10 Traits of Toxic Parents Who Ruin Their Children’s Lives Without Realizing It

2 years ago

Psychologists and child behavior specialists can help us tell the difference between ungrateful children from those who have been victims of a toxic influence. For example, clinical psychologists Seth Meyers and Preston Ni explain how the actions of the parents can ruin the lives of their children. On the other hand, raising children is very difficult and no one has the right to be judgemental when it comes to someone’s particular parenting style. But there’s a very fine line between mistakes that parents make and the inappropriate behavior of toxic parents. This article can help determine and handle toxic situations that are harmful to our health.

Bright Side wants to find out what actually affects a сhild’s psyche and how to handle issues between parents and children.

10. “Be afraid of me but love me.”

For toxic parents, an emotional attack is synonymous with love and attention. In such families, kids know how to find out what mood their parents are in by the sound of dropped keys or by the scrape of footsteps. Such children live in constant fear and apprehension. These types of toxic parents often get offended if their kind actions are treated with suspicion. They claim,"I’ve done everything for you and you’re still so ungrateful."

9. “You must deal with adult problems, but you still have no rights.”

In toxic families, parents share their responsibilities with their children. For example, a child believes that it’s specifically their bad behavior that makes their father uncontrollable.

Later, children will get dragged into adult scandals. Teenagers will be forced to listen to their parents’ complaints, adjust to a “complicated situation,” put themselves in their parents’ shoes, help, tolerate, and console. Unfortunately, in these cases, children have no right to express their opinion.

8. “Be the best, but don’t forget that you’re not special.”

Narcissistic parents expect their children to perform at the highest level. However, all of the child’s achievements are taken for granted. Disparaging comments can truly ruin the lives of children because it makes them grow up believing that they’re always a disappointment to their parents.

7. “Open up to me, but don’t be surprised at ridicule.”

Toxic parents force their children to be sincere and sometimes even make them feel guilty if they don’t want to share their feelings. Later, that same information is used against their children. There are 2 ways this can happen:

  • Relatives, neighbors, and other people are all aware of whatever the child has shared with their parents. And the parents really don’t see anything wrong with that.
  • A child gives their parents an opportunity to scold them or to add sarcastic comments.

6. “You’re bad, so don’t even try to become better.”

The lower a child’s self-esteem is, the easier it is to control them. Toxic parents discuss their child’s failures and flaws and, in most cases, they comment on their child’s appearance because it’s one of the touchiest subjects. If there are no “obvious flaws,” they just make them up.

Such parents instill an inferiority complex in their children and they don’t want to see their child try new things and succeed. Toxic people don’t want to have a successful child who demonstrates their willpower.

5. “Improve yourself and forget about your plans for the future.”

Parents want their children to succeed but they don’t care how they’re going to do it. For example, they can expect their child to build a successful career just as long as they never leave the house.

A narcissistic parent will get excited about their child’s achievements for only 2 reasons:

  • They enjoy boasting about their success so that others envy them.
  • Successful children guarantee a better life for the parents.

Sometimes parents just remind children that there’s a huge distance between them and their cherished goals.

4. “Follow my instructions, but blame yourself if you fail.”

In this case, parents treat their child like an object: they make their own plans and expect their children to follow along. By the way, they don’t care about the consequences of having such total control all the time. If something goes wrong, it’s not their fault.

3. “Go away, but don’t leave me alone.”

In healthy families, parents help their kids move out and live their own life. Toxic parents never want to let their children go but they always point out that the house, the money, and the food belongs to them. Any options or objections from the children is ignored in such cases.

What do such parents really want? They want their obedient children to stay by their side!

2. “Accept our help, but stop exploiting us.”

These parents offer something that their children can actually do without but any refusal causes resentment. A child starts thinking, “My parents probably just want some company and want to feel needed.” So they accept the help, thank the parents, and offer something in return. But there’s no happy ending because the parents will always remind their children of that “favor” they did for them.

Kids turn into prisoners:

  • If they refuse their parents’ help. Children feel that it’s rude to decline a relative’s offer to help.
  • In case they accept their parents’ help. Children feel that they should be grateful to their parents for their support and must be ready to help at any moment.

1. “Trust me, but always keep an eye out.”

Private life? Personal space? Neither exist for children of toxic parents.

If you try to restrict access to your personal territory, parents accuse you of distrust. Even your own apartment or house won’t protect a grown child since these types of parents just use emergency spare keys. And their children must always answer all the questions — “Why didn’t you wash that cup?” or “Why did you waste money on that rubbish?” Such parents have no respect for the lives and the personal decisions of their children.

How to handle a toxic parent?

It’s rather difficult to get rid of a toxic atmosphere — even for adults! Nevertheless, specialists have come up with some tips that can help us protect our personal boundaries and save a relationship. First, we have to realize the following facts:

  • We can’t change the past.
  • A toxic relationship is like a chronic disease — it’s almost impossible to cure it so you have to try to avoid any complication.

