7 Signs of Toxic Parenting

An American writer, Nicholas Sparks, has once written, “What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but in exchange, it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love.” 

The most wonderful gift that a parent gives to their child is unconditional love. 

According to a study by Luby et al. in 2012, children with affectionate mothers have a larger hippocampus than those emotionally neglected. Hippocampus is an integral part of the limbic system, which is involved in memory, learning, and stress responses. Nurturing’s powerful effects are dramatically demonstrated by a hippocampus that’s almost 10 percent larger.

However, not all have parents who show us endless love and compassion. Some might have troubled relationships with their parents and find it impossible to have a fulfilling relationship with emotionally unhealthy and immature parents.

Are you wondering whether your parents might be toxic? Below are some signs of toxic parenting: 

  1. They project their negative emotions. 

When interacting with your parents, do they project their negative emotions onto you? Do you perhaps notice that your parents or caretaker always say that life is unfair, and you should not expect that you will live a good life? This can be a form of projection, where they were raised in an environment that makes them feel they could never reach their goal. If this negative projection is repeated over and over, you could start to believe that it accurately describes what your life is going to be. 

  1. They present a minimal capacity for empathy. 

Do your parents put their own needs first and never consider your feelings? Perhaps you approach your parents to share something that bothers you at school, but they dismiss it and change the subject. Instead of finding out the problem and listening to you, they shut you down. They don’t think about how their behaviour impacts others and have a hard time understanding how other people feel. 

  1. They are overly critical. 

Do your parents always chastise you for your mistake? No matter what you do to correct your behaviour, there are always things that your parents find unacceptable. Over time, and with continued parental criticism, you begin to internalise this parental feedback. You start to feel that you will never be good enough and never measure up to their expectations. 

  1. They don’t respect your boundaries that have been communicated by you.

Have you ever felt that your parents intrude on your personal space? Perhaps your parents barge into your room without even knocking on your door. Maybe they skim through your phone, come over uninvited, or give you unsolicited advice. A healthy relationship must include personal boundaries that serve everyone. If they do it for the first time, consider the possibility that they don’t know. But after you have communicated your boundary and they repeatedly cross it, this indicates that you have an unhealthy relationship with your parents. 

  1. They insult you.  

Have your parents ever insulted, humiliated, or ridiculed you? They jeer and call you names instead of using kind words and courtesy. Perhaps they punch, slap or spit on you. As a result, you feel alienated, anxious, or depressed. It can also affect your outlook and wellbeing by undermining self-confidence and self-esteem. 

  1. They blame you for things that aren’t your fault. 

“Why is it only me? Why do my parents blame me for everything?” 

Have such thoughts come across your mind? Your parents always say to you that any inconvenience in your life is your fault. Perhaps things that are entirely unrelated to you are somehow shaped into your wrongdoing. You feel that you become a burden to them. If you can relate to this, you have dysfunctional parents. 

  1. They depend on you excessively (e.g. emotional support) and don’t give anything back. 

When you were a child, did your parents ever confide in you about their problems? Due to this, you find yourself comforting them. A child’s brain has not yet developed to handle that level of responsibility. This act of placing children in situations where they feel more like parents than children is known as parentification. When it is time for you to receive comfort, they never try to do the same to you. 

Final thoughts 

Healing a relationship starts with you. Changing your feelings and attitudes are within your control. This does not mean that your parents will change, but you will. Your parents do not have to heal for you to get well. 


Burton, N. (2013, February 13). How to deal with insults and put-downs | Psychology Today. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/comment/847931

Lancer, D. (2018, August 31). 12 clues a relationship with a parent is toxic … Psychology Today. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/toxic-relationships/201808/12-clues-relationship-parent-is-toxic

Martin, S. (2021, September 13). 15 signs you have a toxic parent. Live Well with Sharon Martin. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.livewellwithsharonmartin.com/signs-you-have-a-toxic-parent/

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