One of the greatest struggles in parenting is the fact there’s no guidebook. OK, actually there are more guidebooks than I can count, but no matter how many parenting books exist in the world — from the spiritual to the sarcastic and everywhere in between — there’s no single, set authority that can say how to properly raise a child. There are a lot of authors out there who can tell you how they’d do it but no one has the right answers for you. So, in each moment of every day, parents make it up. That’s right, my darling daughter, your Mommy is completely full of crap and lying her ass off every time she says she knows what she’s doing. Mommy also hates it when people speak in the third person so let's move on.
All parents need a little support and guidance when it comes to what to do with their kids but at the end of the day, most parents just hope they aren’t permanently screwing them up. Well, at least not so much that they end up living in our basements the rest of their precious little lives. But how can you tell if you’ve crossed the line from frazzled parent to full-blown, toxic influence? Well, I can’t tell you where that line is but I can tell you some signs that suggest you probably haven’t crossed it.
Your Child Tells You When They’ve Done Something Wrong
One of the most common side effects to being a toxic parent is the breakdown in trust. If you grew up in a house with a toxic influence, you know that person is the last person in the world you’d confess to. If your child is still willing to come to you when they’ve made a mistake, you’re doing something right. Plus, if you have them trained to come to you when they first screw up, there might still be time to put out the fire before the house burns down. (No, that is not a metaphor; it's a story from my childhood that involves a Barbie and a heating vent.)
Things Have Been Spilled On Your Carpet And No One Died
The way you react to everyday situations can be a sign of whether or not you’re a toxic parent. If you’ve allowed anger and frustration to seep into every aspect of your day, something as relatively minor as things spilling on the rug might be met with overblown rage. Even if someone doesn't die by your disproportionate wrath, there’s at least some spirit crushing to be done. If the vivacious spirits of your little monsters are still in tact after an incident, you're probably good.
You’ve Apologized To Your Child Recently
If you’ve ever been around a truly toxic parent — someone whose negativity manages to permeate every fiber of your being when they’re around — you know apologies are not a thing they do. If you’re going to your kid when you screw up and admitting you did something wrong (I know, hard to believe we aren’t perfect before having kids) then you’re not corroding your relationship like a toxic parent would. And yes, in case you’re interested, I did apologize after spilling wine on my daughter’s Friday Folder. But lets be honest, no one suffered more than I did when I had to explain at Parent-Teacher conference why her backpack always smells of pinot noir.
Being Silly Is A Thing In Your House
If you have danced to more than one Taylor Swift song, have shown up to work covered in glitter, or have made a face at your child in the last twenty-four hours, there's a reasonably good chance that you're not a toxic parent. Just like wine is the antidote for social gatherings you'd rather not attend, silly is the antidote for toxicity. You'd be amazed exactly how difficult it is to become a toxic parent when you stick your tongue out at your child.
You’re Still A Person
Sometimes, we parents who sacrifice our energy, time, and good clothes to the will of out kids, forget that we are people too. We get absorbed in sports, education, laundry, dishes, more laundry, being legally obligated to feed them, and we forget to do stuff for ourselves. Part of avoiding becoming a toxic parent is avoiding becoming a toxic person. If you feel generally like you do a good job of prioritizing your needs, making time for yourself, and remaining a whole person outside of the parent parts of your identity, you are so much less likely toe devolve into toxic parenting. And if you’ve reached your breaking point (which we all do sometimes), step back and take a breath: Nothing is ever quite as bad, or quite as impossible as we make it out to be. After all, it’s only a bit of baby puke and I never really liked that top anyway.
Images: WB; Giphy(5)