According to my mother, I was a very obedient child growing up. She told me from my early days, as a toddler, she would place me on a high stool to feed me. I was afraid of heights and would not budge during mealtimes, so feeding me was always easy. “You were such a good kid,” she would tell me. This used to make me smile.
While most adolescents struggle with an identity crisis during high school and college, I didn’t. I never had to second-guess who my parents wanted me to be or become. Finishing my degree and getting a job that pays were the most important things to them. But the more I learned, the more I questioned. But I was not raised to question or have independent thought. Yet, in my younger days, I really believed that as I got older, my age would defy my parents’ grip on me and my thoughts. No, that wasn’t the case. They owned me. They gave me life. They sacrificed their lives, freedom and happiness, and I owed them.
Somewhere on my personal timeline, I grew up. I started to have deeper, more complex thoughts. I started to stand up for what I believed in. I started to question my parents’ authority. I started to challenge their restrictions and regulations. I started to disagree with their lifestyle and decisions. I grew up, but my parents didn’t grow with me.
My parents did not take well to my independence. You are such a failure. What changed? Why are you so bad? Did we put you in school so you’d turn out this way? Why are you this way? What’s wrong with you? How dare you? You’re not allowed to do that or think that. Why must you make my life so miserable?
Toxic parents do not know how to handle, appreciate, or live with their children’s independence. They need to feel needed. They need to have control over their children’s lives and thoughts. They need to continue to make decisions for their adult children. They yearn to feel important and better than their children. They live to criticize their children – but they only criticize out of love, they’d argue.
Children of toxic parents often feel like they don’t have a voice. Their opinions and different mindset is frequently met with ridicule or put-downs. They are often made to feel unimportant, unintelligent, or invisible. They are often compared to others, resulting in a hurt ego and a low self-esteem. And they can feel helpless and may lack personality. They may look for satisfaction in the wrong places and are unlikely able to maintain a healthy and happy relationship.
Even though I’ve started my healing process, I can still hear their voices inside my head. They used to be much louder, overpowering my own voice at times, but they’re only whispers now.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to toxic parenting is that it will continue to exist if you allow it. In order for there to be nontoxic parenting, you need to step up and out of the cycle. Break the habits. Become aware of the habits and mindset that are toxic.
Am I in a toxic relationship? Should I just leave? Do I need help?
So, today was an okay day. I had a long commute home; music was on in the car but I didn’t really like it. I complained a couple of times and the music was changed. Ugh… The sky is blue and the sun is shining – ugh it’s too bright and it’s in my eyes! I just hate it in my eyes. It’s blinding! My seat belt is bothering me. I tugged at it and it is still tight. Ugh… I hate the seatbelt. I complained again. Music was changed again. I complained again; I got water this time. Anyway, we’re home. I screamed. I didn’t want to be home. I’m tired but I want to go out, maybe Target or something, just to walk around. But no…we’re home. I may have complained a bit too much.
I’m now in my room. It’s lonely and quiet in here. My bed looks comfy, but I don’t want to be in bed. I want to go to Target! I want to walk around. I’m not tired enough for a bath or bed. He’s going to let me out soon, it’s going to be dinner soon. Oh, here he comes.
Fish? Why would you make fish on a day like this? If we go to Target, I’ll get chicken nuggets or something. Not FISH?! I don’t want fish. Oh no, I pushed it off the table. Ow. He hit my hand. I guess I deserved that.
And, I’m back in my room. I want chicken nuggets. Ugh. My eyes hurt. I’ve been crying. Why didn’t they ask me how my day was? Oh, my hand hurts. If I screamed louder, maybe she’ll let me out. Ok, that didn’t work. Now my head hurts.
Oh, I’m supposed to say sorry when she comes. Then, I’ll get chicken nuggets.
“What’s wrong with you?” She asked. What is wrong with me? I should grow up. Stop this crying or throwing a fit. People keep telling me I’m growing up.
“I’m sorry, mama.” I said.
We got to the dining room table. There’s chicken nuggets. Yum…I like chicken nuggets.
If I told you that the scenario above is between my husband and me, no one would hesitate to tell me to leave him. I may even get help! But when you learn that it’s a toddler and his parents, all of a sudden the above scenario is applauded and encouraged with comments like, “that’s what I do with mine.” Why?
“Oh you’re being oversensitive. You don’t know anything about parenting, I have 4 kids, I think I know what I’m doing. You just wait until they’re a little older, you will wish you had listened to me. I spanked my kids, I did timeouts, my children are fine. It’s parents like you that raise irresponsible and disrespectful adults. I discipline my children because I love them. Only I love my children this much. I sacrificed so much for them. I gave them life! How could I be hurting them?”
