Parenting is a tough job. Most parents are harder on themselves than they should be and genuinely want the best for their child. However, a few parents develop toxic patterns of parenting, which destroy their child’s self-esteem, confidence, and joy. In the field of mental health, we can clearly see the results of parents that didn’t parent well.
Toxic parenting develops slowly over time. Since there are many styles of parenting, it’s easy to ignore when you’ve crossed the line with any one specific toxic behavior. Here are five toxic tactics that are damaging to a child’s mental health and get passed along to their adulthood.
1. Comparing one sibling to another. When you consistently compare your children to each other, you typically are making one better than another. This hurts self-esteem and makes it less likely they will get along. When children are compared, they begin vying for attention, making them competitive and antagonistic toward working together.
2. Yelling at your children. I don’t know a parent that has never yelled at their child. When stress goes up, parents yell more. However, it is important that parents monitor their own behavior and yelling is one of these behaviors that can cross the line into becoming toxic. When you yell, your child’s brain is affected on a physical and emotional level. It confuses children, and since they take everything personally, they blame themselves. Learn when you are at the end of your patience and take a time out instead of yelling.
3. Shaming children for their feelings. Home is where children learn that how they feel matters. Your child’s ability to be happily married and work with co-workers depends on their ability to express themselves while maintaining control. When you tease or belittle them about their feelings, they learn to stay silent when they hurt. These pent-up feelings manifest as anger, violence, and depression as they grow into young adults. Your job as a parent is to help them develop healthy coping mechanisms to soothe bad feelings.
4. Blaming their children for making them act badly. This behavior is a universal toxic parenting style. Parents forget that their job is to parent and make necessary sacrifices for their children’s survival. When they blame the child for these sacrifices, they make their child responsible for their happiness. Children need to learn that everyone is responsible for their choices and actions. By removing your own responsibility, they will learn to blame others and live with a constant burden of shame.
5. Withholding love and affection as a form of punishment. When love is only shown when the child behaves appropriately, it makes children feel like they must earn their parent’s love. Using affection as a weapon puts intense pressure on kids to be perfect and dishonest about their failures. They may become defeated if they’re struggling with a problem and give up on trying to earn parental love. In a healthy family, children know their parents love them; therefore, they are more honest about their mistakes and worry less about being perfect.
No one is perfect and the toughest job any of us will ever have is being a parent. When children grow up feeling loved by both mom and dad, they develop confidence and self-assurance. Giving your child love and support and being there to listen and help them problem solve helps your child feel supported and secure.