Toxic Parents and How They Infect Children

Toxic Parents and How They Infect ChildrenIn this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the ways that the toxic relationship of two parents infects children.

First a quick update:

“Dealing with toxic friends”
What is a friend, a real friend? Did you know there is a method to view your friends – three types of friends? And why do “women congregate, even if there are undercurrents of envy, jealousy, and competition in the relationships”?

Follow me on Twitter– You can now choose to follow me and receive a few words of wisdom on Twitter: @Behavior_Expert

“Self-Love is anti-Jesus?”
One man wrote to me to condemn me for teaching self-esteem and self-love, arguing that it is contrary to the principles of the Bible. However, it isn’t contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Watch the video:

Now, let’s talk about the ways that the toxic relationship of two parents affects and infects children.

A reporter recently interviewed me for my expert insights into the ways that toxic parents damage their children.

Toxic means that something is poisonous.

A toxic relationship refers to a relationship that is poisonous to one or both partners, and in the case of parents, a toxic relationship (or a toxic parent) is poisonous to children as well – to their development and sense of self and self-worth.

Before revealing examples of toxicity in a marriage, it is critical to understand that children are egocentric. Simply put, the child believes that he/she is the center of the universe: the universe revolves around him/her and he/she is the cause of everything that happens in his/her universe, including the relationship between his/her parents.

Now, let’s look at some examples of a toxic relationship between two parents:

Arguments: verbal, emotionally intense arguments which involve screaming, shouting, cussing or insults. Arguments will occur in a relationship. However, the way you argue and the way you resolve the conflict will determine whether or not it is toxic to each other and to the children.

Loud, angry, raging and insulting verbal arguments can traumatize children and negatively affect their social and neurological development. The younger the child, the greater the fear they have of loud noises.

Physical arguments: smashing, punching walls, breaking or tossing objects. Again, these actions create fear within children and the child can subsequently respond by becoming withdrawn, isolated, anxious, depressed or angry, thus leading to acting out or self-destructive behavior.

Physical/sexual abuse: the abuse of one parent by another also traumatizes the children and creates a complex list of emotions and behavioral responses. The child naturally and almost innately desires to help and protect the victim of the abuse. Accordingly, the child will feel helpless, powerless and hopeless because he/she cannot stop mommy or daddy from being abusive to each other. As the child grows up, he will most likely copy daddy’s abusive behavior and will be subconsciously angry at the abuser and at himself for not being able to stop the abuse. Chris Brown, the famous singer, says he wanted to “take a baseball bat” to his step-dad who used to beat his mother, and yet, when Chris grew up, he copied his step-dad’s abusive behavior as well as his step-dad’s rage.

Substance abuse: the use and abuse of substances by one person changes the demeanor, personality, temperament, mood, behavior, and thus the subsequent treatment of his/her spouse. That change can result in abuse (in its many forms), emotional and psychological isolation, no time & energy for the child, and emotional uncertainty and instability for the child. For example, children of alcoholic parents often grew up with anxiety, fear, inability to trust, and the desire to control because their world was always out of control during childhood.

This behavior could also fit into the category of verbal toxicity: constant criticism, judgment and condemnation of one another. The child will copy the behavior of the parent who is either the most dominant or the parent with whom the child relates to the most. In other words, the child will either copy the mentally abusive parent and repeat that behavior in adulthood or, the child will copy the submissive parent (the recipient of the abuse) and will become submissive (a people-pleaser, fearful, anxious, isolated or without a voice.)

A lack of affection, withholding love, selfishness, manipulation through guilt throwing and ignoring the needs and desires of the partner/spouse are all toxic to the marriage and toxic to the children. If you are selfish, self-absorbed and you treat your partner as emotionally invisible, your child will learn to do the same as an adult and will seek an adult partner similar to your spouse and will repeat your behavior.

Here are 3 more ways that parents infect children

Emotional incest
This refers to what is deemed to be an adult relationship between parent and child, along with sexual tension. In other words, the parent and child behave more like a couple, more like a boyfriend and girlfriend than a parent and his/her son/daughter. Emotional incest does not involve sexual relations but rather an undercurrent of sexual tension and body language and potential touch which is not suitable or appropriate for a parent and child.

The child grows up to find that he/she cannot break away from the bond with the parent and either runs away from relationships or fails in relationships.

Emotional/psychological feeding off your children
The role of a parent is to give and provide everything that the child needs to realize his/her full potential. However, many parents, often single parents, expect the child to fill and fulfill the emotional and psychological needs of the adult, the parent. The little child, such as a 4-year old, is not the man of the house, nor is he your source of adult emotional needs. He/she cannot be your confidante, best friend, support or constant companion. Why not? First he/she is a child and does not know or have the capacity to meet your adult needs. Second, he/she will never develop his own individual identity and will always feel responsible for you, for your mental, emotional and psychological health. He will struggle to have a healthy, loving and fulfilling relationship with another woman.

Emotional feeding
In the same way that a mother breast feeds a child her milk, both parents are constantly feeding their children their emotions. In other words, children absorb your emotions. They feel and experience what you are feeling. When you are sad, the child will experience the same sadness, and, as explained earlier, the egocentric child will feel responsible for your sadness and will want to relieve it. That is an unfair expectation and demand to put on a child.

Thus, without denying what you feel, as a parent, become aware what you are experiencing emotionally on a daily basis and reassure and reinforce to your child that he/she is not responsible for your emotions or for rescuing you.

Choose to affect your children in a positive way today.

If you want further assistance, consider a private, one-on-one session with me. Click here to book your session.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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