Parenting: 7 warning signs of toxic parents

There are behaviors that label the way we interact with our children as “toxic”. What they can be, where they come from – and how we can improve as parents.

Nobody is perfect, and while we try our best, as parents we make mistakes. Often because we don’t know any better. But also unconsciously, because we may not know it any other way. The dictionary defines the term “toxic” as, among other things, “very malicious, dangerous, harmful, grueling”. This can apply to a role model that society gives us, to a romantic relationship – and also to a style of parenting. Avoiding the following seven behaviors will do nothing but good for your children.

7 Things Toxic Parents Do

1. Not taking children seriously

There’s no question about it: It’s not a good idea to have a coke right before you fall asleep. Or don’t put on a hat when it’s below zero. Or not apologizing for pulling another kid’s hair. But just because we, as parents, have more life experience doesn’t mean that we automatically know everything better. Taking our children seriously, listening to them and putting our trust in them is what makes a valuable relationship. This is the only way parents and children can live together as equals.

Toxic Parents

2. Projecting your own negative feelings onto the children

It’s not always all peace and joy pancakes, mom and dad are allowed to cry, be angry and be afraid. And also discuss this with your children, be open, show feelings. But that doesn’t mean we can dump anger, resentment, or sadness onto our little ones, who probably can’t help it. If we’re angry because things aren’t going well at work, it’s not our child’s fault. Nevertheless, we sometimes treat it that way – adults can often understand and understand that, but children usually cannot. Then, before they blame themselves for Mom’s sadness, it’s better to talk to them about the situation. So that everyone can understand each other.

3. Preventing children from becoming who they want to be

We only want the best for our children: they should not have any worries, they should be financially secure as adults and be able to enjoy a good education. We should be careful not to just focus on what we we wish for our children. If our child is only tormenting itself in high school and doesn’t get good grades, it might not be in good hands there. If your best friend’s kid doesn’t like them, then no one needs to be forced on a play date. And if your son feels most beautiful with glitter nail polish, then he can wear it, no matter what others say.

4. Transfer one’s own interests to the children

Who of us doesn’t have them, the unfulfilled childhood wishes. Whether it was a dog, ballet lessons or a sibling – unfulfilled dreams accompany us into adulthood. And when we are too old to start a football career again or take riding lessons, our children will definitely be happy! Or? Maybe that’s how it is. Perhaps your little ones also want completely different things – making it possible for our children to do what we have been denied is a nice basic idea. But no one wants to agonize through eight years of piano lessons, no matter how proud Mama is. Therefore we should not forget that everyone has the right to their own dreams.

5. Showing little empathy

“Close your eyes and go through it”, “An Indian knows no pain” or “Now pull yourself together”: who rolls their eyes at these sentences? No one likes to open up to their fellow human beings only to have hackneyed phrases thrown at them. The same applies to our children. Even if it’s hard to imagine: being a child in 2022 is something completely different than it was for us back then. What was difficult for us can be – literally – child’s play for our children. And the other way around as well. No matter how succinct the worries of our little ones may seem to us, we must not simply wave them away. Because then they learn that their problems are not in good hands with their parents – and trust dwindles.

6. Be critical beyond measure

Our child gets a hard-won good grade, but it’s not good enough for us? Constantly insisting on what can be done better, looking for the smallest mistakes and making comparisons with other children wears the offspring down. Because if you learn from an early age that you can never be good enough, at some point you may not even try anymore. Or develops a false self-image, constantly underestimates himself, becomes morbidly ambitious. Of course we should motivate our children and not always settle for everything. But: The dose makes the poison. And sometimes you just have to lower your expectations – only to be positively surprised again. Who knows?

7. Only caring about yourself

Me-time, self-care, finding yourself, taking a deep breath: in hectic everyday life it is often not easy to take care of yourself. Despite this, we sometimes unconsciously put our own needs first. Do we go on vacation to Portugal because all family members could agree on it, or because we really want to do it ourselves? Does the child have to go to bed earlier today because it is tired or because we want to be left alone? It becomes toxic when we no longer even notice that everything revolves around us. Because then we neglect the needs of our children permanently. So: It’s better to stop and hug our loved ones. Then we don’t need to have a bad conscience when we retire for an evening with a good book.

It’s better to question things more often than just carry on as usual

Just because someone exhibits the behaviors listed does not mean that the person is doing it consciously, means badly, or wants bad things for their children. We often base our upbringing style on what we know from our own parents. However, we must not forget that times have changed and that pedagogy has evolved for the benefit of our children. That’s why: It doesn’t hurt to keep questioning your own behavior as a parent and not to stop working on yourself.

Sources used: “Self Care Advocates” via


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