My mother said those words to me when I told her I won’t be adopting her parenting approach. That level of put-down and negativity is what I have been used to. Her toxicity overpowers her love, but I don’t think it’s entirely her fault; her mother said those words to her too. And I’m sure her mother before her, and so on and so forth. My mother loved me in the best way she knew how.
Toxic parenting is passed down from generation to generation.
Toxic parenting is more common than the common cold. But we don’t see it that way, do we? In fact, it can be very difficult for someone to even realize or challenge how they were brought up. Humans don’t like dissonance, and questioning one’s upbringing creates a lot of chaos. How we are raised and what we are taught at a young age leaves invisible traces in our lives; these childhood events and experiences shape our mindset and value system, our confidence and ego, our expectations and needs.
We think we turned out fine, because we were raised to believe so. We think spanking and discipline makes the child happy and respectful, because these thoughts were instilled in us. We were raised to believe timeouts corrected naughty children – that by isolating them, children will somehow turn good. And we can’t question or bare the discomfort that comes with questioning our upbringing because we were raised believing that our parents are always right and there is no challenging that.
Being a parent is the most powerful role you’ll ever be. Don’t abuse your power.
Parenting is not love. Parenting is not discipline. Parenting is a journey, an education. You would think that as a parent, this is your time in life to be the teacher; the truth is, we never stop learning. Parenting is a journey in which you help your child explore the world that you’ve come to take for granted, while your child helps you explore the depths of your inner self. If we spend more time listening to and letting our children be children, instead of correcting their behaviors and aligning them with how we see fit, we can actually enjoy this journey of self-exploration that is parenting.
Positive and gentle parenting focuses on the emotional well-being of a child. Happiness is deeper than a smile on their face, the applause from the numbers and letters they’re able to recite, or whether or not they hug and kiss you. Happiness is the most valuable gift you can give your children and it starts with love, grows with understanding and ends by passing on the torch. For when a child is truly happy, they develop self-reliance and resilience. They grow into confident and capable adults who believe that they have control over their lives. How you treat your children today will affect them and the generations of children to come.
When you practice positive and gentle parenting, you’re also focusing on your emotional well-being. You can’t teach gentle unless you’re gentle. You can’t teach positive unless you’re positive.
After I delivered my first born, I had postpartum depression (PPD). I was never diagnosed. I was battling PPD for about 4 months before it magically disappeared thanks to hormones and being pregnant again.
I never admitted to having PPD until I was about halfway into my second pregnancy; when, as if a switch had been flicked, it just clicked. That’s why I was so anxious, upset, and groggy all the time! That’s why I was unable to enjoy the first tender months of motherhood! That’s why I was crying and irritated so often.
Postpartum depression is real. Just like depression, it can lead to harming oneself or people around us. Earlier this month, Allison Goldstein took her own life after months of battling PPD (see story here). The CDC estimates that 900,000 women get PPD annually (source).
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from PPD, please seek help.
Q: How does it feel to live with PPD?
A: I was overwhelmed with guilt, anger, frustration, and sadness. I couldn’t think straight. I did not have mommy bliss – I did not want to take care of my child. There was an endless feeling of emptiness and because I was unable to feel, I lost my appetite and willingness to do anything. And the worst part is, I knew something was wrong – but I didn’t know what. And it was like a cloud. It was hanging over me. It dictated my life. There was nothing I could do. This cloud made everything so blurry and so distant. I was hopeless. I was helpless. I never had thoughts of harming myself or baby, but I think that if I hadn’t gotten pregnant again when I did, I probably would have become suicidal.
Q: I don’t need help. I can just confide in my husband or family.
A: My husband is my best friend. We talk a lot, about anything and everything. When I had PPD, I didn’t want to talk to him. I forced myself to tell him how I felt, but some things I could not put into words. The one thing that helped, temporarily, was crying. He would hug me and let me cry. And I would stop crying as soon as the cloud came back over me – and I could hear my inner voice saying, “why are you so weak? just get over it!”
In hindsight, I should have gotten help. Someone who was trained professionally could have helped me realize that I had PPD.
Q: I’ll just get over it. I just need time. I just need to keep busy.
A: That was my mindset. I thought that the imbalance of hormones coming off of pregnancy was just throwing me off. The days, nights, weeks and months kept coming and the feelings only intensified. Every morning, I longed for the evening to come so my husband would be home and he could play with the baby. I kept the house noisy with music or TV all day. I did crafts, something I used to enjoy, but it had become a chore. I didn’t want to go outside, I didn’t want the baby to cry and people to judge. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, friends or neighbors, their voices bothered me.
I was withdrawn. I didn’t even know it then. People thought it looked perfect – our life: my baby was adorable and healthy, my husband doting and loving – but no one is to blame for PPD. Not me, not my husband or baby, not my friends. Again, if I had gotten help sooner, I would have battled PPD better.