Recommendations are based on the understanding that each person has their own rights and needs that they shouldn’t be ashamed of. You have the right to:

  • Live in your own house and have your own rules.
  • Take no part in resolving issues of other relatives.
  • Limit access to your territory.
  • Gain your own experience and ignore your parents when they say “I know better.”
  • Manage your resources: money, time, and effort.
  • Choose your personal interests over those of your parents.

We have to remember: these rules are relevant for both “parties.” Children shouldn’t cut their parents out of their lives and take their help for granted.

What was it like for you when you were growing up? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

Please note: This article was updated in June 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
Illustrated by Marat Nugumanov for Bright Side


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i am in the process of lookin for a place to move out to. My friends are very supportive about me leaving for they had seen the effects of a toxic household has on me. I just got home from a work meeting and the first thing my father did was to reprimand me for not eating the food he bought for breakfast, well simply coz i was running late. and it was like a ticking bomb finally exploded! he started to throw low blows at me regardless of who can hear him, my uncle, my mother and the workers at our place.We were in the middle of eating a meal and he just had to throw in more curses at me who was sitting across the table. I wasnt able to contain some of my own frustrations towards him and answered him back in a calm but sarcastic manner..and he started to shove things to the side and wanted to punch me (he already punch me a month before). My mother would just listen to me venting out but ends up tolerating her husband..and tell me to just stay silent and suck it up coz he is still the father. He would start complaining about my attitude compared to my siblings who are already away from home and so i told him to ask them to stay with him instead and so on and so forth. I am just tired..tired of being a doormat child who pays the bills and buys the groceries and care for them when theyre sick and still end up being the one to blame. I HAVE FINALLY DECIDED TO MOVE OUT, ONE OF THESE DAYS BEFORE 2020 ENDS.


my heart goes out to you who has to read something like this on this page.. whatever you are going through, just be brave enough and you will learn that your well being must be your priority. You can still love them, but sometimes, you have to do it from afar to save yourself. Dont wait for your breaking point and for sanity to leave you -- have a firm hold of reality and see if they are still willing to change their ways, however, if your situation just worsens, then it is time to choose yourself and leave. You are not a bad person for choosing yourself and your well being. You are saving that little heart of yours whose going through so much already. You can do it, we can all do it.

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My brothers, ages 16 going on 17 and 1yr, live with my mom who is most certainly not behaving like a mother and has not even in the past. She is mentally unstable in a narcissistic manner. She manipulates, abuses, controls, and has no respect for her children. She has had two knee surgeries separate times but both years ago and has experienced other things in life but uses these as a excuse/crutch to for example wake my brother up in the middle of the night to pass her a bucket to pee in. She has the ability to walk and move but since she sits all day complains of pains in her body. She will sit for days if she can. Does not cook or clean that’s my brothers job. She doesn’t not take care of the baby that’s also my brothers job. She has a job but chooses when she wants to go, she calls out for no reason making up lies about the baby being sick or something. My brother does not get to attend school as he should. She wakes him up by throwing water on him. He cooks her big dinners every night, fish oxtail goat salmon. He doesn’t even get the chance to eat because a lot of the foods he is being told to cook he doesn’t eat. There is never food around for him to eat that he actually eats. He ends up eating PB and J for dinner while he prepares her a full course meal. He also has to make food for the baby well cornmeal which even that the baby isn’t really a baby anymore he is 1 and half and still only really drinks milk she doesn’t care for them. She doesn’t ever want to deal with the baby always passing him off to his older brother whom at this point is TIRED of taking care of everyone. The baby is being shown to slap his brother to wake up in the morning. The things being done aren’t correct and causing my brother a lot of frustration and depression. She doesn’t want him to talk to me because she knows he is telling me what’s going on and she knows I hate it, I had to go thru it and finally got out when I was 19 and til this day she doesn’t respect me as an adult and expects me to live by her rules. I’m 25 now, she still tries to control me and my life from over a hundred miles away. She is mentally, emotionally and physically being abusive towards my brother and it has to stop. My grandmother doesn’t think we should call authorities and neither do I for the sake of my brothers not ending up in someone else’s care. My brother I feel is scared to leave because she makes us fear her, he even had an anxiety attack once while she was away on vacation still trying to control what happens I was there with him he hates it there he feels like there isn’t a way out so he says he will wait till he is 18 to move out. I just know mentally and emotionally and physically it’s not a good idea. She is only getting worse. Not at all better. She plays mind games on him and takes his money. Won’t allow him to work and drive or even use the restroom. She tells him to sit to pee and rushes him while he is pooping sorry for tmi she makes him stop in the middle of doing his number 2 to come tend to her needs like watching the baby or cooking or cleaning....... WHAT CAN I DO. What should I do. I tried talking to her and it’s the same old story she not doing nothing that’s how she was raised and don’t tell her how to care for her kids. She doesn’t even change the babies diaper or make him bottles she must have forgot how. It’s very frustrating and sometimes scary because he gets annoyed and then the baby is crying and he is home alone expected to take care of the house...... He is tired and frustrated, I just need to talk about it.. Im just praying for better.


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