5 under-the-radar behaviours of toxic parents
Perhaps when you think back on your childhood, you experienced it as lonely and difficult but there was no major critical incident in which you could justify your un-ease with life and general unhappiness with who you are. It might be that you feel certain that you would have been better off if things growing up were different, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Society tells us to respect and love our parents and a part of you does, yet another part of you just curdles in anger at the thought of it. If you have conflicting feelings about one or both of your parents, read on, to see if you have exprienced any of these toxic parental behaviours. These are five behaviours or acts that toxic parents commit that are often missed, minimized or otherwise go under the radar.
the feeling that no one cares
If distant and cold is the way you imagined the emotional landscape of your home growing up, you may have been subjected to emotional neglect. Your caregivers may have been physically present but you felt invisible in their presence. Accomplishments went unnoticed and failures went unattended to. It didn’t seem to matter what happened to you. Growing up with emotional neglect is like having a permanent fog in the air of the home. If the fog was all you had known since birth, it becomes accepted without question.
“You’re Making Me Look Bad”
The narcissistic mother or father makes everything about her/him rather than their child. Maybe your accomplishments were less of a celebration of your talent or hard work and more for your parents to brag in front of others. Maybe when you were not behaving to your parent’s liking, they would say that you’re making them look like a bad parent. Perhaps whenever you brought home a love interest, your mother or father would make sure to put on their most provocative dress or cologne and flirt with the guest. These are the behaviours that narcissistic parents use to hide their deep insecurities. They leave the child feeling belittled, unworthy and less than.
"Only You Can Help Me"
The enmeshed mother or father says things like: “I need you to help me”, “only you understand my needs”, “why don’t you come back and live with me”, “it’s your job to take care of me”, “you’re indebted to me because I gave you life”These are parents that rely on their child to quell their anxieties. These kinds of parents never learned to handle the difficulties of real life because they used their child as a crutch. Whenever the child denies a job, a task or spending time, he or she is riddled with guilt and left believing, “I’m supposed to do X, she’s my mother/he’s my father”.
"Because I Said So"
The controlling parent says, “this is the only way to do it, and you must be stupid/out of your mind/selfish/etc. if you do not”. They say, “I’m your elder, I know better”. The child is left feeling like they cannot trust their own judgment. For small children, there are certain realities of the world that they need to be gently taught and informed of. However, as children gradually start to develop autonomy, they need to be instilled with the confidence that there are many ways to broach a topic or issue. Controlling parents are unable to relinquish the feelings of self-importance that comes with having control and power because they are feeling or have felt powerless in their life.
PARENTIFICATION OF CHILDREN
Growing Up As A 'Little Adult'
Some parents, instead of seeking appropriate stress management strategies or confiding in other supportive adult peers, end up burdening their children with their problems or emotional pains. This role-reversal, or parentification of children, is toxic because children do not have the power to assist with adult problems but they sense the helplessness of their parent and feel responsible for them. These children grow up believing that they have to take on the concerns of the parents and “make everything better/easier” for mom and dad. Examples of parentifying behaviour range from complaining to the child about the spouse (i.e.: “why did I end up marrying your father, he’s is such am imbecile!”), to complaining about the burdens of parenthood, to neglecting to carry out basic needs such as preparing the child food, providing adequate clothing or taking the child to school.
Your mother, father or primary caregiver can have any combination of these behaviours. Toxic parents often aren’t limited to one behaviour. If reading this blog post has been triggering or has made you feel un-easy, contact us today. Call 604-800-9285 or email firstname.lastname@example.org