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Toxic People Affect Kids Too: Know the Signs and How to Explore a Little Deeper

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Toxic People Affect Kids Too - Know the Signs. Then Explore Deeper

We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first.

Sometimes that means letting them know when we don’t support something an adult in their lives has said or done and giving them permission to close down to the influence of those who contaminate their self-esteem, their happiness and their self concept. It’s not always easy or possible to withdraw from a relationship, but with our support they can minimise the influence and impact of those broken adults who might otherwise do harm.

Toxic relationships are ones in which someone’s own negative behaviour can cause emotional damage or contaminate the way a child sees himself or herself. They can lead to anxiety, depression, physical illnesses and feelings of isolation. Children can end up blaming themselves and feeling guilt or shame. Even if there is something about our kids that needs a little bit of a nudge in a different direction, any behaviour that makes them feel less than or ashamed just won’t do it. In fact, it will do damage.

We all have an inner voice. It’s the one that tells us how we’re going, whether we’re good enough, how we think the world sees us, what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right. When an adult is toxic, the risk is that the inner voice of the child will pick it up and make the words their own. Children are born awesome. Our job as the adults in their lives is to make sure they know this and to minimise the effect of anyone who might influence them to feel otherwise. When children feel stupid, slow, naughty, troublesome, untrustworthy, incapable or silenced in response to the comments of any adult in their lives, it’s time for us to be their voice. 

We adults will get it wrong sometimes. On some days, we’ll get it so wrong that it will feel like ‘right’ won’t want anything to do with us for a while, but kids are savvy and seem to know the difference between a bad day, a bad mood, bad timing and something more enduring and targeted. Our kids will look to us for confirmation and validation of what the world is telling them. Though it’s important to support the other adults in their lives as much as we possibly can, when there is an adult who is causing them harm or responding to them with bad intent, it’s equally important for us to let our children know that we don’t support that adult’s behaviour. 

Toxic people can come in the form of teachers, coaches, relatives, parents (their own and the parents of others) and friends. The only thing anyone needs to be toxic is a mouth. The potential is in all of us.

Adults should be a source of support, safety and trust for children. At the very least, they should do no harm. When they are a source of shame, anxiety or stress, the risk to the child is too much to allow it to keep going. Though it’s important to provide our kids with the opportunity to be resilient to difficult people, part of being resilient is knowing when to draw a bold heavy line between our self and another. Kids need our permission and our guidance to being able close down to people who scrape against them continuously.

This doesn’t mean that we withdraw our support from every adult who makes a decision that we or our children don’t like. We’re all human and life disappoints us all sometimes with plenty of decisions that go against us along the way. Part of becoming a successful adult is learning to bounce back from these with the capacity to sustain relationships through disagreements and disappointments.

A bad decision or a difficult relationship isn’t necessarily a toxic one. The line can be a blurry though. Toxic people are usually masters in the art subtlety and skilled at staying just behind-the-line-but-not really-but-kind-of. Fortunately, children are often skilled at picking up on when something – or someone – feels bad. I’m not talking about the cranky teacher or the day they get blamed for something that isn’t their fault. I’m talking about ongoing behaviour that feels shaming, belittling and ‘bad’. Kids might not always talk about it because they won’t always have the words, so it’s up to us as the adults in their lives to notice the changes in them and to listen when they try to tell us that something isn’t right. 

The Signs.

Kids won’t always be able to say when something doesn’t feel right, particularly if it’s in response to an adult whose authority they’ve been taught to respect or whose intentions they’ve been taught to trust. The first sign that something isn’t right might be in their behaviour. Here are some things to watch out for. Remember, you’re looking for changes from their normal:

  1. They seem withdrawn. 
  2. They don’t want to go to somewhere they previously had no problems going (e.g. school, soccer, dancing). (Remember that you’re looking for changes from the norm. If your child has always had trouble saying goodbye at school drop-off, that doesn’t mean there is someone there that they are having trouble with. What’s more likely is that they’re a little bit anxious about leaving you.) 
  3. They cry more easily than usual, or more often.
  4. They have a lack of energy. 
  5. They aren’t as interested in the things they used to enjoy.
  6. They have unexplained tummy aches, headaches or other pains or illnesses.
  7. They’re clingy.
  8. They’re aggressive or more cranky than usual.
  9. They seem worried more than usual.
  10. They seem more controlling than usual. (When there is something that feels out of control in one part of their lives, a normal response is to try to take control over other things.)
  11. They’re treating their siblings differently. (They might treat younger people in their lives the way they feel that someone is treating them.)

