The first step in learning how to deal with toxic parents is by trying to have a relationship with them. This will be painful and upsetting, but worth a try. The fact is that relationships are rarely all good or bad. This means that even the meanest parents can sometimes love you.
Signs of toxicity
The relationships we have with our parents are not always cordial and we can experience stages of greater tension. That doesn’t mean we’re having a bad relationship with them. We should pay special attention to the low self-esteem we may feel because of their behaviors and to other signs that would make us see that there is toxicity in the relationship.
These are the signs that you have a toxic relationship with your parents:
- They use emotional blackmail to control your actions.
- They need control over your whole life.
- Their reactions are often exaggerated.
- There is an excess of criticism and numerous comparisons.
- They blame you for nothing going the way they would like.
- There is no respect for individual limits.
- There are moments of envy.
- They don’t care about your physical and/or emotional needs.
[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]The profiles that we will see below are proof that sometimes selfish love is involved in affection, care and attention and that does not stop being harmful. Toxic parents turn the family environment into a greenhouse where overprotected children grow up, unable to face challenges and with low self-esteem. It should be borne in mind that these parents often result from the combination of several profiles, which makes it even more difficult to manage and makes it impossible to live with them.
We can distinguish several profiles:
He’ll want to know who just called you, what he wanted and if he’s not familiar enough with your life, he’ll end up reading your diary or the messages on your mobile. The endless supervision can be his way of expressing affection: the more control, the more love. The sense of security he gets in this way allows him to deal in some way with the constant state of alertness in which he finds himself and alleviate his fears. However, these behaviors often lead to overprotection and/or alienation of the child.
They turn your child into a counselor, personal advisor, best friend, and even the main breadwinner of the family. In this way, the father is spared his insecurities and lack of self-efficacy. The problem comes when the child decides to fly from the nest. It is then that the pleasantly well-off parent is faced with the idea that from now on he will have to bear the responsibilities that corresponded to him from the beginning. His preferred ally is usually emotional blackmail.
-The competitive one
The coexistence with the representative of this profile is a constant career. You feel the need to compete with your child intellectually, physically or morally, in order to show that you are better. You may even go so far as to seduce the couple of the second in their desire to feel superior. Often, the descendant ends up doubting his abilities and could even try not to stand out in the presence of the father in order to please him and avoid possible conflicts with him.
-The negligent one-
It is a very common profile among substance abusers. It is mainly characterized by its slowness, lack of interest and involvement in the upbringing of the child. They are parents who lack skills and have serious problems relating to the environment, who often become dependent on the child who is forced to carry out their tasks. Over time, the child usually ends up hating and/or blaming the parents for everything that has been lost while assuming their roles.
-The demanding one
If you didn’t get an honors degree on the exam, you can think of a good excuse. The expectations of this poison are so high that he is often the only one able to meet them. As a consequence, the child tends to develop a poor self-esteem and sometimes dependence on the father, since he ends up believing himself to be incapable and mediocre. It tends to grow with the perception that if it does not excel in everything, it will be rejected and constantly strives to prove its worth.
-The aggressive one
They tend to be very dominant and use displays of contempt, sarcasm or physical aggression to get what they want. However, from time to time he exhibits affection especially when there is the possibility of abandonment by the child. The latter, on the other hand, learns not to contradict him, not to manifest himself and defend his interests and this is something that applies when it comes to relating with other people. It is also likely to end up choosing a partner with problems of aggression.
-The merits robber
¨If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be where you are. They are the parents who try to live their dreams through the achievements of the child. He appropriates part of his successes, highlighting his own role in guiding him in the right direction, the money and hours invested in his upbringing and training, and so on. In short, he seeks to feel fulfilled and satisfy his need for recognition through his son whom he perceives as an extension of his own being.
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So, What can we do to get rid of our toxic parents?
Your parents may be mean due to their own issues. They may have had difficult childhoods. Or perhaps they never learned how to express their own feelings of pain and anger in a mature way. It can be because your parents lack in self-esteem. They may be coping with their own bitterness, or they simply don’t have the emotional strength left in them to create any kind of positive changes in their lives. Perhaps they are suffering from some kind of mental illness such as depression, narcissism or a personality disorder.
Try and understand the pain behind the experiences of your parents, and you will feel more compassion for them. Once you understand, then their difficult behaviors will not hurt or annoy you that much. You will not feel that as much pain as your focus has been redirected from yourself to them. Do not try to punish them by being angry as that will not help.
In case your parents show some willingness to improve the relationship, then initiate a conversation. You must specify your own boundaries, listen to what they have to say and then try to negotiate so that there is better behavior around. Begin these conversations with something that is positive. Tell them how much you care about them and how keen you are to improve this relationship. Do not blame them or point out how unpleasant their behaviors are. You may even seek the help of a counselor here in order to mediate the discussion.
Even though you are looking at dealing with your parents, be open to looking at yourself too in order to understand what you may have done that has contributed to this problem. This is also an opportunity for you to learn about yourself. This will help in your own growth and development too.
Learn to manage your reactions
Try to have little or no reaction when your parents are being mean. Try to avoid a verbal argument. Your lack of reaction may make them rethink on their behavior.
Know how to manage your interactions
Ultimately you need to decide how much time and when you can spend time with such parents. Perhaps it can be just an hour or so every few months. You may not like to have them interact with your friends or children. You may have to create very strict emotional boundaries with them.
Don’t try to please them.
Although it is a general trend, it often ends up being a mistake, especially when they are never happy. You have the right to make your own decisions and choose your own way of life.
Establish clear limits
The others treat us on the basis of the firm limits we have set. They create a safe space for us. They always must from the first moment, but if they have not, it is never too late. When setting a limit, you must be clear and categorical and never give in to emotional blackmail.
Don’t share everything
Sharing everything good that happens to us with someone who treats us badly is a mistake. Reserve information for those of you who know that they are going to support you and not judge you. It’s a way to safeguard your self-esteem.
Looking for the best toxic parents book? We recommend :
Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, from Susan Forward
[box type=”error” align=”” class=”” width=””]Freeing ourselves from those who harm us is always an obligation for us. While we may not always be able to break that relationship completely, we can detach ourselves emotionally and begin to live a life without criticism, complaints, and humiliation.