This is the fourth and final article in this mini series on breaking free from the chains of a toxic childhood and becoming a better parent. In the first three segments we covered a wide range of “toxic messages” that parents can send during divorce and custody battles, and their corresponding “healthy truths.” In this piece we are going to look at the last few items on our list, so hang in there – we’re almost done!
Toxic Message 9: My children’s poor choices and misbehavior is my fault
Because toxic parents are so quick to pass the blame when something doesn’t work out, the children of toxic parents learn quickly to assume that blame. But children are children, and you cannot blame yourself for their learning curves, their mistakes, and their poor choices.
Healthy Truth 9: All children make mistakes, and it’s perfectly normal
First, you need to remember that no one is perfect, not even your child. And so you cannot expect perfect behavior from them, because it isn’t realistic. Secondly, you have to remember that children need to make mistakes. It’s part of how they learn. So focus on viewing their mistakes as healthy steps towards growth and learning, not irreversible errors that you are to blame for!
Toxic Message 10: I have no control over anything in my life
Because toxic parents tend to work very hard to control events and manipulate the people around them to their benefit, their children often grow up feeling helpless and powerless. It can be devastating to feel so vulnerable, especially when the people who have complete control of your life are so poisonous in their dealings. But you are not subject to that anymore.
Healthy Truth 10: You are powerful, and can shape your life and your destiny in very tangible, and very positive ways
It is entirely possible to be a good, strong parent, be in charge of your family, and still be entirely free of the type of toxic environment you were raised in. Control doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When exercised correctly, control over your children will help to protect them and keep them safe by setting boundaries and establishing freedoms, while still allowing for creative expression and personal growth. Don’t be afraid to exercise control. Just remember – what you are doing is good for your family, and that’s why you’re doing it. Because you are a good parent, and you want what’s best for them.
If your toxic childhood is making parenting difficult for you, you may need some help to overcome the toxic messages of the past and relearn new skills and coping mechanisms. While there are a great deal of very helpful books and articles out there, and a focus on self-awareness is very helpful, many people will need more.
If you are struggling with the aftereffects of a childhood spent under the thumb of a toxic parent, we recommend that you seek professional help to work past it. This can be very difficult, especially if your parent is still involved in your life in any way. But the effort is worth the hard work. Your future self, and your children, will thank you.