Now Explore a Little Deeper. Have the Conversation.

If you suspect there is somebody in your child’s life who is causing trouble, have the conversation. Here are some questions to guide you in your chat with them:

  1. So – if you had to say five people you like being around, who would you say? What makes them good to be around? Is there anyone who doesn’t feel good to be around?
    Start with something that’s easy to talk about so your child will (hopefully!) feel relaxed enough and engaged enough with you to speak about something that might be more difficult.
  2. Would you say they’re mostly good to be around or mostly bad? What makes it so? How do you feel when you’ve been with that person? 
    Look particularly for how your child feels about him/herself. Remember the danger of toxic people is damage to the self-concept.
  3. What do you think that person thinks of you? 
    Adults don’t have to like everyone and they don’t have to like your child. Regardless of how an adult feels though, it’s critical that any negative personal opinions are kept away from the child. An adult might disapprove of a certain behaviour, but the child should always feel supported and liked regardless. This needs to be conveyed verbally as well as non-verbally. It’s not enough for an adult to say, ‘But I’ve never said anything bad.’ Good. But what about the non-verbals?
  4. What does that person think of other kids?
    If your child says this person is grumpy with everyone, there’s less chance that the things the adult says or does will be taken personally, which minimises the chances of doing damage. If your child says the adult is fine with everyone else but doesn’t like him or her, then that sound you hear will be alarm bells.
  5. Does this person treat you the same as the other kids or a bit differently? If differently, how?

These questions are more for you. Your child might not be able to answer them directly but they are important ones to consider. The answers might be more likely to come up through observation, passing comments or in direct conversation with the adult in question …

  1. Is your child’s feelings towards this adult different to their feelings towards other adults?
    If there are a few adults the child feels like this about, it may be a symptom of a broader problem, rather than one problem person. Is your child misinterpreting? Taking things personally that aren’t intended that way? Acting in a way that’s problematic?
  2. Does the adult exclude your child from activities or give your child less opportunities than other kids who are also under the adult’s supervision or care.
  3. Is the adult quick to blame the child for their (the adult’s) own behaviour, mood or feelings?
  4. Does the adult lack empathy towards your child and fail to understand why your child feels or behaves as he or she does?
  5. Does the adult often find fault with your child?
  6. What is it that the adult does that causes distress to the child?
    See if you can get a handle on exactly what it is about the adult that upsets the child. It may just be that the adult has a loud voice, or a way of speaking that sounds more abrasive than is intended. A measure is whether the adult does this with everyone or just your child.
  7. Does the adult interfere with the child’s opportunities?
  8. Does the adult pathologise your child and try to convince you, (or particularly in the case of a parent) health professionals or the child they there is something wrong with the child?
  9. Does that adult do anything that undermines the child’s capacity to cope or their belief that they can cope (with whatever)?
    This and the previous are perhaps the most toxic of toxic behaviours and are often at the hands of a parent, particularly in divorce of separation. In this case, the adult (typically the parent) will actively tell the child they won’t or can’t cope with a situation. They will give the impression that they are doing this for the child’s benefit. The adult may interfere with the child’s relationships or attempts to try new things – ‘to protect them’. In more severe instances, the adult may seek for the child to be medicated (unnecessarily). The true effect of this may be to deepen the child’s dependance on the adult and to undermine the child’s potential for independence and growth. This is most often done to interfere with the relationship between the child and the other parent.

Kids are born with a beautifully intact sense of who they are. As the adults in their lives, it’s up to us to see to it that their self-concept stays as dent free as possible. Of course there will be scars and bruises – they’re an unavoidable part of learning and being better, stronger, wiser and braver, but when deeper cuts are made into that self-concept, the damage is harder to repair. Sometimes it changes people forever.

As parents, we are told to support teachers, coaches and other adults in the lives of our children and this is true – to a point. What’s more important is supporting our own children in drawing the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to other people. Sometimes that means openly naming unacceptable behaviour. When did it ever become more important to support an adult than to protect a child?

