuse, and verbal violence – screaming, accusations, labeling, lack of support, attempts to influence, imposing feelings of guilt, manipulation, violation of personal boundaries. I have met many people who sincerely believe that being treated this way (for example, if they were beaten as a child) was the right decision and helped them grow into strong individuals. And there are people who experience this experience extremely painfully. It is important to determine what was especially destructive for the child in the parental family. Parents can and should be involved in this work, but only if they are interested in establishing contact with the adult child. When this is not the case, you can do without face-to-face discussions, work independently with a specialist and achieve an effect when these stories become a thing of the past and cease to influence you.”

Unconditional love is necessary for every person; it provides the foundation for a stable psyche. In toxic families, the child experiences pressure, and this causes irreparable harm to the psyche as he grows up. The term “toxic relationship” doesn’t just apply to parent-child scenarios. This is a format of interaction between people when mental, psychological or physical well-being is at risk. At the same time, toxic behavior is not always dictated by selfish goals; it can arise from “good intentions.” For example, if a parent is too involved in the intricacies of the child’s personal life and tries to control them because he does not want something bad to happen.

However, this attitude can easily lead to the violation and disappearance of personal boundaries. Toxic relationships can also arise due to a lack of communication or when all means of interaction are mainly based on criticism and attempts to assert oneself, including unconscious ones. This format occurs in both romantic relationships and friendships, but toxic behavior in the family is often most destructive due to the role that parents play in shaping the child’s view of the world.

Signs of Toxic Parents

Still from the film “All Bo’s Fears”

Key signs of toxic parental behavior:

  1. Systematic violation of personal boundaries. It is normal for parents to clean out the closets of a very young child themselves, but it is unacceptable for them to rummage through the personal belongings of growing children, read correspondence, check pockets and burst into the room without knocking.
  2. Attempts to control every step and make decisions for the child. Sometimes manipulating parents create the illusion of choice: “Are you going to go to medical school or economics?” – as if the third option is not considered, although the child dreams of becoming an artist. In other cases, a strict ultimatum is issued without the right to challenge: “We will buy you this coat, and not the one you like, because we know better.”
  3. Criticism and comparison with others. Psychologists believe that criticism should be requested. It is unlikely that toxic parents are interested in whether the child wants to hear their negative opinion, for example, about his appearance. Especially in nuances that cannot be corrected – for example, when it comes to individual physiological characteristics. A toxic parent thinks they are only joking. For a little person who is maximally dependent on the opinions of adults, this can become the foundation for the development of complexes, low self-esteem and self-doubt. Some parents believe that if they set more successful children as examples, the child will have a desire to live up to that authority. This is how a meme appeared about the son of his mother’s friend, who is perfect in everything.
  4. Guilt manipulation: “Because of you, my blood pressure has gone up.” Many toxic parents retain this scenario for their entire lives when working with children. Then an adult son breaks out to his mother at the first call in the middle of the night or refuses a relationship with his chosen partner, because otherwise the parents will be unhappy and he will feel guilty.
  5. “Love must be earned.” In toxic families, positive parental behavior occurs only when the child meets expectations. Subsequently, a person develops the confidence that they cannot love him just like that, because he is a person, and a good attitude must be earned. Got an A – well done, good; If you fail a test, you immediately hear the phrase “why am I being punished like this, not a child?”
  6. Prohibition on showing emotions: “Boys don’t cry”, “A girl should always be quiet and never get angry.” Containing emotions includes mechanisms of suppression, when hidden feelings have not gone away and continue to harm the psyche, and a person cannot express them. A ban on expressing emotions often leads to an inability to open up and build strong relationships in the future.
  7. Boycott. This quiet manipulation greatly injures the child’s psyche: the child finds himself in a situation where it is unclear what is happening, and it is as if he himself does not exist. An adult, who should be support and support, temporarily erases him from life. Often, boycotting is associated with the imposition of a feeling of guilt, when the child has to constantly ask for forgiveness without receiving the response: “You’re not apologizing well enough.”
  8. Constant demand for attention. This sign of toxicity is more characteristic of parents of adult children who have already left the parental home and started their own families. Parents are not ready to “cut the umbilical cord” and facilitate adequate separation in order to release the child into adulthood. They are trying with all their might to force him to return to his native nest, they demand that he always be in touch, take care and devote time. Of course, an adult can support parents, but this should not be based on manipulation and demands.

One study observed “very strict” and “soft, loving” mothers who interacted differently with their children in kindergarten (2)….