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How Does Toxic Parenting Affect Children?

by | Oct 24, 2022 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

Parents are not perfect. We are human beings too!

Good parents are those with the best intentions for their children, even if they make mistakes along the way.

Overall, a good parent wants to do better, improve, and make things right for their child.

Toxic parents, on the other hand, mistreat their children under the guise of love and care. They engage in repeating behaviors that create fear, obligation, guilt, and emotional trauma.

This can make it really stressful and frustrating when you are in a co-parenting situation with a toxic individual.

How can you deal with the toxic parent’s effects on your child?

While you can’t change the way your ex parents, you can address the long-term effects of toxic parenting to keep your child happy and healthy.

Let’s look at what toxic parenting it as all well as how it can affect your child, as well as how you can support your child, so they grow up loved and well-adjusted:

What is Toxic Parenting?

Toxic parenting is poisonous parenting, and toxic parents use parenting styles based on control and ill will.

They don’t treat their children with respect, they don’t compromise, and they don’t take responsibility for their actions. They lack empathy, compassion, and nurturing abilities.

Overall, they are more concerned with their own needs than those of their children.

Sound familiar? This is basically the framework used to describe narcissistic parents!

But no matter if we use the term “toxic parent” or “narcissistic parent,” the same principles apply:

They suck, and both have long-term effects on the children involved.

Signs of a Toxic Parent

While we can easily describe a crappy parent as “toxic,” it’s important to fully understand what makes a toxic parent toxic.

Again, as parents, we are also human, and we are going to treat our kids in ways that aren’t great. The difference, however, is that good parents will recognize this and try to do better.

Toxic parents will not.

Toxic parenting goes deeper than just being a bad parent. Here are some signs of toxic parenting:

  • Controlling behavior
  • Lack of boundaries (and being disrespectful of them)
  • Emotionally reactive (dramatic, unpredictable, etc.)
  • Invalidate or disregard emotions
  • Put their feelings first
  • Use fear to gain compliance (for example, punishment)
  • Guilt trips
  • Passive-aggressive behavior
  • Demanding and competitive
  • Play victim
  • Judge, humiliate, and criticize

This is just a taste of what toxic parents are like. Basically, a toxic parent will always put themselves and their own agenda ahead of their child’s well-being.

Types of Toxic Parents

When it comes to poisonous parenting, there are different types of toxic parents out there:

The Godlike Parent

This type of toxic parent suffocates their child’s independence, encouraging the belief that the child is bad and weak while the parent is good and strong.

They have a “parent knows best” mentality and expect compliance from their child at all times. They do everything for their child because, in their mind, the child cannot do it properly.

Don’t confuse Godlike Parents with Helicopters Parents – Helicopter Parents stifle their child’s independence because they are scared their child will fail, not because they believe they are better than their child.

The Controllers

Controllers try to live vicariously through their child, dictating how they should live their lives. For example, a controlling parent may force their child to participate in a certain activity or achieve high grades in school so they can take credit for the child’s success.

Controlling parents will also create an environment in which the child becomes dependent on them, even into adulthood. This way, they can maintain influence over their child’s life because the child is taught to turn to the parent for all of the answers.

The Abusers

Abuse comes in many forms, but each is a long-term effect of toxic parenting.

Verbal abuse, which can include emotional abuse, occurs when parents insult their children and intentionally hurt their feelings. Toxic parents who verbally abuse their children are often overly competitive or perfectionists who are never satisfied with anything.

Physical abuse typically happens when parents are exhausted, stressed, anxious, unhappy, or unable to control their impulses. This is, of course, no excuse for physical abuse, but some toxic parents lash out at their children for a variety of reasons.

There is also sexual abuse, which is perhaps the worst form of abuse there is. Anyone who sexually abuses a child is a toxic piece of garbage.

If you suspect your child, or any child, is being sexually abused, please check out these resources here.

The Inadequate Parents

When it comes to toxic parenting, inadequate parents aren’t simply individuals who lack parenting skills.