I’m not talking about openly speaking out against a decision that neither you nor the child like, or behaviour that might have gone against what you would prefer. There are plenty of times to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it. What I’m talking about is the behaviour that does damage. It can be a hard line to draw, and given the finesse with which toxic people have mastered the art of subtlety, it can also be a blurry one. Remember this though – you know your child, and you will know when something is changing them – the way they are, the way they see themselves. Trust yourself to know when something isn’t right. If it feels ‘off’, then it probably is. 

We can’t stop toxic people coming into the lives of our children. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as wrong. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to adults should never be used against them by those broken adults who might do harm. 

Our kids are amazing. Let’s do whatever we have to to keep them that way.

(This article was reprinted with my permission on The Good Men Project.)

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85 Comments

Kgetsi

I believe my children experienced Environmental toxicity at school. The daughter , a 10 year old, started to no longer enjoy school. She would develop tummy aches or headaches just when we were supposed to transport them to school. She even asked to be withdrawn from the school at end of the year. At first we thought she simply wanted to go to a new school whose open day she went to with her mother and one of her school mates. But it was when she said that she would be comfortable with any other school we chose for her, that we reslised there is a problem. We couldn’t figure out if there were issues with the brother, a 5yr old.
It turned out that the school managing director was divorcing the principal for the school’s administrator. At times the tensions found their way into the classroom where the husband and wife would argue about using their child’s educational gadget for school purposes, in front of other learners. We decided to withdraw the children from the school despite the stipulated ‘full term’ notice period. Well, they’re expecting us to pay the fees for one term as a penalty next year and it doesn’t sit well with us seeing the toxic environment that they exposed our children to.

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Sherry

At least it didn’t come from the home. School was my only escape from the emotional and mental abuse and a father who constantly degraded and talked bad about our mother to me as a little girl .. what fhe hell did he expect me fo do aboit his shortcomings .je always talked bad about her about sexual like he felt like he wad screwing a cold fish in bed . Im reality this was a reflection on him as a man because he didn’t have fhd intelligence to know how to turn on a woman …as like he was setting up us kids go alienate our mother against us three kids .. I was always ashamed and embarrassed of him being a man and father.. I never was emotionally connected to h because he was always detached and disengaged to all of us…

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Sidney

I have always took pride in parenting my son. I love him so much and show him daily how wonderful and special i think he is.
I am a single parent and find it second nature to show love to him in everything i do for him.
He has regular contact with his father and routine and consistency is part of our life with him staying with my mom and his dad alternate weekends including weekends at home with me. Which my son looks forward to.
My son is now 11 and he is very sociable, enthusiastic, kind, happy go lucky and popular at school.
When he was younger and he misbehaved i would put him in time out. Later i would find my photographs faced down. Then he would rip photos of me from the age of about 4 .As he got older,he would hide my belongings when he was angry with me.
He is now showing signs of anger when i ask him to do something and its been brought to my attention at school when the teacher asks him to do something too.
He went out to play with his friends on his bike and i noticed he wasnt wearing his helmet, so i asked him to come in and put it on . My neighbour told me He responded very agressively saying to his friend ” i hate my mom she is a fucking bitch” his friends reponse was “thats not nice at least your mom cares”
Now its escalated this year. We were playing a game of monopoly and i said to him before the game that i was expecting an important call and that we may have to pause the game for a while. He seemed ok with that. When the call came it took 20 minutes. I Returned back to playthe game and had a lovely evening. In the morning i woke up and noticed my gym ball was deflated, after questioning him in a calm manner trying to understand , he told me he was so angry that i took the call, that he went into the kitchen took a knife and stabbed my gym ball. I was speechless. i took his playstation off him for the day.

