Having been raised by a toxic parent who alienated you from your other parent after a divorce, it can be a challenge to parent your own children. The reason for this, in part, is because no good example of parenting was set for you, but also because a child raised in a toxic environment tends to struggle with leftover toxic messages that hamper their best efforts.
We have compiled a list of toxic messages, along with the healthy truths that each one should be replaced with, to help you overcome that emotional handicap when parenting your own children. If you are just joining us now, be sure to start at the beginning before reading this article.
Toxic Message 6: My needs and wants aren’t important
Because toxic parents have their own agenda, which they force on their children in order to ensure that they get their own way, those children tend to learn by default that their needs and wants don’t matter. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Healthy Truth 6: The needs and wants of both you and your children are important
Everyone has a right to express their desires, and everyone has a right to have their needs met. As you already know from personal experience, needs and wants that violate other people’s basic rights aren’t acceptable. But both you and your children have a right to express your wants and your needs, and have those feelings and requirements listened to with respect.
Toxic Message 7: Kids need to learn to control themselves
Learning to understand your emotions and how to react to them and process them is a huge undertaking. In truth, some people never master it. But expecting little kids to know exactly what they are feeling and how they should behave when their feelings are too big for them to handle is the hallmark of a toxic parent. And very damaging to a child.
Healthy Truth 7: Everyone has a right to have feelings, and to express them
Figuring out your feelings and the right way to react to them is a learning process. One that takes a long time to master. Shutting kids down when they are expressing things that they feel teaches them that their feelings are invalid. Instead, they need to be taught that their feelings are valid, but can be controlled. The only way to effectively achieve this, however, is through patient and kind discussions whenever the issue comes up.
Toxic Message 8: It’s only discipline, and all parents do it
Children who grow up in toxic homes are often called out for every infraction, every mistake, and every poor choice. And the punishments often far outweigh the crimes. As a result, they spend a good deal of time in “fight or flight” mode, braced for the next time their parent lashes out at them. Which means that they are constantly being emotionally knocked down, and scrambling to regain some semblance of control.
Healthy Truth 8: If it shames or hurts then it’s not discipline
Everyone makes mistakes. And if we were all called to task for every single time we screwed up, no matter how small or inconsequential it was, we would constantly be in trouble. But disciplining a child is about teaching them the right way to behave and think and address situations, and fear is a very ineffective teaching tool.
Join us next time as we wrap up this series on recovering from a toxic childhood, and breaking free from the poisonous cycle by parenting your own children in a kinder and more nurturing way.