I don’t have PPD today. I was lucky. I’m using my experience to spread awareness because it can happen to anyone.
If you’re battling PPD right now, please know that you are not alone. You do not have to be alone.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from PPD, please seek help.
Whenever I tell someone I practice gentle parenting, I’m met with a snicker and “I was hit as a kid and I turned out fine!”
What does that even mean? Are you happy? What does being happy mean to you? Are you successful? Is that what being fine means?
Well, I was hit as a kid and I did not turn out fine.
No, people don’t turn out fine from being hit as a child, the cycle simply continues and overtime, we are made to believe that’s what parenting means. We attribute it to culture, traditions. We think it’s okay, it’s the right thing to do. If it’s the right thing to do, then why do you feel so guilty afterwards? Why do you need to justify the action, the discipline? And why doesn’t it take care of the problem?
It doesn’t take care of the problem because it is not parenting. Any form of hitting, threatening, yelling, and screaming is abuse, regardless of your past and upbringing. Abuse comes in many shapes and forms: a husband who hits his wife, a man who threatens a woman, a teacher who yells at a child, or a child who smacks another child. Then why is hitting your children glorified as parenting?
If you want a child to learn how to kick a ball, you’d stand up, get a ball, place it on the ground, gently tap it with your feet so it moves, and say “look, I’m kicking the ball.” Or remember when your little one said “banana” for the first time? It might have sounded more like “baba” or “buhmama”, so you laughed and clapped and said “good job, let’s try again. Repeat after me: ba-na-na.” When you hit your child, you’re teaching him that it’s okay to resort to violence to solve problems. You’re promoting aggression.
Children learn by observing, internalizing, understanding, and mimicking what they see and hear.
Empathize. Rather than hitting or spanking them, try to get down to their level, look them in the eye and actually ask them what’s wrong. Allow them to express their emotions. Help them embrace their emotions. Try to understand their side of the story; or maybe try to see if you can bring any positivity to the situation. Especially with younger children, their growing pains and limited communication skills make them absolutely miserable. Being the parent, you’re the only one they can go to for help and to vent, punishing them will just teach them they can’t come to you when they don’t feel good. Create a fostering environment: realize that the behavior is bad, not the child.
Use words they understand. Think about it, what is nice or not nice, what is good or not good. We understand because we’re adults. But children don’t get this abstract terminology. For example, if your child is hitting you, don’t say “be nice” – instead, say “Your hands are hurting me – ow. Please stop. Please be gentle.” and proceed to showing what gentle means. Hitting your child to stop him from hitting you will only confuse your child.
Never underestimate the power of a hug. As an adult, we have bad days. We unwind with a bottle of wine or a high-intensity workout or just by venting to our spouse and friends. To balance our negative emotions, we look for ways to release the stress. Like us, children have bad days and moments too. They don’t have many options for stress relief; so, they resort to what they know: biting, hitting, lashing out, screaming, acting out, crying, etc. All signs to show they need your attention. What would you feel if someone punched you for being stressed or cranky? The same logic applies to children. Allow them to release the stress and bottled up emotions, given they are not hurting themselves or anyone else, and then offer a hug.
Help your children grow into confident, happy, and self reliant adults by practicing gentle and positive parenting.
I’m not here to debate anyone about allowing children to have screen times. We allow it in our homes, but you do what’s comfortable to you.
Here are the best videos we have found:
- SuperSimpleSongs – this one is our favourite. Catchy tunes, vibrant colors and there is no empty commands (doesn’t tell your kid “good job” even if they don’t do anything).
- LittleBabyBum – Focuses mainly on nursery rhymes, and has adorable graphics.
- Badanamu – fun and funky music, upbeat and does their own original songs. This will definitely get your little ones up and moving! Here’s one of my son’s favorite that gets him dancing and jumping around:
- PinkFong – lots of cars, animals, and dinosaurs. Catchy tunes and original content. Another one of our favorites.
- Gigglebellies – everything is rainbows and unicorns with the Gigglebellies. Lots of animals and nursery rhymes.
- Blippi – for older kids and those who like cars and toys. My toddler loves him; he is funny and fun. Some music, some cartoons. Mainly humans and real world examples.
- Dave and Ava -Very cute bubbly cartoons. They have enough a lot of content and try to make their own stuff. Music is also pleasing.
- ABCKidTV – personally my favorite in terms of artistic. The colors and graphics are great to me. My son likes this channel because they have content others don’t – like older classics.
- BabyJoyJoy – cute and fun take on nursery rhymes. They use bright neon colors and I think that attracts the viewers. My son’s favorite is linked.
- MotherGooseClub – very colorful and we like this because it switches between cartoons and humans.