4 Ways to Correct Toxic Parenting

Toxic parenting can sneak into your daily life without you even realizing it. Mighty Mommy shares four examples of toxic parenting and strategies to turn it around fast.


Cheryl Butler,
Episode #448

Tip #3: Stop Being Overly Critical

Those who know me well or who have been following Mighty Mommy for the past few years know my friends and family have lovingly nicknamed me Pollyanna. It's a reference to my inner nature which hasn't changed since my pre-school days. I've always had a happy-go-lucky personality, point me to any situation no matter how bleak and I'll find the silver lining. This has definitely been the foundation of my parenting for the past 24 years, especially when times get tough. And with eight kids, times can get tough. My ex-husband also shares these same qualities, yet had to overcome years of a very negative upbringing because his parents were highly critical of him and his siblings. If he received an A minus on a report, his parents wondered why he couldn’t pull of an A plus. If he struck out four batters during a baseball game, the focus was on the runs he gave up. 

In 13 Signs Of A Toxic Parent That Many People Don't Realize the article reinforces that overly critical parents can damage a child’s sense of self for the long run with their constant criticisms.

“Everyone’s parents criticize from time to time. Without this component, we might never learn how to do numerous things properly, such as everyday chores like washing laundry. A toxic parent takes this to extremes by being overly critical about everything their child does. Parents can make the mistake of believing that they do this to make sure their children avoid making costly mistakes. Unfortunately, what this behavior really does is causing the child to develop a harsh inner critic that can be borderline crippling during adulthood.”

Constructive criticism is necessary for any human being to grow and learn, but picking your child apart on an everyday basis is like poison. Don’t forget to catch your child (and your spouse and co-workers) doing something good. “Annie, I love how you took the extra time to play with the dog before you had to rush out the door for school” is much more encouraging than stating, “If you had your act together, you could’ve taken the dog for a longer walk before you almost miss the bus.”

Tip #4: Don’t Use Guilt to Control Your Child

Let’s face it, nearly every parent (including myself) has laid a guilt trip on their child at one time or another. Just a few weeks ago, for example, I moved my son back to college for his junior year. We traveled in horrific rain and wind for nearly six hours to finally arrive and then spend an hour unpacking and getting him settled. He was safely and happily reunited with all his college buddies and anxious to spend the first night back hanging out with them. After my long day of traveling (not to mention feeling sad that I wouldn’t see him for several months until the holidays) I remarked with a comment like, “Oh sure, now that you’re back with your friends you don’t need your mother any longer.” I truly meant it as a joke, but he took it seriously and said he’d forget about his friends that night and would go have dinner with his sister and myself. 

According to Guy Winch, Ph.D., “guilt trips are a clear form of psychological manipulation and coercion.” While those who suffered through guilt during their upbringing may blow it off as a necessary part of growing up, Dr. Winch states that this type of communication is not as harmless as we may think. He further mentions that those “who use guilt trips are usually entirely focused on getting the result they want and entirely blind to the damage their methods can cause.”

When my son comes home for the holidays you can bet I’m not going to make a single comment about his wanting to go see his girlfriend rather than chilling out at our house his first night back. Instead, I’m going to welcome him home with a big hug and tell him to enjoy not having to worry about exams and classes for a few weeks.

How do you handle toxic parenting situations in your family? Share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT

Image of a scolding parent © Shutterstock


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