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Signs a Parent is Toxic
If you’ve been asking yourself “How do I know if my parent is toxic?”, there are 17 telltale signs a parent is toxic you can look out for.
Your parents may have caused emotional damage by inflicting neglect and abuse, and you may be in desperate need of healing.
Can parents be toxic?
Yes, parents can, unfortunately, be one of the most toxic people in a person’s life.
Your mom or dad (or both!) can exhibit toxic behavior that can be harmful to your emotional, mental, and physical health.
It is important to recognize these behaviors and seek help if you are experiencing them.
How can you tell if your parents are toxic?
Toxic parents can exhibit a variety of harmful behaviors, such as verbal or physical abuse, manipulation, neglect, or controlling behavior.
If you feel constantly criticized, belittled, or invalidated by your parents — or if you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them — it may be a sign of toxicity.
When your freedom, independence, and individuality become compromised, inner child healing becomes required.
17 Signs My Parents Are Toxic
1. YOUR PARENT DENIES YOUR EXPERIENCES
A lot of the time, our parents unintentionally cause us pain — or even lasting damage.
But when you communicate this hurt, parents can invalidate, deny, and gaslight like no other.
Unfortunately, parents often refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
Reasons parents don’t apologize ⤵️
- Lack of empathy
- Lack of awareness
- They feel attacked
If your parents don’t own up to the problems they’ve caused (or the hurt they continue to commit), then the relationship can become incredibly strained and toxic — especially if they’re super defensive about it.
More about gaslighting:
👉 50 Gaslighting Quotes (for When You’re Being Emotionally Abused)
2. YOUR PARENT IS CONTROLLING
Your mom or dad may have inadvertently shaped you into a people pleaser.
And when all you want is your parents’ approval, it can be difficult to see just how controlling they actually are.
Signs parents are controlling ⤵️
- Monitor your every move and invade your privacy
- Manipulate you through guilt or fear tactics
- Limit your interactions with friends and family
- Use money or other resources to control you
- Refuse to honor your boundaries
Once you recognize how controlling your parents are, you’ll soon realize how incredibly toxic the situation is.
More signs you have controlling parents:
👉 13 Signs of Controlling Parents in Adulthood (That Are Ruining Your Life)
3. YOUR PARENT DOESN’T RESPECT YOUR BOUNDARIES
Parents who consistently disrespect your boundaries when you communicate with them is one surefire way to recognize their toxicity.
Signs parents disregard boundaries ⤵️
- Ignore your requests to not discuss certain topics or engage in certain behaviors
- Guilt-trip or manipulate you into doing things you’re not comfortable with
- Invade your privacy without your consent
- Make decisions for you without your input
- Dismiss your opinions and feelings
- Criticize you when you try to set boundaries
It’s completely reasonable to be angry with your parents when they repeatedly cross your boundaries.
More about boundaries:
👉 7 Self-Care Boundaries (to Finally Start Putting Yourself First)
4. YOUR PARENT REFUSES TO BELIEVE YOU’RE GROWN
Coming out of the parent-child dynamic can be difficult for both parties to navigate.
But when your parents still treat you like a child no matter how old you get, that dynamic can stifle independence and personal growth.
Signs parents don’t respect you as you age ⤵️
- Don’t give you the independence and autonomy
- Give you unsolicited advice and make decisions for you
- Disregard your opinions or feelings
- Don’t listen to your perspective and instead prioritize their own beliefs or ideas
- Control your actions and monitor your behavior
This parent/adult child dynamic gets even messier when you go on to have your own children, and your parents believe their parenting is the only correct way — which is simply not true.
More about toxic parenting:
👉 107 Toxic Parents Quotes (When Mother and Father Are Abusive AF)
5. YOUR PARENT HOLDS YOUR CHILDHOOD OVER YOU
Another sign your parent is toxic is when they hold your childhood over your head.
Maybe you’ve heard, “You don’t know how good you had it!”
But being financially supportive, having a roof over your head, and having food over the table are the bare minimum.
(Of course, poverty can make a situation like this incredibly difficult for some parents.)
Parents need to be emotionally available and supportive and interested in your unique hobbies, interests, and personality traits.
Love is a human need.
Connection is a human need.
Doing the bare minimum isn’t good enough and expecting praise for it is a sign of toxicity.
