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How Do Toxic Parents Treat Their Children? And What Can You Do?

by | Nov 16, 2021 | 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.

You know how poorly your toxic ex treated you, so you’re probably wondering:

How do toxic parents treat their children?

It can be hard to know when your ex keeps everything behind closed doors.

Unless you are there during their visitation and access, it’s impossible to know what is really going on.

Especially when your kids are small. As they grow up, and as long as you foster an environment of trust and open communication, they will tell you what’s going on.

But until then, it’s important to understand toxic behavior and how your ex could potentially be treating your child.

Not all toxic parents tick all of these boxes, but having an idea of what’s going on can help you better support your child.

Children of toxic parents are not doomed to a life of trauma and damage.

With your support and guidance, they can come out the other side of this with a strong sense of resiliency as well as boundaries.

Let’s take a look at how toxic parents treat their children:

How Do Toxic Parents Treat Their Children?

1. They Set High Expectations

Toxic parents tend to live through their children. They want to live their “glory days” through their kid’s achievements and hobbies.

For instance, if your ex was a star baseball player in high school, they may push your child to play baseball and take credit for their success in the sport. They may say things like, “He gets it from me!” or “I taught her everything she knows!”

Instead of giving the child credit for their own skills and efforts, a toxic parent will internalize the success and expect praise for it.

While this isn’t necessarily a horrible way to treat their kids (keep reading, and you’ll see why), it does negatively impact their self-esteem since they never receive praise from their toxic parent based on their own merits.

2. They Criticize, Nit-Pick, and Judge

So while the toxic parent is taking credit for their child’s successes (as long as they can contribute them to their own skills), they may marginalize their kid’s success if they can’t attribute them to their own achievements.

When their child excels at something that they cannot take credit for, the toxic parent will criticize, nitpick, and judge. This is because they do not want their child to succeed where they have failed – it’s a blow to their perceived image of perfection.

This toxic behavior is not just limited to hobbies and activities. Toxic parents may try to prevent their children from succeeding financially, academically, and in life in general.

I’ve seen toxic parents set their children up for failure in life because they can’t control their own life. For instance, they may discourage their older child from holding a job because they can’t manage their own work-life and finances.

It’s the age-old adage that people who feel crappy about themselves will put others down to feel better. This is exactly what the toxic parent does.

3. They Show Off Their Children

Toxic parents will internalize their child’s successes if they can, put them down if they can’t, but turn around and portray an image of being a perfect parent with a perfect child.

This is because they rely on external praise to feel good about themselves. Instead of doing things that actually warrant genuine praise, they will lie about how good of a parent they are and show off their children to others.

Basically, their children are trophies. They aren’t proud of their children’s accomplishments but simply use them as a vehicle to get attention from others.

4. They Manipulate Their Children

Just as your toxic ex manipulated you during your relationship, they may manipulate their children as well.

When it comes to how toxic parents treat their children, as with most toxic behaviors, it’s all about control and deflecting guilt.

The manipulation helps to control the child while chastising them for crying, helping the toxic parent not feel bad about their behaviors.

5. Their Parenting Style is Unpredictable

Do you remember walking on eggshells when you were with your toxic ex? Your child is likely going to feel the same since the toxic parent’s way of parenting can change at the drop of a hat.

What pisses them off one day may be perfectly okay the next. One moment they are uber-involved in their child’s life, and the next, they couldn’t care less.

I know that as parents, our parenting styles fluctuate and change depending on things such as our moods and the situation. But, overall, our kiddos know what to expect from us.

But when it comes to their toxic parent, it’s a guessing game. This lack of consistency can leave children feeling confused.

How Can You Help Your Children?

1. Consistency

As I mentioned above, toxic parents aren’t always consistent parents – so your child may not have any sort of consistency when they are in their other parent’s care.

However, you can bridge that gap by providing consistency in your own home. Mainly, this has to do with expectations of behavior but can also include routines such as bedtimes, homework, mealtimes, etc.

Kids are smart and will figure out what they can get away with in each household. But over time, they will start to implement the consistency you have provided them in other aspects of their lives.

2. Proper Discipline

Again, toxic parents don’t always parent consistently, so what constitutes discipline or inappropriate behavior for them can change from day to day.

In your own home, you have control over determining which behaviors are expected and which are not and how your child is disciplined when necessary.

Proper discipline, unlike punishment, is more about learning a lesson than inflicting pain or fear. You want to teach your child that their behavior was not acceptable instead of simply telling them or showing them that it wasn’t.

A keystone to proper discipline is expectation and proportion. Make sure your child understands what the consequences of their actions are and that those consequences are in proportion to the offending act.

3. Love and Understanding

Basically, supporting your child means giving them what their toxic parent cannot or will not, which is love and understanding.

Yes, being with their other parent is going to suck at times, but you want to make sure you are their safe place to unload their stresses and seek guidance through tough situations.

Maintain an environment of open communication and understanding in your home. Don’t criticize or judge your child’s feelings – instead, validate them and allow them the opportunity to talk about them.

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How Do Toxic Parents Treat Their Children – Not Good

I’m not here to say that all toxic parents are absolute evil and monster parents. However, depending on the severity of their toxic behaviors, your children can definitely be negatively impacted.

If you’re concerned about how dire the situation is, look at how your ex treated you. You can expect them to treat your children to the same degree.

And there’s really nothing you can do to change their toxic behaviors. The more you push them to change, the more conflicting the situation will get.

Instead, control what you can. Provide your child with the support and consistency they won’t get from their toxic parent. Yes, they will struggle, but they will always have a safe place and a positive role model as they get older.

How do you support your kids while dealing with a toxic ex? Leave your advice in the comments below!

And don’t forget to pin!

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