The relationship between parent and child is a complex one. And while at times, all parent-child relationships will experience normal ups and downs, there are some behaviors that parents exhibit that are downright toxic. Gaslighting is one of them.
Even the most well-intentioned parents can gaslight their children. They may not even realize the harm they are causing, but regardless of their intentions, the behavior affects their children all the same. Gaslighting is a form of abuse, that is characterized by making someone doubt their reality.
It is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse. To address the problem- there has to be awareness of what is going on. Here are 9 signs and examples of gaslighting from parents.
1. They ignore your subjective experiences.
A great example of this is when your parents did something in your past that was hurtful. When you bring it up, they say, “It wasn’t like that at all, you are remembering it all wrong.” While they may not have understood the harm they caused, denying it puts doubt on your perception of reality.
2. They discount your emotions.
Gaslighting parents will try to downplay their emotions. They may see you experiencing something extremely difficult and tell you that you are overreacting.
3. They expect you to know things – even when they don’t tell you.
“You should have known about _______,” is a common phrase that aligns with this. They may expect you to do something for them or with them, or expect you to just know things that there is no way of you to have known. Then, they throw this phrase at you- which can be damaging.
4. They put words in your mouth.
“You just think you know everything, don’t you?” It can be extremely frustrating to try to convey something to your parents and then have them put words in your mouth.
5. They assume your feelings.
“You aren’t upset about _______, you are just tired. Get some rest.” Assuming and dismissing someone’s true feelings is not only dismissive of invalidating- it is downright abusive.
6. They tell you what you do and don’t like.
Rather than asking about your preferences, they assume they know what you do and don’t like. If you find your parent is always convincing you of what you do and don’t like- it’s likely gaslighting. It’s best to address this. “No, I do not like that, I’m sorry, but you are wrong. I know me. I am me.”
7. They deny things when you call them out.
When you try to approach your parent about something they are doing that bothers you, they are quick to deny it. “I don’t do that- you are crazy.”
8. They don’t get excited for you.
When something awesome happens for you, your parent is quick to shut you down. “Mom, I finally got a huge promotion at work, I am so excited,” you may say. And her response is, “it’s about time. I don’t know why you even hang around that place, the promotion isn’t even a big deal.”
9. They always play the victim.
Even when you have done nothing wrong, and they are clearly to blame, your parent may act as though they are a victim to you. This is a form of gaslighting.