By Jennifer Elizabeth Masters
Toxic parents create abusive adults. Parenting is one of the most difficult and challenging, yet fulfilling things we can do in our lives. We can overcome the past by being the adult and changing the past patterns consciously.
Many of us have spent a lifetime healing from the damage done by toxic parenting. When a parent is toxic it may mean years or even a lifetime of estrangement. For me, it meant moving to another country in order to heal the past. I spent years overcoming the damage done by my parents. We need to learn from the past rather than repeat what was done to us.
10 Steps To Develop Healthy Parenting Skills
1. Act like and adult. None of us are perfect. We have to be the bigger person in our relationship with our children. Break the silence after an argument. Make things right, rather than proving you were right.
Looking to build our self-esteem by seeking approval or happiness from our children sets our children up to act as our parents. Seeking approval from our children is an unhealthy behavior.
Be the adult by taking responsibility for your personal self-esteem, rather than trying to receive love from your children. When we place such an adult role on our children, we don’t discipline when we need to. Children need to know when they have not made good choices. They need to know that their discipline is for their behavior and we still love them anyway.
2. Avoid labeling your child to hide poor parenting skills. I recently watched a video of a prominent LA coach blaming her child’s behavior on her ex. Telling a child that they have your partner’s DNA or pathologies sets them up for a lifetime of challenges; it is toxic. A child is a combination of both partners. Telling them they act like their father or grandfather is placing blame.
Instead, address your weak parenting skills. Get some assistance to improve rather than blame. Address your child’s behavior in positive loving ways.
3. Don’t Make Their Life About You. Children will have successes and failures. When they succeed congratulate them. When they fail or endure break-ups and drama don’t make it about you. Don’t adopt their emotional state. Focus on your child, not on you. Allow your child to have the kudos and celebrate their successes. Allow your child to experience the suffering. Their experience is theirs, not yours.
Be compassionate when they experience a break-up or failure. Listen, support and give guidance when asked. You are not your child’s successes or failures. Allow them to have their day in the sun without you basking in their glory or wallowing in their drama.
4. Curb Impulsivity. We all have emotions, we might feel enraged by our children’s actions or disrespect. We need to remember to be the bigger mature person, by monitoring our reaction rather than acting impulsively in response to a situation. We might want to respond with equally hurtful words, harsh punishment or even strike back with physical blows.
Modeling impulse control and taking a little time to come up with an appropriate response or repercussions teaches our children positive behavior, that will serve them well into adulthood.
Are your rules clear? When rules are broken do you have appropriate punishment for your child’s actions? Do you tell your children what the repercussion will be if rules aren’t followed in advance? If your rules constantly change, or there are not clear repercussions, how will your child learn positive behavior? Do you celebrate positive actions and behavior? Or is your focus only on negative punishment?
5. Guide Rather Than Criticize. Children need to be guided and taught right from wrong. They need to be taught how to stay on a healthy positive life path with good choices and decisions. Giving guidance rather than criticism will support your child’s healthy self-esteem. Criticism will destroy their spirit and cause them to give up. Criticism doesn’t “help” it hurts and often causes lasting damage.
Don’t tell your child they are an idiot, stupid or lazy. Don’t tell them they are just like their father or mother. Instead, challenge your child with goal setting which will motivate and give you plenty of opportunities to positively reinforce their great behavior.
6. Children Are Resilient But Very Vulnerable. Children move through emotions quickly. However, we forget that our words and actions impact them forever. Once we say something hurtful, they remember it even if they don’t bring it up again. They may forgive easily and appear to move on, hurtful words can impact a child well into adulthood, causing them years of therapy, or health issues.
My oldest brother is in his 70’s and is still reeling from our mother’s critical words. He blames his mother for his present state of unhappiness. His weight and diabetes tell the tale of his past childhood events on non-acceptance and criticism.
Praise them when they do well on tests, report cards and come in second or third in a race. Encourage, rather than destroy with your words. Remember what you do and say now is leaving a blueprint for their life.
7. Encourage Independence and Responsibility. Healthy love is balanced. Acting as if our child is our lover or partner is unhealthy. We want our children to eventually grow up and be healthy adults. When we smother our children, do too much for them, or catch them every time they fail or fall, live vicariously through them they will never learn from their mistakes.
Don’t allow your insecurity or need to be loved and accepted interfere with your child’s independence and self-reliance. Riding them incessantly to meet school deadlines doesn’t allow them to learn personal responsibility.
Making excuses or running to the school to get your child out of trouble, “My Johnny would never do that!” only sets our children up for issues with authority or the law. Allow your child to succeed and fail on their own so that they know they can make it without you.
8. Avoid Guilt and Shaming. Guilt and shame are the two lowest vibrating emotions humans can have. Guilt and shame lower self-esteem and causes long-term negative effects, cutting your child to the core. Telling your child that you never got to play piano and how disappointed you will be if they don’t play, or make good grades, or make the football team, will create the need for outside validation the rest of their lives. Guilt causes stomach issues and leads to anxiety.
9. Take Care Of Your Physical Needs. When we don’t get enough sleep, eat healthy food when we need it or have enough downtime, we can’t be fully present and rational for our children. When we are tired, we react rather than resolve, we can’t be present when we aren’t present with ourselves. Model self-care for your children and they will learn from your healthy behavior.
10. Model Healthy Conflict Resolution With Your Partner. Probably the most important modeling we can do for our children is to show them how we resolve our conflict. If we model healthy rational behavior, our children learn it by watching, and listening.
If you constantly critique your partner, they won’t respect you. If you put your partner down or abuse them, they learn your negative behavior. If you are having relationship issues, get some help so that your children will be positive reflections of you, rather than the negative reflection of unhealthy behavior.
Children of divorced parents are much more likely to remain unwed or get divorced themselves. If your relationship is abusive, it is likely your children will be in abusive relationships themselves. Your relationship models what your children’s relationships with their significant other will be. Do what’s best for you and your children.
There are many different parenting styles. We learn as we go. Children don’t arrive with an instruction manual. Doing personal introspection and healing helps you be a better parent. Improve upon what was taught to you, each generation on this planet becomes more loving in this way.
Jennifer will be in Atlanta, Georgia at The Inner Space on Friday, June 10th and 11th.
Group Energy Clearing and Akashic Records Reading and Private sessions available on June 11th.
When we lovingly accept ourselves as we are with all our faults and flaws, we have healthy self-esteem.