Ending the cycle of abuse:
👉 35 Breaking Generational Trauma Quotes (to Help End the Toxic Cycle)
6. YOUR PARENT BELITTLES OR INSULTS YOU
Nothing hurts quite as much as when a parent puts you down.
Does your parent make fun of your interests or hobbies?
Signs parents belittle you ⤵️
- Frequently criticize or mock you
- Make negative comments about your appearance, abilities, or intelligence
- Use sarcasm or passive-aggressiveness when speaking to you
- Use name-calling or derogatory language toward you
- Dismiss your opinions or feelings
Plus, when your parent unfavorably compares you to your siblings or peers, the wounds can run deep.
Recovering from toxic shame:
👉 10 Shame Healing Exercises (for Inner Childhood Wounds)
7. YOUR PARENT IS UNSUPPORTIVE
In the same vein, your parents might take little to no interest in your likes, interests, and hobbies.
Signs parents are unsupportive ⤵️
- Not showing interest in your activities or achievements
- Not providing emotional or financial support when needed
- Being critical or dismissive of your goals or dreams
- Putting their own needs or desires above yours
- Using negative or hurtful language towards you
- Not advocating for your needs in school or other settings
When your parent is unsupportive, it can cause you to not believe in yourself or think your dreams aren’t worth pursuing.
Start healing your inner child:
👉 101 Healing Inner Child Affirmations (to Reparent Yourself)
8. YOUR PARENT CONSISTENTLY PUTS THEIR NEEDS BEFORE THEIR CHILD’S
It should go without saying that parents need self-care.
They need to fill their cup in order to be a better parent, partner, and friend.
But some parents can take this need for self-care too far and be incredibly self-centered.
Signs parents are self-centered ⤵️
- Consistently putting their own needs before their children’s
- Disregarding their children’s feelings and opinions
- Expecting their children to fulfill their own unmet needs
- Showing little interest in their children’s lives and accomplishments
Having a parent who displays this toxic trait can make you feel worthless and small.
Exercises to honor your inner child:
👉 13 Inner Child Healing Exercises (for Your Wounded Younger Self)
9. YOUR PARENT TAKES THEIR EMOTIONS ON YOU
When your parent is emotionally immature and takes their emotions on you, your life can feel like a battleground.
By coping, you start to pick up on the little subtleties of your parent’s energy, so you can predict what mood they’re in.
Signs parents take problems out on their kids ⤵️
- Yelling at them often
- Blaming them for their own problems or stress
- Being overly critical or judgmental
- Being inconsistent with discipline.
Living in this type of environment can cause you high stress and anxiety and make you feel like you’re carrying a heavy load on your shoulders.
Do you relate to these TED Talks?:
👉 13 TED Talks on Childhood Trauma (to Heal Your Inner Child)
10. YOUR PARENT EXPECTS YOU TO ADMIRE THEM
Some parents thrive on being the center of attention.
Signs parents are attention seekers ⤵️
- Constantly interrupting conversations
- Talking excessively about themselves
- Being unwilling to listen to others
It’s not healthy for a parent to constantly seek attention, and it almost always negatively impacts their relationship with their child.
Focus on your needs:
11. YOUR PARENT EXPECTS YOU TO TAKE CARE OF THEM
My mom worked overnights and expected me and my sister to wake her up for work.
She also expected us to wake her up to take us to school…when she had an alarm she refused to set.
Parents’ expectations of their children taking care of them often increases as they age.
Signs of parental expectations ⤵️
- Frequently talking about their needs and health
- Expressing disappointment or anger when their child cannot provide assistance
- Relying heavily on their child for support
When a parent expects you to take care of them, it can cause you to feel like the love your parent has for you is conditional.
👉 13 Therapeutic Essential Oils for Healing Childhood Trauma
12. YOUR PARENT IS JEALOUS OF YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
When a parent is missing self-love, they can easily be jealous of their child’s friends and relationships.
Signs parents are jealous ⤵️
- Showing resentment towards the child’s significant other
- Criticizing or belittling their child’s partner
- Becoming overly involved in the relationship
- Trying to control or manipulate the relationship
- Wanting to be part of their child’s friend group
It’s important for parents to support their children’s relationships and allow them to make their own decisions.
Do you relate to these movies?:
👉 23 Heartbreaking Movies About Childhood Trauma (That are Therapeutic)
13. YOUR PARENT ALWAYS HAS TO HAVE IT THE WORST
Having a parent who always has to be the victim, you learn that what you feel is invalid.
