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Toxic Parent

toxic parent, shame, guilt, grief
What is a toxic parent?


These articles have been written to encourage you to look more closely at your own style of parenting and to see where it evolves from.

Toxic means poisonous, noxious, contaminated.

The phrase toxic parent was coined to describe parents whose own negative behaviour grossly inflicts emotional damage which contaminates their children's sense of self.

This means parents who abuse their children verbally, physically and/or sexually, as well as parents who are inadequate or ignore their children's emotional needs. Sometimes these patterns are so established they continue into adulthood, and often are either not recognized or addressed.

There are some toxic parents whose consistently negative patterns of parenting leave a legacy of guilt and shame within their children, and worse still there are parents whose outright cruelty would be considered illegal if exhibited toward animals, let alone their own children.

Where do parents like this learn these despicable patterns of behaviour?

Yes, you are quite right! Usually from their own parents, who in turn, learned it from theirs. However, few people make the connection between their parent's parenting style and their own emotional problems. Often, these emotional difficulties only become apparent to them as they become parents themselves.

Toxic Parents and Parenting:

As parents we all make mistakes.

Parenting is a constantly steep learning curve, requiring enormous amounts of patience and determination through some very traumatic times. Indeed, parents often acknowledge raising a family as the most stressful occupation ever.

toxic parents Sometimes the most difficult part about parenting is recognizing that our questionable behaviour is due to the negative influences of our parents on us, especially if we are conditioned never to criticise or to see faults in our parents.

Sometimes it's not what they did do, but what they didn't that has been harmful for us.

It can be very disturbing to finally see our parents with 'feet of clay', and to admit that they have hurt us.

Verbal abuse from parents to children is toxic parenting too. Often this is not seen as significant as it can be an accepted, taken for granted family behaviour.
However, the depth at which it leaves it's mark can be devastating.

I once had an evening meal with a large and energetic family - there were five children aged between 12 and 21 along with their parents, around the table. The impact of their friendly, family banter is still with me years later. It was nothing short of cruel, as they had evolved an insidious way of putting each other down. The parents were the main instigators of this too. Goodness knows what game they were playing out with each other but it was certainly very toxic.

Toxic Parents - Blame and Shame:

Unfortunately, children of toxic parents learn to blame themselves for their parent's appalling lack, and tend to grow into adults who are burdened with very low self esteem and poor self image.

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The wonderful news here is that the past cannot be changed but the future certainly can!

I have observed at first hand, some very plucky parents who have been determined to overcome the extremes of their own toxic childhood and have become outstanding role models for their own children.

In particular I remember one young mother I admired tremendously. She explained that each parenting decision she made, required her to take the opposite position from the one she was raised by. Initially this was laborious and tough for her - but over time her own changing self perception meant that her parenting style developed into an easy, loving way of being. Her children are wonderful and the greatest credit to her recognition of the patterns of her own painful childhood, and her decision not to repeat her parent's toxic style.

Questions to ask ourselves:

  • Would we want our children to feel about us in the same way that we feel about our own parents?
  • Do you feel love and respect, or pain and guilt toward your parents?


  • You are not responsible for the ways your parents shaped your childhood. However, you are responsible for your own behaviour today.
    This means that it's your responsibility to do what ever is needed to become the parent your child deserves.


    A New Movie about Toxic Parenting:
    Readers might be interested in learning about Emmy award winning filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaum and her upcoming feature documentary, a film that promises to heal many. MY NOSE: THE BIGGER VERSION is about the transformation of her relationship with her highly critical mother from Mommie Dearest to Dear Mom: from hatred to love.
    My Nose: The Bigger Version

Here is a good place to start:

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting clear, understandable and trust worthy advice on this difficult subject.

Dr. Susan Forward is the definitive writer on the topic of Toxic Parenting. Her book offers clear help by showing you HOW to take action about your life now.

If toxic parenting has been your legacy and you are ready to seek help then Toxic Parents, Overcoming their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming your Life, brings simple, straightforward and pertinent ways of recognizing and dealing with your pain. No-one deals with it better than Dr. Susan Forward.

More Books about Toxic Parents:

More Articles on Toxic Parents:

Toxic Parenting - Inconsistent Parents - Sometimes our parents were very consistent about being inconsistent in their toxic parenting of us. This has a big hangover effect on us as we grow up and as we parent our own children.

Toxic Parents - the inner critical voice - One of the powerful byproducts of having toxic parents is that we are left with low self esteem and a strong inner critical voice that speaks continuously to us of our guilt, our shame and our wrongs. It attacks us and criticizes us, blames us and compares us, shames us and tells us we're stupid, fat, selfish, ugly, and convinces us that it even knows what everyone else thinks!

Here is a link to an interesting article from the New York Times :

When Parents Are Too Toxic To Tolerate



Addressing the issues of alcoholic parents, drug addicted parents, sexually abusive parents, or those that physically abuse, is beyond the scope of this article.

I feel so saddened if this was your childhood legacy and I believe you need to seek professional help for overcoming this.

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