As Britney Spears once sang, "Don't you know that you're toxic?" You might be a toxic parent and not even realize it it! Toxic relationships come in all shapes and sizes but every single one stems from our first relationship, the one we have our parents. (And no, they aren't caused by a failed romantic affair that left you sobbing on the bathroom floor because you couldn't understand why he didn't just love you.) So ask yourself. Are you dooming your children's future relationships with your own toxic parenting style?
1. It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No! It's a Helicopter Mom!
It's hard. You made these little precious lives. They look up at you with those sweet baby eyes, and you're hooked. So why can't you swoop in and clear up every little problem before they suffer for even a second? You're mom. You're dad. You protect them. THAT'S your job, right? Sorry to break it to you, but nope. Yes, your kids need to know they are loved and protected. But they also need to make mistakes. Your job is to mold them into the wonderful people you know they can be. Susan Forward says in her book Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, "Over-controlled by anxious, fearful parents, these children often become anxious and fearful themselves. This makes it difficult for them to mature." So solve all their problems for them today, and you'll most likely find them living in the basement during your twilight years, and you'll still be taking care of them, instead of them taking care of you.
2. You're a Big Girl, Take Care of It Yourself. I'm Busy
Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are you giving your kids too much space? Some people are blessed with children who seem like tiny adults and who give their parents the impression that they've got it handled. And yes, you want to let little Bobby Sue fall and realize she can get up on her own and try again. But you also need to make sure you're providing a home environment where she feels safe, loved, and cared for. When you aren't involved enough, or worse dismissive, Bobby Sue could quite possibly feel unworthy of love and might carry that baggage into every future relationship she embarks on.
3. Momma Needs Her Alone Time (ALL the Time)
Self-care is important. You can't take care of anyone else if you're not healthy and happy. And it's also essential for your child to learn that lesson too, so you should set the example. But are you taking this a little too far and becoming an uninvolved parent? If little Mikey starts to notice that everything and everyone takes priority over him, you might be dooming him to a lifetime of feeling like everybody else and their needs come before his. If mom and dad didn't care enough to show him how important he is, why will he?
4. Let Mommy Tell You Why You're Always Wrong
In an age of participation ribbons, we might be creating an army of little ones who can't handle living in today's world. Sometimes in life, we don't win. And, often, people say no. This is a lesson that children need to learn and figure out how to cope with. And constructive criticism is important, sure. But swing too far and criticize everything, and your sweet 'ums could end up living in fear. Fear of doing things wrong, fear of rejection, fear of living. You will have created people who are afraid of their own shadow, and that's no way to live.
5. Of Course You Want To Be a Star! I Did...
If you're reading this, you probably aren't one of those parents who thinks your own life is more important than your child's. You know sacrifices are to be made. But don't let forgotten hopes, wishes, and dreams lead you to live vicariously through your little ones. Just because you loved tap and jazz, doesn't mean your kid does or will. Let them find their own passions and support them as best as you can.
As has been said by countless parents throughout time and around the world, kids don't come with an instruction manual, and even if you read every book on parenting out there, you're bound to make mistakes. But as long as you keep trying with your child's best interest at heart, that's really all you can do. Even if you do follow this advice and become the perfect parent, at some point in their lives, your kids will hate you and blame you for everything that has ever and will ever go wrong, nonetheless. It's basically a rite of passage, so just do your best as a parent and love your kids as much as you can.