When you’re tired, your parent always has to be more tired.
When you’re sick, your parent always has to be more sick.
Signs parents are always the victim ⤵️
- Consistently blaming others for their problems
- Refusing to take responsibility for their actions
- Demanding excessive sympathy or attention
- Frequently portraying themselves as helpless and powerless
This truly takes a toll on your sanity and makes you feel like your problems are never big enough.
Crystals for healing:
👉 17 Magical Crystals for Healing Childhood Trauma (and Emotional Pain)
14. YOUR PARENT SHOW FAVORITISM AMONG THEIR CHILDREN
Some adults blockheadedly can’t understand, but kids aren’t stupid.
(I certainly wasn’t stupid or delusional knowing my mom favored my oldest sister.)
It might be more obvious to you as an adult, but once your eyes are open, you can recognize when your parents show favoritism.
Signs parents play favorites ⤵️
- Don’t enforce rules in a uniform way
- Not all of their children are expected to do chores
- Compare kids to one another
- Spend more time with one child
- Frequently side with one kid over the other
When this is a pattern, it can have devastating consequences on your self-worth and self-esteem.
More signs your parent is showing favoritism:
👉 10 Signs Your Parents Play Favorites (and Why it Freaking Sucks)
15. YOUR PARENT IS PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE
We’ve covered the various ways your mom or dad can be emotionally abusive.
But your parent inflicting physical harm is an obvious sign of parental toxicity.
Signs parents are physically abusive ⤵️
- Throwing and breaking things
Children often develop fear, anxiety, and anger because of this abuse, and they can quickly become afraid of their parents.
Listen to these song recommendations:
👉 40 Child Abuse Songs (When You Had a Bad Childhood)
16. YOUR PARENT IS SEXUALLY INAPPROPRIATE
A parent being sexually inappropriate or sexually abusive is one of the most unforgivable acts.
Signs parents are sexually inappropriate ⤵️
- Unwanted touching or kissing
- Forcing their child to keep secrets
- Watching sexual movies or adult films with child
- Making sexual advances towards their child’s spouse
A child learns that their body is not their own and healing becomes absolutely vital.
Start your inner child healing journey:
👉 11 Ways to Heal Childhood Trauma Spiritually (and Awaken Your Inner Child)
17. YOU FEEL UNSAFE AT HOME
No matter how old or grown you become, you should always feel welcome back at home.
(And when you’re living at your parents’ house, you should unquestionably feel safe at home.)
But when you feel unsafe and unwelcome in your home because of how your parents treat you, it can be a telltale sign that your parents are toxic.
Reasons kids don’t feel safe at home ⤵️
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Domestic violence
- Substance abuse
- Parental untreated mental health issues
- Living in an unstable or unpredictable environment
No matter how old we get, there is still an inner child who needs guidance and safety.
Recovery From Toxic Parents
As you read, there are several signs that parents are toxic.
And living with this type of emotional neglect and abuse can cause a multitude of mental health problems and issues with self-esteem.
It’s important to find a therapist you connect with and to approach the healing process with patience and kindness towards yourself.
Remember, healing is a process.
It takes time, tears, and effort.
Be patient and kind to yourself as you work towards healing.
💾 Bookmark this page for when you need a reminder on what signs to look for that your parent might be toxic.
More inner child healing posts:
- 17 Magical Crystals for Healing Childhood Trauma (and Emotional Pain)
- 101 Healing Inner Child Affirmations (to Reparent Yourself)
- 70 Healing Inner Child Quotes (to Help Overcome Childhood Trauma)
- 40 Child Abuse Songs (When You Had a Bad Childhood)
- 13 Nostalgic Activities to Reconnect with Your Inner Child
- 107 Toxic Parents Quotes (When Mother and Father Are Abusive AF)
- 22 Powerful Inner Child Healing Meditations (Guided and Unguided)
- 23 Heartbreaking Movies About Childhood Trauma (That are Therapeutic)
- 17 Must-Have Healing Gifts for Your Inner Child
- 11 Ways to Heal Childhood Trauma Spiritually (and Awaken Your Inner Child)
- 23 Inner Child Oracle Cards (for Deep Shadow Work)
- 23 Tarot Decks (for Intense Inner Child Work)
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