When i ask him to tidy his room he secretly smashes things.
The latest thing is i noiced my knickers wet outside , found it stange but never thought anything until Christmas day. After what i thought was a lovely morning his father came to pick him up as he does every year to spend part of the day, then he meets me at my moms for Christmas dinner later on. i took the bin out to find my sexy white nickers with poo in them outside on the grass. I later learned after my son repeatedly denying it was him and his father saying he wouldnt do such a thing that when he finally told the truth. He told me he was chilling out and i had asked him to wash up he was so angry he went into my underwear drawer put on my knickers and deficated in them and then threw them ouside.
I cant tell you how hurt i am. He didnt even seem angry when he washing up. The other knickers i found he admitted he threw out the window were because i asked him to take out the bin.
I am devasted and i dont know where to turn too, as his father feels i modicoddle my son. I thought you couldnt love your child too much. I feel out of my depth that all i do is show love to my child and he could do this to me. My father said i am too soft on him. I feel i am firm but fair.
I also see this as a blessing as this has came to light for a reason. I guess he needs help with his anger as he is internalizing his feelings and emotions.
I feel i have to now adjust the way in which i parent, and i dont know how? He has stayed at his fathers since boxing day and i feel lost without him but feel i need to process this and that i need time.
He starts secondary school this year i feel afraid as he gets older he could possibly harm me in an act of anger. I honestly thought we had a close and loving mother son relationship.
I feel we need time apart as i need time to heal butvi am concerned at how he is dealing with this and how he is feeling. I have spoken to him and thanked him for telling me the truth he said he was sorry and that he loves and misses me. I told him i love and miss him too. I feel one more week at his fathers will give me time to get a lock on my door and find the best way forward????

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Sidney it might be really helpful for you and your son to get some outside support from a counsellor. It’s not unusual for kids at this age to push against their parents, but if this is at the point where you are worried that your son might hurt you, it’s important to see what’s driving that for him. I know how difficult it is not to take the things our kids do personally, but there are so many reasons kids do the things they do. The important thing is to get to the bottom of what might be driving his behaviour and help him to manage it in ways that will strengthen him.

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Dana rowney

Dont want to write a huge answer but trust me whwn i say back off him a bit. Get councling for yourseld. No your not a bad mom but i think some times moms can over do it because tgey want to do it all perfect. Hes obviously very angry and frustrated. My mom was on top of helping me do everything. Including twllung me how to play with a ball. She had lits of energy and im sure a better mom than i am but i think you need to give him space. Let him feel like hes not being controlled as much because those sound like things i so would have wanted to do to my mom but feared my dad way to much. Trust me im making my own mistakes and i also addore my kids. There good kids. Way less nerotic than me. Just a suggestion.

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Cody

Why was dad limited to weekends only with child? Was he not a good father? Did he not want to be with the child more than weekends only? With all the love and support why is the child so angry? Something isn’t adding up.

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Alexandria W

You can’t love your children too much but you can let them get away with things to the point that they become a sociopath. He needs consequences to his actions. Consistently and they need to match in severity with whatever it was that he did. You said you took Playstation away for a day? That is just going to show him he can get away when the things and set it up for him to be really irritated with the mild things you do try the do. Be careful, he will last out at the change of disciple but it’s for the best. You don’t want an adult with violent tendencies who lacks empathy. Not a good combo

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Alena

I’m a single mother of an 11 yr. old boy and 16yr old daughter. I’ve been divorced for almost 3-1/2 years and I’ve been in a relationship with someone else for the past 1 1/2 years. My son and my daughter do not like my boyfriend. I try to understand them and see why they don’t. I think my son thinks my boyfriend is to controlling or always calling my name to see something or do something. There have been some incidents were my boyfriend said that my son acts retarded. My son has been son disrespectful towards me and my boyfriend. At one time, my daughter called him a name. My boyfriend hates the way my son talks to me and he gets on to him about being disrespectful and said that if it doesn’t change, then he’s going to leave the relationship. Last night my son was crying b/c my b/f had called me while I was in the middle of something and my son feels that my b/f always aggravates me. At times, he does, but it’s nothing overwhelming. Sometimes I think my kids could be a little jealous, but my b/f hasn’t done anything to them. He does try to have patience with my son when he’s acting out, slamming doors, talking back, acting silly and just being disrespectful. Maybe me and the kids should seek some type of counseling, b/c we didn’t receive any after my divorce.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

I think counselling would be a really important step for you and your children. The important thing to remember is that what they feel is what they feel and it’s important to listen to whatever is behind those feelings. If your boyfriend has called your son retarded, it’s too far. It’s grossly disrespectful, and is the sort of thing that kids understandably have a hard time forgiving and an even harder time forgetting. Your boyfriend had no business doing that, whatever your son was doing. Kids are kids and they mess up sometimes, but as an adult, it’s for your boyfriend to keep control. Of course, we adults aren’t perfect and we’ll get it wrong sometimes, but there needs to be a conversation around that and definitely no excuses for the behaviour. It’s important modelling for the kids. Any name calling must stop. There’s no excuse and it’s abusive. Your kids deserve better. If this is the way your boyfriend talks to your son, why are you surprised that your son doesn’t speak respectfully to your boyfriend? I’m not saying it’s okay for your son to speak disrespectfully – it’s not – but it’s understandable in the context of being spoken to in the same way by your boyfriend.

