“What if I’m a bad parent? What if I display all the signs of toxic parenting?”
That’s a thought that haunts the mind of just about every parent I know. And it makes sense.
After all, when we read the litany of books and blogs about the “right way to parent,” there’s plenty of evidence that we may not be doing as well as we should be.
And while it doesn’t take long to realize that a majority of the parenting journey involves trial and error, there are certain situations where our words or actions may be toxic to our children.
Identifying those situations, and doing what we can to contain and change our own behaviors, enables us to develop and improve as parents (which is something everyone strives for).
To help identify them, let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the surefire signs of toxic parenting.
1Losing Your Temper and Extreme Displays of Emotion
There’s no doubt that being a parent is stressful. And you would have to be a saint to completely avoid losing your temper.
But, when losing your temper and extreme displays of emotion become the norm, it can present a major problem.
Not only does it make it much more likely that your child will inherit these habits to resolve conflicts that happen outside the home, but it can often inhibit the natural bonding experience that is crucial to a healthy parent/child relationship.
The Solution: When you’re frequently losing your temper, solving the problem starts with taking the time to analyze why it’s happening.
What are the triggers that cause it? Does it tend to happen at a particular time of the day?
After answering these questions, you can begin to think of new ways to communicate effectively when those temper flaring situations arise while also identifying strategies to calm yourself down.
2Projecting Your Aspirations on Your Child
As someone that coaches youth sports, I often see examples of parents attempting to live out their sports dreams through their kids.
In these cases, the parents tend to be extremely tough on their children to the point where it makes it impossible for them to enjoy the game in any way.
And sports isn’t the only place this happens. Parents are often guilty of projecting their career aspirations (whether it be a doctor, lawyer, politician, etc.) on their child as well.
This becomes a major problem as children grow up and become independent because they begin to feel as if their own interests and aspirations have not been acknowledged. And, if parents continue to push these aspirations, it can significantly fracture the relationship.
The Solution: Give your children the opportunity to develop their interests and aspirations. In many cases, they may even be naturally drawn to your interests (which is a win-win).
3You’re Not Listening to Your Kids
I’ve been guilty of this one as my kids used to frequently say, “You never listen to me!”
It wasn’t until my wife began pointing out the same issue that I realized that I was the problem.
And while I’ll be the first to admit that it’s difficult always to be engaged when you’re searching for ways to relax, engage in conversation for the purpose of listening (as opposed to responding) is critical.
The Solution: In my experience, the solution here is to make a clear effort to listen intently during conversations. Doing so will drastically change the way your children, and other people, view you.
4You’re Constantly Blaming Other People
The reality of being a parent and raising a family is that there WILL be problems.
But when we begin trying to identify ways in which other people are responsible for those problems, it makes it impossible to solve them.
In addition, if you’re continually pointing blame towards your children for a room being unclean, the dishes not being done, or your spouse being unhappy, it creates a volatile environment.
The Solution: The only real solution here is to focus on what you can control and not let the stress of things outside of your control get to you.
While blaming someone else may be an unconscious reaction, it doesn’t help solve the problem.
By focusing on how to solve problems, instead of who is to blame for those problems, you’ll have a much happier and healthier relationship with your family.
At the end of the day, we all want to do everything in our power to be the best parents we can possibly be for our children.
But, even as the stress of reaching this goal continues to mount, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and evaluate what we can do to better ourselves as parents. We should check for signs of toxic parenting.
As a fellow parent that has unconsciously encouraged more of these toxic behaviors than I care to admit, I urge you to take a look at how your behaviors can be improved.
While it certainly won’t be an easy process, I promise that it will be worth it.