Parenting can be really tough, and there will be moments when you may lose your cool in front of your kids. You might even say some hurtful things to your little one. But if you are being physically or emotionally abusive or using your child’s love for you to control them, you are a toxic parent. Using fear, threats or guilt as weapons against your child will do no good. Kids are sensitive and are wired to respond to more than just words. They understand our behaviour and emotions towards them. The trauma that comes from dealing with toxic parents can be long-lasting, so stop saying hurtful things to them.
HealthShots reached out to psychologist Dr Malini Saba to know about toxic parents and how they can affect a child.
Toxic parents have nothing good to say to their children. Some of the hurtful things they say to their kids are –
Kids are very vulnerable and exposed when it comes to feedback from their parents. Criticising their appearance like body shaming them, commenting on their clothes, hair or in general the way they look, can be very derogatory, says Dr Saba.
It might be hard to believe but children also have complex emotions. Toxic comments that belittle them or their feelings like calling them stupid, disappointing, worthless or making them feel useless is very unhealthy for them.
Many times, toxic parents have a habit of comparing their child with another kid. They tend to compare their child to a sibling, cousin or a kid in their school.
Toxic parents, in a fit of rage or frustration, can blame the kids. Comments such as “I sacrificed so much for you” or “you make my life difficult” are employed to make them feel guilty and indebted.
Parents have the upper hand when it comes to making decisions for their kids’ lives. Taking undue advantage of this, restricting and manipulating the kids with comments and ultimatums like “you can do this or cannot do this” is very toxic, be it for education, playing or job.
Toxic comments can derail a kid’s entire life! Serious issues can crop up with body shaming, says the expert. They can even have adverse emotional effects such as:
• Low self-esteem
• Eating disorders
• Body dysmorphic disorder (a mental illness that involves obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in looks)
In the long run, these insecurities can prevent them from living a healthy life or building healthy relationships, says Dr Saba. Toxic comments and constant negative criticism from parents including parental rejection can lead to inferiority complex and self-criticism in kids which can last a lifetime (ways to overcome self-criticism).
The major point to realise here is that children are just little human beings with emotions as complex as adults. So, start by valuing them. Remind yourself that they are learning to do things every day. Place yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if someone you love criticised you or belittled you constantly. Learn to listen and acknowledge and do better every day.
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