11 Ways Growing Up With A Toxic Parent Changes What Kind Of A Mom You Become
It's difficult for me to say that growing up with a toxic parent is at all beneficial. In fact, I would probably passionately and empathetically argue that it isn't. There is no reason for a child to live in fear, or in pain, or in anything other than support and love; but it happens, and even in those darkest of moments, something positive can emerge, like all the ways growing up with a toxic parent changes what kind of a mom you become.
When I grew up with a toxic parent that was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive, I couldn't see a silver lining. I didn't think that anything good could come from my 18-year-experience, until I had a kid of my own. When my son was born, I realized that growing up with a toxic parent changed me in ways I didn't realize until I was in charge of a precious, innocent life. The weight of the responsibility that is teaching my son life-lessons and ensuring that his future, memorable moments and his memories of childhood would be loving and supportive and positive, forced me to realize that while I wouldn't thank my toxic parent for the damage they did to me as a young child, I do have those experiences to thank for why I am the mother I am today. Because of my toxic parent, I will do whatever it takes to make sure my son doesn't have one.
Which is why, when you grow up with an abusive parent you can learn these 11 things that make you a better mom. They're not lessons you wanted to learn or lessons you would encourage someone else to experience, but they're lessons that can benefit your own kid. That makes them lessons worth learning.
You Re-Think Discipline And Punishment
Having, unfortunately, known what it's like to feel pain at the hand of a parent, I have found myself re-thinking age-old discipline techniques (like corporal punishment) and embracing alternative measures (like a time-out or gentle parenting). I'm not one to judge how someone else chooses to discipline their child, and I know that for many parents, spanking works, but I am one to carefully consider the ramifications associated with how I discipline my own kid. I, personally, don't believe in spanking. Positive reinforcement seems to work best for my son and my family and, honesty, even if it didn't (because of my abusive past and the trauma I continually deal with on a daily basis) I would continuously search an alternative form of punishment until I found one that worked, before I laid a hand on my child.
You're Incredibly Patient
My abusive parent had a dangerously short fuse. They would blow up and become violent for the most mundane of reasons; everything from a bad call during a football game, to a dinner they didn't appreciate, to a botched play during a high school sporting event to any seemingly small issue, could set them off. They had absolutely zero patience, which is why I have worked my hardest to make sure I am overflowing with it. Am I perfect? Not at all. Do I become impatient? You bet, especially now that my partner and I are attempting to potty train our son (IT'S THE WORST). However, I am very deliberate about being patient with my son and constantly aware that when he acts out, it's not about me, but about his inability to manage his emotions (something adults continuously struggle with, so my almost-two-year-old kid definitely gets a break).
You Second-Guess Yourself Regularly
I'd argue that every parent, regardless of their background, second guesses themselves on a regular basis. I would also argue, however, that parents who grew up with a toxic parent do so far more frequently. I, for one, am constantly wondering what my son's first memory will actually be, mostly because mine is anything but pleasant. I worry about all the times that he is upset and what I did to contribute to it, even if it was something necessary. I am constantly re-evaluating myself and my parenting choices and whether or not I did the right or the wrong thing. It can be exhausting and it can (sometimes) be totally unnecessary, but it's also a consequence of having a toxic parent, and doing whatever you can to make sure you don't end up like them. It also keeps me accountable and helps me constantly strive to be better, which is something we could all be.
You're All About Constant Communication
When you grow up with a toxic parent, you grow up with little-to-no healthy lines of communication. I, for one, was always afraid to talk to my toxic parent, for fear that they'd become angry and enraged and, eventually, violent. Those moments where I held back and didn't talk to them taught me that communication is so vital. I want my son to come to me when he needs to talk about anything; sex or drinking or drugs or a bully or school work or a dispute or his fears, concerns, thoughts that have no words and even the current state of this country's political climate. Anything at all. Communication is what will help my son understand why I enforce the rules I will inevitably enforce, and communication is how I will understand why my son will inevitably push against those rules.
You're Quick To Admit You Don't Know It All
My abusive parent was convinced they were right all of the time. They became combative if people didn't passionately agree with them, they despised being told that they were uninformed, and they became violent if someone questioned their decision making. They also taught me that parents aren't always right simply because they're parents. In fact, parents are wrong plenty of times, in plenty of instances and for plenty of reasons, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that. You don't become endowed with the powers of perfect decision making the moment you procreate, and knowing that is, honestly, what makes you the best parent possible.
You Refuse To Use Fear As A Parenting Technique
My abusive parent's go-to parenting technique, was fear. My sibling and I were on our best behavior not because it was the right thing to do, but because it was something that would keep us from feeling pain. We did things out of necessity, and that's no way to live. Now that I'm a parent myself, I'm constantly attempting to teach my son how to act responsibly and kindly and justly, not because he'll get in trouble if he doesn't, or because he wants to be a good person.
You Have No Problem Asking For Help
I was subjected to an abusive and toxic parent because asking for help was scary. Reaching out was something you simply didn't do; something that admitted defeat; something that told the rest of the world you were weak. Thankfully, I have grown out of that learned mindset, and now see the value in asking for help every single time I need it. I am not meant to parent alone (and I would argue that no one is) and that knowledge, that acute awareness that martyrdom does not equal successful motherhood, is why my son has the best mother he could possibly have.
You Don't Want To Be Seen As Just An Authority Figure
When you have a toxic parent, you're aware that they're nothing more than an authority figure. They rule with an iron fist and you spend the majority of your childhood afraid and they're clearly not someone you can connect with on any level other than fear and manipulation. It's, honestly, kind of the worst. It also helps you realize that, when you have a kid, you'll do it differently. It doesn't mean you won't establish boundaries and provide your kid with the discipline they need. It just means that you'll also give them space and room to grow and a supportive person that they can confide in at any time and for any reason. You want to be more than an authoritative figure; you want to be a best friend and a confidant and a cheerleader and a source of unbiased information, because being a parent means more than just being in charge.
You Respect Your Kid(s) Automatically
My toxic parent believed that respect was earned, and put myself and my sibling in a horrible situation where we felt like we had to work hard to make that parent love us. It didn't teach us discipline or humility and it most certainly didn't teach us to act the way our toxic parent asked us to act; it simply instilled a feeling of worthlessness in both of us that we've collectively been working to combat since always. Which is why, when it comes to my son, he already has my respect. It's nothing he has to fight for. It's nothing he has to earn through a certain set of accomplishments. It's something he has, because he's a human being, and that will never be a thing he thinks he isn't deserving of.
You Allow Them To Make Decisions
My abusive parent never thought me capable of making my own decisions, which has sent a reverberation of constant self-doubt through the majority of my 29-year-old life. Now that I'm a parent, I realize that relinquishing control, letting my toddler make his own decisions in certain situations, and giving my kid space to grow into his own, unique person, is the best thing I can do for him, as a parent and as a human.
You Apologize To Your Kid When You Mess Up
I don't think I ever heard my toxic parent apologize. Sure, I heard them feign regret after they hurt me or my mother or my sibling (an act that was usually accompanied by a material good as somewhat of a "bribe") but I don't think I ever heard them genuinely apologize for being the way they were. At the time, that just made me angry and frustrated. But, now that I'm a mother, it makes me acutely aware that when I mess up, my son is owed an apology. I don't have to be above admitting that I am wrong and letting my son know that he was right. I'm not above letting my son know that grown ups mess up too and, when that happens, they need to act accordingly. I'm not above letting my son know that I'm human, because that knowledge will only aid me as his mother.