5 Toxic Things Some Parents Unknowingly Do

Sometimes, parents don't realise that their methods to try and set their child on the right path, may not have the desired effect. Here are five things parents do that can adversely affect children.

By Ashwin Lobo  • 8 min read

5 Toxic Things Some Parents Unknowingly Do

Parents do everything in their power to raise children who are confident and independent, and will make the world a better place. But, at the end of the day, parents are human — they aren't perfect and do slip up from time to time. 

Some of the mistakes parents repeatedly make can, however, have an adverse effect on the development of their child. Unfortunately, most parents don’t realise this. Read on to understand how some of the things parents usually do to help their child can have an undesirable effect, instead.

1. Being overprotective: Parents are concerned about the welfare of their children and fear for their safety. They also do not want their children to face difficulties or adversities. However, some parents take things a little too far. They become overprotective and controlling, and never expose their children to challenges. Overprotective parents usually believe that they are acting in the best interests of their child, which can be far from the truth. Do you treat your child this way?

  • What you should do: Children learn through exploration and experimentation. Accept the fact that it’s okay for your child to make mistakes and get hurt once in a while because that’s an integral part of growing up. Allow your little one a greater role in making decisions for herself and let her fail, at times. Also, be aware of your own fears with regard to your child, as this can help you decide whether you should intervene or not.

2. Being overly critical: Some parents often criticise their children as they want their little ones to do well. However, they forget that finding fault in this manner can hurt their child in more ways than one. It can lower his self-esteem and make him question his self-worth. Children of such parents may even develop anxiety and depression as they grow up. Above all, it can prevent a child from bonding closely with his parents. Do you also go overboard with criticising your child?

  • What you should do: Humans have flaws. Although, it is a good sign that you want your child to improve and get ahead in life, criticism is not the right way to get a positive result. Remember, your child always wants to do better and earn your praise. So, connect with her by listening to what she says. Try to understand what is keeping her from improving or performing up to your expectations, and show her the way. Praise your child for the effort she puts in to encourage her. Nothing works better than positive reinforcement.

3. Constantly nagging: Repeating commands to make a child do something is one of the major irritants in a parent–child relationship. Parents often resort to nagging as they believe that constant reminders to the child about anything he needs to do will produce better results. However, in reality, nagging makes a child feel annoyed and angry. It makes him feel as if he is being tightly controlled. Also, to the child, it conveys the message that he is irresponsible — he may internalise this as time goes by. After a period, the child tends to ignore what the parent is saying. Do you recall how you felt when someone nagged you? It wouldn't have been a pleasant experience for sure. So, would you make your child go through the same experience?

  • What you should do: Instead of nagging your child to make her do something, try to make her understand what you expect and what her responsibilities are. Together with your child, set rules that she should adhere to. Make sure she knows the consequences for not following them. And, keep your expectations reasonable and use encouragement to make your child do something.

4. Demanding attention: Humans are social by nature and have emotional needs. They want to interact, feel validated and so on. Some parents fall back upon their children to fulfil their unmet emotional needs. In doing so, they ignore their child’s needs in favour of their own. Sometimes, it may appear that the child and the attention-seeking parent are bonding well, but this is not so. In fact, the child spends most of his time and energy fulfilling the needs of the parent. Do you think you should be the centre of your little one's universe, when it should be the other way around?

  • What you should do: A deep parent-child bonding is essential, but this should be of a healthy nature. The child’s emotional needs should always get a priority. So, reflect on the relationship you have with your child. If you feel that you're relying on him to meet your emotional needs, try to curb that habit and seek support from the adults around. You can also seek help from a specialist if need be. 

5. Teasing: Family members, especially children and parents, tend to tease or joke with each other. However, when parents constantly target the child with jokes or pass sarcastic remarks, it can turn into a problem. As children are sensitive, a joke or a comment can embarrass a child and adversely affect her self-confidence. Ask yourself, how would you feel if you were to become the butt of somebody's jokes?

  • What you should do: When you know from your child's expressions or reactions that she doesn't like being ridiculed or is hurt by your sarcasm, it is a good idea to stop the practice. If you want to laugh together with your child, you can perhaps crack a joke about yourself. This will teach your child how to laugh at herself.

As a parent, it is important for you to be vigilant with regard to your own behaviour and how it can affect your child. Try to have honest, open conversations and be receptive to his concerns. Create a conducive atmosphere to help your child grow up happily. That is when there is healthy bonding between family members, as well.

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