How to Handle a Toxic Parent

by Claire Raymond 6 months ago in advice

And why it’s not selfish to put yourself before them

How to Handle a Toxic Parent

People seem to have this idea about parents, that they’re protective angels who would do anything for their children. And whilst those parents do exist, sadly, they don’t seem to make up the majority. More and more people are realising that not only are their parents not the selfless protectors they should be. They are in fact selfish, hurtful narcissists out for all they can steal. But what can you do if one (or even both) of your parents are toxic? How are you supposed to have a normal relationship with people who care more about themselves than they ever will about you? 

The first thing you need to do is to be able to recognise toxic behaviour. When it comes to parents, the child has often been exposed to the behaviour for so long; they see it as normal for many years. It’s only in adulthood when they are able to take a step back, they realise that their behaviour was far from nurturing. 

Signs of a toxic parent include:

  • Being excessively critical
  • Putting their feelings and problems before yours, even in times of crisis for you
  • Not allowing you to express negative feelings
  • Wanting you to fix their problems or bail them out all the time
  • Making cruel jokes about you
  • Telling lies behind your back
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Attention seeking
  • Being unhappy when you are successful
  • Blaming you for their problems
  • Not respecting your boundaries

There Is No “Normal”

First things first, get the idea of normal out of your head. There’s no such thing as a normal parental relationship, a normal mother or a normal father. Everyone’s parents are different and everyone’s relationship with them is different. What works for some people won’t work for others and some people will tolerate behaviour others wouldn’t dream of allowing. So don’t focus on what other people are doing. You need to worry about you, not them. You need to do what you feel is right and not what other people say is the right thing to do. 

It Doesn’t Matter That They’re Your Family

People will tell you that you should get over things and look past them because “he’s your father” or “she’s your mother, you’ve only got one.” But people like that were blessed with kind loving parents who actually cared for them, they didn’t actively set out to hurt them like yours do. And why should being related to someone mean that they get away with such damaging behaviour? You wouldn’t let your colleague or a friend do it, so don’t let your parents do it either. 

Don’t Try To Change Them

They’ve been like this for a really long time, you’re not going to change them. And when you realise that, it is like a weight being lifted from your shoulders. You need to accept them as they are because only extensive therapy can change them and even that isn’t certain. 

They’re Not Your Responsibility

If your parent is mentally or physically unwell then yes, it is your responsibility to take care of them. But there is a massive difference between being unwell and unpleasant. It is not your responsibility to look after someone who doesn’t need help, they just need attention. Running to their aid or entertaining their weekly drama only fuels their behaviour and drags you down. 

Be Careful What You Say Around Them

Even if it’s not said directly to their faces, they will still use things they hear you say against you. And don’t share any information you don’t want them to know. It’s horrible to think that you can’t trust one or more of your parents. But the sad fact is that if you’re reading this, you probably can’t. So just be careful what you say to or around them.

Stop Trying To Please Them

Their manipulation is so underhanded that your need to please them will be deeply ingrained. But you have to stop trying to please them because deep down you know you never will. You know that they will always be critical of everything you do. Live your life for you, not for them. 

Avoid Them As Much As You Can

Dealing with toxic people is incredibly stressful, and it’s even worse when those people are your parents. There is something very depressing about this kind of behaviour coming from someone who is meant to love and nurture you. And the best way to deal with it is to avoid going anywhere near them. You don’t have to cut all ties, but limit your visits and always plan your escape well in advance. 

Claire Raymond
Claire Raymond
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Claire Raymond

I have been a writer for 14 years now, I'll figure it out one day.

See all posts by Claire Raymond