Do you talk to your parents regularly, even when you no longer live with them? Do you look forward to seeing them on holidays and getting together with your family? If you have a warm, loving relationship with your mother and father, then you should count yourself very lucky. Sad to say, some of us aren’t as fortunate.
It’s normal to fight and get upset with your parents from time to time, but having a “toxic parent” means so much more than not being able to get along with them. Your parents don’t have to be narcissistic or physically abusive for them to be considered toxic for you. Even if your parents were present for most of your life and provided you with all your basic needs growing up, being mistreated and neglected by the people who raised you can still leave a person with a lot of lasting psychological trauma.
If you’d like to know more about the specific dynamics of a toxic relationship between a parent and child, Psych2Go has created a playlist and uploaded videos on toxic father-daughter relationships, toxic mother-daughter relationships, toxic father-son relationships, and toxic mother-son relationships on our YouTube channel. This article is only meant to summarize all the main points of what it’s like to have a toxic relationship with a parent and raise awareness on the matter.
With that said, here are 20 of the most common signs that can tell you if you have a toxic parent:
- They’re Self-Centered – While your parent may say that they love you and care about you, they always put their own wants and needs above your own.
- They’re Inconsiderate – Your parent never stops to consider how their words or their actions may affect you or hurt your feelings.
- They’re Unsympathetic – They don’t show you any empathy and feels remorseless about the pain that they cause you, even when they know you’re hurting.
- They’re Neglectful – Your parent never takes the time to talk to you, ask how you’re doing, how your day went, or what you’d like to do. They always act as if they’re too busy to pay even the slightest attention to you.
- They’re Rude – A toxic parent is someone who can’t even be bothered to treat you with the slightest decency, respect, or courtesy.
- They Overstep Their Boundaries – They intrude on your personal space even when you ask them not to, and they disrespect your privacy by reading your messages, going through your things, and so on.
- They’re Demanding – Your parent always demands a lot from you and just expects you to comply without ever giving you a say in the matter.
- They Belittle You – When your parent treats you like a child, ignores what you have to say, constantly talks over you, and never takes you seriously, then they’re toxic for you.
- They Control You – Another common characteristic of toxic parents is that they are overbearing and controlling. They like to smother you with attention and micromanage everything you do.
- They Dominate You – A toxic parent seeks to dominate their child by exerting control over them (usually through their money or affection) and threatening to punish them in some way when they disobey them.
- They’re Manipulative – Toxic parents are masters of emotional manipulation. They have a way of twisting the truth to make themselves look good and make you feel bad.
- They’re Dishonest – Some toxic parents are deceptive and will try to get you to do what they want by lying to you or making false promises.
- They Exploit You – A toxic parent will only love you as much as they can use you. They’re only nice to you when they need something from you, and when they have nothing to gain from you, they’ll stop pretending like they care about you.
- They Guilt You – Guilt is a common manipulation tactic used by a lot of toxic parents. They make you feel like a bad son/daughter by not being there for them or giving them what they want, but really, they’re just taking advantage of you.
- They Blame You – Some parents are so toxic that they blame their children for everything that goes wrong in their lives and get upset with you for things that aren’t even your fault.
- They Make You Feel Bad –There doesn’t always have to be a dramatic reason (like abuse, or abandonment) why your parents make you feel so unhappy. If you hate seeing them and spending time with them because all they ever do is bring you down and make you miserable, then they’re toxic.
- They’re Unstable – Toxic parents are often emotionally volatile, and many of them like to take out all their problems on their own children because they lack the capacity to fight back.
- They’re Overly Critical – When your parent acts like nothing you do will ever be good enough for them, then that’s already a definite red flag. Toxic parents are relentlessly harsh with you and treat you like a failure if you’re anything short of perfect.
- They’re Mean – Calling you names, preying on your insecurities, and pointing out all your flaws (be it in an overt or passive-aggressive way) are all signs of a toxic parent.
- They’re Abusive – Finally, when a parent is abusive towards you – be it physically, verbally, or emotionally – then they are toxic for you and your mental health.
Do you relate with any of these signs? If you have a toxic parent, it’s important to remember that you are not to blame for their problematic behaviors. No matter how much you may want to change them, forgive them, and start over with them, you should love yourself enough to acknowledge the things they’ve done and stand up for yourself when enough is enough.
Trying to keep a toxic parent in your life puts your mental health at constant risk, and it can leave you with scars that might never heal. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs and protect yourself from any more emotional suffering. You don’t have to take responsibility for their shortcomings, and you don’t need them to change for you to find your own peace of mind.
- Dunham, S. M., Dermer, S. B., & Carlson, J. (2012). Poisonous Parenting: Toxic Relationships Between Parents and Their Adult Children. Journal of Family Psychology. Routledge, 2012.
- O’Hagan, K. P. (2014). Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Problems of Definition. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19 (4); 449-461.
- Glaser, D. (2017). Emotional Abuse and Neglect: A Study of Psychological Maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26 (17); 697-714.