It’s really important that your boyfriend stays out of exchanges between you and your kids, and also leaves the parenting to you. He doesn’t have the relationship with the children to have the influence or the respect, and for them, it will feel intrusive and controlling. It sounds as though there is something your children need from you that they aren’t getting. If they are jealous, that’s a valid feeling, so it’s important to explore what might be driving that. Are they spending enough time just with you without your boyfriend? Are they feeling your protection when your boyfriend mistreats them by calling them names? Does your boyfriend respect that there are times when you are with your children that he needs to not interrupt you? When you get aggravated at your boyfriend, how does that play out for the kids?

It’s always difficult when new people come into the family, but it’s important to understand what is behind the way the children are feeling. They might be scared of losing you to him, they might feel as though they have to compete – there could be many things going on for them. Counselling can really help to unravel some of this for you. Here is an article that might also be helpful. It’s about stepfamilies and the things you need to know to understand the struggles that sometimes happen when other adults come into the family https://www.heysigmund.com/being-a-stepparent/. I hope this helps.

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Kiki

My daughter attends an alternative private school and has had the same teacher since 1st grade. She in now in 6th grade. She used to love her teacher, but now expresses anger towards her. I have long known that the teacher has a favorite student (who is not my daughter), but it has never seemed to bother my daughter before. Lately all the students in the class dislike the favorite student and are sick of the unfair treatment. Also, the teacher’s moods are always changing. My daughter doesn’t know if she will be mean or nice on any given day or moment. Sometimes the teacher acts nice, but her tone and facial expressions say something else. My daughter is a very perceptive 12 year old. She knows her teacher is “mean underneath” and thinks its wrong that not everyone is treated the same. My daughter loves her class and school, but I am worried about the effect her teacher may have on her. I support my daughter in expressing any feelings she has about her teacher. I have involved administration. My daughter does like her teacher sometimes, but doesn’t trust her and has a lot of anger at her. She says she is “too powerful” to stand up to. Please help!

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

It can be really difficult for children to find their voice with adults, particularly adults in a position of authority. Until then, you might need to be her voice. If the teacher’s behaviour is affecting your daughter in unhealthy ways, (and if a change of teacher isn’t possible) it would be good to work with the teacher on this. Try to have the conversation with the teacher in a way that the teacher doesn’t feel under attack. Let the teacher know that your daughter is feeling unsettled in class, and as though the teacher might be disappointed with her, and whether there is anything your daughter needs to do differently to change the dynamic. Let the teacher know that you want to sort it out (add some positives if you can), and that you are open to the fact that your daughter might need to do something differently, but you need to understand what that is. This will open the communication, and lower the likelihood that the teacher will feel under attack and respond in a way that is worse for your daughter. It will also flag that there is an issue that the teacher needs to be aware of in a way that minimises the possibility that the teacher will feel under threat. It might be that the teacher is doing something that is damaging for your daughter, but as long as the teacher is still with your daughter, it’s important to minimise the possibility that the teacher will respond in a more harmful way towards your daughter.

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Adela

Saturday night we had a discussion my husband and i , I’ve always told him, “You should never sned my child mad or you get mad at my child at night ir eating time. ” But it seem he went off on her 2 secons after i told my child . Its time to go brush your teeth. After i went to her room and consoled her, and she fell asleep. I went off on him and he brought up his daughter(step daughter 22 yrs) old, blaming me why she would not come around. I told him, before i came to your life you already had these issues with her wanting to run away pregnant. That is nothing to be bkame on me. I told him i have never stopped you from visiting her or her coming over. I have not been in spoken words with him, i dont know what to do, whether to leave him or tell him straight out, you have an issue with resenting your daughter and your ex of 18 years together.

