Skip to main content

Toxic parenting involves a pattern of negative behaviors that can have long-lasting consequences on a child’s emotional well-being and development. Recognizing and addressing these behaviors is crucial to fostering a healthy parent-child relationship and promoting the child’s overall well-being. In this article, we will discuss nine common toxic parenting behaviors and provide insights on how to address these issues.

Excessive criticism and belittling

Constantly criticizing a child’s actions or belittling their accomplishments can damage their self-esteem and self-confidence (1). It is important to provide constructive feedback and recognize the child’s achievements, rather than focusing solely on their mistakes or shortcomings.

Emotional manipulation and guilt-tripping

Using emotional manipulation or guilt-tripping to control a child’s behavior can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and unworthiness (2). Parents should strive to communicate their expectations clearly and respectfully, without resorting to manipulative tactics.

Emotional neglect and unavailability

Emotionally neglectful parents may fail to provide the support, encouragement, and validation that a child needs to develop a healthy sense of self (3). To address this behavior, parents should make an effort to be present, engaged, and attentive to their child’s emotional needs.

Overbearing control and micromanagement

Exerting excessive control over a child’s life can hinder their development of autonomy and independence (4). Parents should encourage their children to make decisions, take responsibility, and learn from their experiences, while still providing guidance and support.

Physical or verbal aggression

Physical or verbal aggression can create a hostile environment and negatively affect a child’s emotional well-being (5). Parents should model healthy conflict resolution and communication skills, and seek professional help if they struggle to manage their anger or aggression.

Favoritism and unequal treatment

Favoritism or unequal treatment can foster feelings of resentment and jealousy among siblings, as well as damage a child’s self-esteem (6). Parents should strive to treat all of their children fairly and recognize their unique strengths and needs.

Inappropriate role reversal

Expecting a child to fulfill a parent’s emotional needs can create unhealthy codependency and burden the child with inappropriate responsibilities (7). Parents should seek support from adult friends, family members, or mental health professionals to address their own emotional needs, allowing their child to maintain age-appropriate roles and responsibilities.

Disrespecting boundaries

Repeatedly violating a child’s personal boundaries can create feelings of insecurity and mistrust (8). Parents should respect their child’s privacy and personal space while fostering open communication and trust within the parent-child relationship.

Ignoring or undermining the child’s achievements

Downplaying or ignoring a child’s achievements can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a lack of motivation (9). Parents should celebrate their child’s successes, provide encouragement, and show genuine interest in their child’s interests and activities.

Identifying and addressing toxic parenting behaviors is crucial for promoting a healthy parent-child relationship and fostering a child’s emotional well-being. By recognizing these patterns, parents can take steps to change their behavior and seek support from professionals, friends, or family members as needed. Remember that change is possible, and by acknowledging and addressing toxic parenting behaviors, parents can create a nurturing environment that promotes their child’s growth and development.

Source: (1) Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., & Singer, A. (2016). Perfectionism and parental authority styles in parents of preschoolers. Personality and Individual Differences, 100, 152-161.

Source: (2) Pickhardt, C. E. (2009). The everything parent’s guide to children and divorce. Simon and Schuster.

Source: (3) Webb, J. (2015). Running on empty: Overcome your childhood emotional neglect. Morgan James Publishing.

Source: (4) Grolnick, W. S. (2003). The psychology of parental control: How well-meant parenting backfires. Psychology Press.

Source: (5) Vissing, Y. M., Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., & Harrop, J. W. (1991). Verbal aggression by parents and psychosocial problems of children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 15(3), 223-238.

Source: (6) McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., McGuire, S. A., & Updegraff, K. A. (1995). Congruence between mothers’ and fathers’ differential treatment of siblings: Links with family relations and children’s well-being. Child Development, 66(1), 116-128.

Source: (7) Chase, A. (1999). The emotionally absent mother: A guide to self-healing and getting the love you missed. The Experiment.

Source: (8) Forward, S., & Buck, C. (2002). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. Bantam.

Source: (9) Aunola, K., & Nurmi, J. E. (2005). The role of parenting styles in children’s problem behavior. Child Development, 76(6), 1144-1159.