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The vast majority of ‘toxic’ people in the world do not realize that they are, because no one sets out to be a toxic person. However, we all make mistakes, and just as bad habits seem to do, our actions compound, leading us down a bad road.

None of us are without error, and from time to time, we all have toxic habits. If you are here, you are likely just a normal human being who is open to the fact that you might not be perfect. If you have any of the following signs, it doesn’t make you a bad person. And as long as you change course and continue to do the best that you can to make informed and rational choices about how you carry yourself as a parent, you are on the right track.

Here are 8 signs you are a toxic parent and what to do.

1. You overly criticize.

A lot of us grew up with critical parents and, even unintentionally, we can end up growing into our parent’s bad habits. Yes, it may not seem like a big deal to criticize your child and honestly, constructive criticism won’t hurt. The difference is watching how often and how you criticize. When all you do is criticize, it’s time to re-evaluate.

2. You discipline to punish, not teach.

There is a major misconception that discipline equals punishment. In reality, discipline is teaching your child how to navigate the world responsibly. Yes, this can be done through the use of punishment, but the whole point of discipline isn’t to punish. It’s to teach. Be mindful of how you discipline your child and stay open to making sure that you are disciplining to teach them.

3. You gaslight.

Gaslighting is when you intentionally or unintentionally make your child doubt their perspective. An example of this might be when your child is telling how something happened, and you interrupt and say, “No, that’s not what happened. You are being dramatic.” Or if your child tries to say how they feel and you say, “No, that’s not what you feel.” Doing this might seem innocent enough, but in the end, you are telling your child that they cannot trust themselves.

4. You play the comparison game.

Do. Not. Compare. Your. Child. To. Anyone. Else. When you do so, you are telling them that they are not enough and that something is wrong with them that needs to be changed. You might not mean it that way, but kids internalize things, so be careful.

5. You put adult problems on your child.

Boundaries are important in every aspect of life, and even with your kids. Don’t talk bad about your child’s other parent, or bring them into your adult problems. It might sound obvious, or it might not, but adult problems will do nothing but place additional stress on your child’s back that they are not equipped to handle.

6. You fly off the handle.

We all get upset sometimes, but as adults with kids, we have got to step up and learn how to manage our emotions. Yes, you will slip up, and sometimes, your frustration will get the better of you. However, it’s imperative to not throw tantrums like a child, throw things or scream or lose your cool. Doing so only scares little kids and teaches them that it’s okay to react to your emotions by losing your sh*t.

7. You emotionally invalidate.

Growing up, I remember crying my eyes out and being met with, “Stop crying. You have nothing to cry about. If you keep it up, I’ll give you something to cry about.” I don’t think my parents meant any harm by this, but now, psychologists realize that by emotionally invalidating kids, we are destroying their ability to properly manage their emotions.

8. You negatively label your kids.

“You’re so lazy,” or “you’re so stupid,” or “you are so frustrating,” are all labels. And while your child may be acting lazy or frustrating- they are NOT their behaviors. But, the thing about labels is that if you call your kids these things enough times, they will fall into that role.

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