Help help please. I want to make sense of this.

Adela

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Eleny

Me and my husband are together for 19 years (9 years in marriage and 10 years before that). We have two children: a girl 8 years and a boy 6 years. My girl is like me positive, inteligent, motivated and my boy is inteligent, but he wants to arrgue all time whit his sister. Somehow he is like his father who has many problems whit our private business and is very offen nervous, don’t speak at home and don’t communicate to much at home. Our son is arguing with his sister all time don’t give her anything, also he did not give to kids at kinder garten, too. He don’t want to talk with me about that and When I try to teach him that he should not have to argue with his sister he doesn’t want to hear me and tell me stop, stop, don’t tell me I will do what ever I want, you want tell me what to do.

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Michelle

My kid’s aunt is toxic. Uses exclusion and silence to intimidate others. I had to take her out of the equation in order to remove the stress from my kid’s lives.

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Luzmaria Nunez

I have two stepdaughters and their biological mom is a very toxic person. When she had custody of them she would physically punish them, neglect them, wouldn’t dress them nicely, keep up with health needs like doctor visits even when they needed it, and my oldest would not pick her up from school but let her walk alone even though she was unemployed. Whenever she got mad at their dad she would refuse to let them see them and even sometimes regardless of a court order. On december 2014 after fighting with her spouse over his affairs(thats what the court said happened) she tried to commit suicide in the home while my two stepdaughter and her other daughter she had wit this spouse where in the home. When I first met my youngest she was 2 and a half and didn’t speak. She was also nowhere near potty train, She was a constant thumbsucker. It was the way she coped. My oldest was an emotional mess as she didn’t know how to react. When I first met her she cried, but then liked me. When the incident happen she was just really scared. She would have really bad anxiety and show signs of depression. She would constantly say her head hurt or her stomach. She started to get therapy with us for the trauma for the event and for sexual that occurred when she was 7 in the care of her biological mom. In the time of the incident she was 8. In the sexual assult that took case she was sexually abused by her aunts bf who lived with them. When she first told her mom, her mom didn’t do anything about it, not until she told her dad. In the report when taken to the hospital it says when her mom was asked why she had waited to bring her in and her mom said because my stepdaughter was too embarrassed. In the end my bf/their dad received custody. We have lived together for going on 3 years. However, their mom remains a toxic person and idk how much more I can take. I feel so powerless. The toxicity is years and since she hasnt changed even after everything. She would constantly talk bad to my oldest about her dad and tells her its not ok for her to hold a relationship with me. She hates that they called me mom and when she found out she would try to discourage them. Of what I know she does spank them but I hope that is really as far as it goes. I personally dont approve of spanking and neither does my bf.We asked her to not to it but we go ignored. Her siblings would also gang up on my children negatively. Their aunt/sis of mom would make my daughter cry when she would take care of her while her mom work when she was spending her weekend with her. She would tell her that she just wanted her to see that her dad was the bad guy. Her uncle as well as her aunt would also spank my youngest. Sometimes my youngest would suffer as well when improperly clothed, at the least it has gotten better. She would send her in ripped or dirty clothing. Once she was wearing pants ripped at the crotch and had no underwear on. She would also for some time not bathe them when in her care. I stopped sending them in clothes, shoes, etc that I have bought them as I will not get them back or she would determine that. Twice has she switched the little ones shoes. One was in winter she had pink leather cat boots and when we picked them up she had her with flip flops with socks. My oldest said it was because they couldn’t find her shoes. I asked her to please just bring them back next time. When she asked her mom for them she said if I wanted them back I have to ask her for them. I never got them back. She claims she is the good parent but has been not organized with her visits for the past year, would be later or as once she acted as she forgot when she was suppose to pick them, she would cancel, or in the summer want to stick them with her mother who visited from mexico. In the beginning we would try to be reasonable giving her options we didn’t have to and being very flexible in our part, but we refuse to anymore. We decided we are only giving her what is asked and going exactly by the court papers. She started to tell our oldest who is 10 now that we are making it hard for her to see them. She says she has to fight us to see them which is not true and how so if there is a court order from visitation. She also doesn’t pay any child support. At the moment for my youngest who is 5 I worry so much for her. I worry how she is emotional development is being affected and behaviorally. She only acts out with her biological mom but can sometimes over carry. The other daughter her mom has fake cries a lot, hits my daughters, and throws tantrums. My youngest mimics this behavior. My oldest knows this is not the way she should act or be so it grows tension between them. The little one disrespects her and gets away with it in their mother’s home. Sometimes my youngest would say the oldest hit her which will result in my oldest getting punished meaning “spanked”. My youngest still sucks her thumb. Do know I have tried everything from hot sauce to band aids to biting bracelet jewelry, to mittens for nigh time, nail polish, and at the moment just ordered her some gloves from etsy she can wear it school. She just started kindergarden and its holding her back. My child is so smart but the thumsucking is hurting her succes. She has stopped or slow down at times but then it picks up as her mom says that she can and can stop when she wants. She won’t allow my oldest to say a word to her about it or she will be punished. I already took her to the orthodontist but then cant take action til 6 months. I also worry cause a five year old should be having break downs. She has told me her biological mom spanks her and hits her hard. That she doesn’t like. My little one has difficulties sometimes focusing, expressing themselves, and not fidgeting. I feel shes gotten better but I wish I knew how to better help and what can I do. Sometimes their biological mom talks aggressively to my oldest of what I know when they have argued. At times telling her to shut up and that she is right. My little one recently started to use words like that. How can I protect them. There’s so much that would take me forever to write. A while ago I started a letter as I was upset and I got to 8 pages. I haven’t continued as I work as a full time assistant teacher and sometimes babysitt. In my other time I am with spouse and daughters. How, If you can, can you advice me.

