8 Reasons People Who Grew Up With A Toxic Parent Have The Strongest Relationships With Their Kids
Growing up with a toxic parent shaped my thoughts on parenthood in a profound and seemingly unshakeable way. I didn't want to become the toxic parent I had survive so, in an attempt to ensure that wouldn't happen, I was adamant about never becoming a mother. Then, of course, I changed my mind and had a baby. While my outlook on motherhood and my choice to enter into it changed drastically, my commitment to never becoming a toxic parent, didn't. I might have used my past as a reason why I never wanted kids, but now, having a toxic parent is why I have the strongest relationship with my kid.
Everything I learned as the child of a toxic, abusive parent (every painful lesson that was forcibly taught through mental, emotional, verbal and physical abuse) has made me a better parent to my son, and ensured that the relationship we have will never mimic the broken relationship I had with my toxic parent.
Of course, this isn't to say that only people who grew up with a toxic parent have strong relationships with their children. Having a less-than-desirable childhood is in no way a prerequisite for successful parenting. However, when you grew up with a toxic parent, you are so passionately adamant about creating a childhood for your kid that was better and safer and, simply, more loving than your own. You want to give them everything you never had; you want to experience a close parent-child relationship that you never had a shot at experiencing; you want to ensure that they see you as a trusted ally, a loving parent and a constant source of support, instead of someone to fear and, eventually, resent. You will fight for all of these things for your kid, because you didn't have them yourself.
Which is why these eight reasons people who grew up with a toxic parent have the strongest relationship wit their kids, exist. Just because it happened do you, doesn't mean it has to happen to anyone else, ever again.
They Know Respect Isn't Earned, It's The Default
The idea that one human being should constantly vie for another human being's respect, is ridiculous. Everyone should be respected, regardless, and if someone does something to lose that respect, well that's one thing and hey, it happens. Respect always (or should always) be there, from the very beginning and without question. Growing up with a toxic parent, I was forced to constantly try and earn that parent's respect. It wasn't enough to simply be who I was (their daughter) I had to work for that specific parent's love and affection; a situation that has negatively affected me in numerous ways and for countless years.
It also made me acutely aware that respect is something that can be lost, but never something that should be earned, as it is an inherent part of being a human being. Yes, even (and especially) your mini-me.
Their Love Is Unconditional
Conditional love isn't only harmful and unhealthy, it's arguably a love worth discarding entirely. A parent's love should be unconditional, but when you grow up with a toxic parent, that type of love is rarely experienced (regularly, or otherwise). You're only lovable if you do this or believe that; if you don't make a mistake or wholeheartedly agree with that toxic parent; if you're less like yourself and more like them. It's a great way to teach your kid that they're unworthy, whereas unconditional love establishes a healthy sense of self and self-love while simultaneously reinforcing an already strong bond between parent and child.
When you know what it's like to hear someone say, "I'll love you, if...," you can't wait to tell someone, "I'll love you, always."
They Refuse To Repeat The Past
If you grow up in an abusive environment with a toxic parent, you're three times more likely to repeat the cycle of violence, abuse or toxicity, in adulthood. The statistics can seem daunting, but people who grew up with a toxic parent can also be acutely aware of all the things they must do to break the cycle, and they're more than happy to do them. They refuse to put their child or children through the pain, fear, and confusion they experienced. They'll think twice before acting when they're overwhelmed or frustrated or angry.
Ongoing Communication Is Vital To Them
There's an untold number of benefits to establishing open lines of communication between yourself and your kid, but creating a safe environment is definitely high up on that list. When your mini-me feels confident that they can always come to you to ask questions, bounce ideas off your brain, admit something they're afraid to admit, or share a story they're excited to share, you're reminding them that you'll A) always love them, B) never judge them and C) always consider their voice worthy of an audience. Those are three simple yet powerful pillars of a parent-kid relationship that every kid should have but, sadly, not ever kid gets to experience. People who grew up with a toxic parent, are going to make sure that their kid is the former.
They've Learned How To Manage Their Anger/Frustration
A toxic parent can come packaged in a variety of ways; abusive, condescending, absent, violent. However, regardless of what a toxic parent does, anger and frustration are arguably always at the center of their unhealthy and detrimental behavior.
It's obviously easier said than done, because parenting is frustrating and even the most adorable, most loving kid can make a parent angry. Still, someone who grew up with a toxic parent (and knows what unabashed and unbridled anger can do to a kid) will work towards establishing a healthy way of managing their emotions, so they can successfully work through their (very valid) anger and frustration. Are we perfect? Absolutely not, and I'll be the first to admit that we all make mistakes and "lose it" just like anyone else, but we also know the difference between discipline and abuse; we know the difference between justifiable anger and violent rage; and we'll always do what is necessary to stay in control.
They Listen To Their Kid(s)
Most toxic parents aren't going to stop and listen to their children, let alone value their thoughts or feelings or opinions. Having grown up in an environment in which my voice wasn't only ignored, but stifled and made fun of and put down, I can tell you that people who grew up silenced, will be quick to listen to others (especially those they care about the most). Just because your kid is young or naive or incapable of completely understanding a specific concept, doesn't mean they shouldn't be given a platform to express themselves.
People who grew up with a toxic parent are going to listen to their children when they say they're scared or say they're not hungry or say they're not the gender they were assigned at birth. They'll listen when they feel uncomfortable or when they feel excited, and they won't downplay those feelings simply because of their age.
Power And Control Aren't The Most Important To Them
The underlying cause and/or reason for toxic behavior, is almost always the acquisition and continued control of power. Whether it's in a romantic relationship or part of a family dynamic, toxic people are quick to take all the power from any situation, hoard it, and solidify their ability to control the people around them. When toxic behavior is observed from this point of view, it can almost be somewhat understandable. (It's never okay, but you can follow the breadcrumbs and see where things went wrong. Sort of.) When you're a parent, feeling out-of-control is easily one of the scariest, most unnerving and horrific feelings imaginable. We want to have the final say; we want to do what we can to protect our children; we want to know how the story ends so we can prepare our children as best as possible. But when that need for control becomes too overwhelming, toxic (and often abusive) behaviors rear their ugly heads. We can't (and most importantly, shouldn't) control everyone and everything, regardless of intentions.
Which is why someone who grew up with a toxic (probably controlling) parent, isn't going to consider absolute power the end-all-be-all of parenthood. No, they're going to work with their kid by listening to them, respecting them, setting healthy boundaries and yes, making some decisions. They'll also be acutely aware that there are some decisions your toddler should make, some things you can't control, and many instances in which you must simply sit back and have faith in your parenting skills and, most importantly, your kid.
They Want To Give Their Kid Something They Didn't Have
At the end of the day, that's what parenthood is all about: giving your kid(s) better than anything you've experienced. I remember looking at my friends and their fathers, beaten down by jealousy because they had a relationship that I didn't, and couldn't, experience. I wanted to be "daddy's girl" and I wanted to be the "apple of his eye," but I wasn't. I never will be. Now, I get to see my son grow closer to his father every day, living in a happy, healthy, toxic-free environment. Now, I get to give my son what I never had: a safe and memorable childhood.