7 Signs You Have a Toxic Parent, Because It's Not Always Obvious

by Lindsay E. Mack

Though many people desire a Gilmore Girls-esque relationship with their parents, not everyone is so fortunate. But there's a different between having a strict mom or dad that you don't see eye-to-eye with, and having a toxic parent.

Sometimes toxic behavior is insidious and difficult to see outright, particularly in cases where the abuse is psychological instead of physical. After all, if your parents’ behavior has been going on since you were a child, you have likely just gotten used to it — even in cases where their behavior is abusive and bad for you. What seems “normal” to you may not be at all normal in a healthy sense.

If your your mother or father is exhibiting signs of toxic behavior, it may be time to reconsider your relationship with them. You don’t have to put up with their abuse just because you’re family. In these cases, checking out some resources, such as Adults Surviving Child Abuse, may provide invaluable information, and seeking the counsel of a trusted therapist can also help you learn to mitigate your toxic parents’ damage. Overall, learning to spot the signs of toxic behavior, and then address them productively, can help you escape the tyranny of unhealthy parents. To help you navigate your relationship and determine whether or not you have a toxic parent, read on to see some of the obvious and not-so-obvious signs.


They Are Dismissive

Psychology Today identifies parents who are dismissive of their children's accomplishments or interests as toxic. If news of your latest promotion is met with disinterest, or even outright mockery, by your parent, then you may not have the healthiest relationship.  


They Are Negative

Sure, everyone has a bad day now and then. But if your parent's attitude toward you is overwhelmingly negative, then he or she is likely emotionally abusive, according to Adults Surviving Child Abuse.  


They Are Addicts

Children of addicts often face exceptionally warped behavior from a parent who is addled by drugs and/or alcohol. And as an article in Deseret News National explains, these children often face the added pressure of keeping the parent's addiction a secret to the outside world. If you're still covering up a parent's drug problem, chances are that relationship is extremely unhealthy to you.


They Don't Care

The Huffington Post notes that parents who are uncaring and don't provide emotional attachment for their children are abusive and damaging. Do you parents offer you emotional warmth, or do you just feel loyal to them out of habit?


They Play Mind Games

Do you have to walk on eggshells around your parent for fear of getting the silent treatment? Or do you have the same arguments that just spin like verbal windmills and go nowhere? As explained in a piece by ABC News, these kinds of crazy-making games are signs of a toxic relationship.


They're Too Authoritative

If your parent's attitude is "my way or the highway" for no real reason, you don't have to live under their arbitrary rules. And as the Centre For Children and Families In The Justice System notes, these types of rigid expectations and little empathy for others are signs of abuse.


They're Often Angry

Everyone gets angry now and then, but if your parent overpowers your entire relationship with the threat of blowing up, then you likely have a toxic relationship, according to the Daily Mail. It's even common for adult children of these types of parents to still fear angering the loose cannon parent. But remember that you're an adult now, and you don't have to put up with abusive treatment.

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