These types of toxic parents are inadequate because they focus on their own needs and survival instead of their children’s.

Have you ever seen the movie The Willoughbys? Perfect example of inadequate toxic parenting!

The Alcoholic

Lastly, we need to mention the alcoholic parents. Alcoholism can affect parents in different ways, but typically an alcoholic parent will exhibit any of the behaviors mentioned above.

Drinking can lead to the destruction of trust and openness, creating a toxic environment for a child to grow up in.

What Does Having Toxic Parents Do To a Child?

Unfortunately, growing up in a dysfunctional environment as a child can lead to dysfunction as an adult.

When a child doesn’t have a safe place to go to for love, care, and support, they can encounter problems such as:

  • People pleasing
  • Difficulty establishing boundaries and saying “no”
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Loss of self-identity
  • Tolerating poor treatment from others
  • Trust issues
  • Abandonment issues
  • Expecting the worse from people
  • Development of insecure or avoidant attachment relationships

Other long-term effects of toxic parenting include mirroring the same negative behavior as the parents due to triggers. Children live what they learn and may display the same toxic behaviors they witnessed during their childhood.

Unfortunately, toxic parents and the effects on the child can last into adulthood.

However, these negative effects can be avoided if the child has someone who can provide them with the warmth and care they don’t receive from their other parent.

So if you’re trying to co-parent with a toxic parent, there are ways you can support your child and minimize the negative effects of their other parent.

How to Help Your Child When Their Other Parent is Toxic

As adults in a co-parenting with a toxic ex situation, it’s easier for us to shut off our feelings (believe it or not!) than it is for our children.

And your ex is unlikely to change, so the situation probably won’t change from their side either.

But you can support your child by guiding them through the situation and helping them learn from the experience. This will also help your child avoid the long-term effects of toxic parenting.

Here are some ways you can help your kiddo:

Talk to Your Child About Their Toxic Parent

Just because you shouldn’t trash talk your ex in front of your child doesn’t mean you can’t discuss the situation with them – you just have to do it carefully.

When talking to your child about their other parent, don’t divulge all of the dirty details but don’t sugarcoat everything either. You need to find a balance between helping your child understand and allowing them to love their other parent anyway.

Here are some tips for talking to your child about their toxic parent:

  • Be Honest: Again, don’t give them full-blown details but don’t sweep the situation under the rug. Talk to your child in a way that is age-appropriate and straightforward. Be frank without pretending that everything is normal.
  • Talk About Boundaries: Because your child probably sees their other parent as an unquestionable authority, they probably don’t even realize when their boundaries are being violated. Teach your kids that it’s okay to say “no” in certain situations.
  • Teach Them About Love: You can teach your child what love is through your actions instead of your words. Love is meeting their needs, understanding their feelings, and providing them with a safe place where they can be themselves – all things they are likely not receiving from their toxic parent.

Be Consistent

Children feel safe when things are consistent, and providing consistency will instill in them good values.

In your home, establish clear boundaries and rules, using proper discipline to teach them right from wrong. Make sure to follow through with these expectations!

You don’t have to be strict with your consistency on a regular basis, so don’t feel stressed out when your schedule goes haywire, or you let the rules slip a bit.

The most important thing is that your child knows what to expect since they will likely not get any consistency from their other parent.

Give Them Love, Understanding, and Empathy

Ultimately, you can help avoid the long-term effects of toxic parenting by providing your child with love, understanding, and empathy.

Make sure you actively listen to your child when they speak without criticism or judgment. Validate their feelings so they know that you are a safe place where they can fully express themselves.

Again, show your child you love them instead of simply saying it. They’ll probably hear this from their other parent, but toxic parents often say things they don’t mean.

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Toxic Parent’s Effects on the Child: You Can Help!

Not being able to change the way your ex parents can leave you feeling powerless when it comes to helping your child, but there are ways you can take your power back and support your child.

How do you help support your children when your ex is a toxic parent? Leave your tips and advice in the comments below!

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Let’s create a supportive community and navigate the complexities of co-parenting with strength and resilience!


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