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Melissa

I really needed an article like this to help make me realize the decision I made to cut out a toxic parent out of my families life is the best decision I have made. My daughter was friends with a girl in her grade. Something happened and within a week they were no longer friends. I asked if my daughter had done anything wrong and was never specifically given an answer.
Over the years the mother of this young girl has had many conversations with other parents of children in our community. They haven’t been very enlightening conversations about my daughter. I have had many people tell me how she speaks of my daughter and it’s never in a positive light.
Something happened at a party and the mother decided to contact me and tell me what a rough time her daughter has been having and she does not need to speak to my daughter ever. I agree. They don’t need to speak to each other but they do need to get along at a child’s party for the sake of all the other kids there. No one should feel they have to pick sides. My daughter excluded herself so she wouldn’t ruin the party.
When the mother contacted me the whole conversation was her talking about how hard her daughter has had it this year in school and then to tell me how my daughter has no self-esteem and the reason she believes this is because of her relations with boys. I’m sorry. When did she follow my daughter around to know what she is doing with boys? She ripped my daughter apart during most of the conversation. I did not say anything about her daughter at all. Does she help with the rumors and gossip of young kids in school? I always say if you help spread rumors and gossip you are part of the problem not the solution.
I unfriended this mother on facebook. I let her know that I would no longer be friends with her on facebook after what she had said about my daughter. I feel that I am in the right here. Why should anyone be allowed to speak about someone else’s child is this manner, let alone to the child’s own mother. Who is she to decide my daughter has low self-esteem?
I often feel guilty at first, thinking a made a quick gut reaction. But this time I feel free. I feel like my daughter and I can finally move on in peace.
We will still see each other due to school and sports, however, I don’t feel I need to be friendly. I feel I should protect my child. We can be cordial to each other but our daughters will probably never be friends but there is not reason for animosity among all.
Am I wrong for feeling this way?

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Rebecca

I feel i may be doing something wrong. My Ex husband constantly shares his issues of his toxic relationship to my children (of which I had no idea he was sharing this with our kids) He usually calls me to vent. I’ve told him several times to pls stop sharing this with me. But he continues. Due to the issues he has i feel very uncomfortable letting my kids be around him and his girlfriend. According to him she has burned his clothes in their arguements, there is personal items damaged, basically verbal, physical and emotional abuse. He has tried to hurt himself more than once. Yet he chooses to continue to be in that relationship. Based on the information he shares i do not feel safe letting my children be around them. He is adamant about bringing our kids around his girlfriend. Am i being the toxic parent for not allowing my kids to be involved? Please advise.

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Karen Young

Rebecca I can hear how confused you are about the situation with your ex husband and your children, but it’s impossible for me to advise you based on the information you’ve provided. There are so many variables here, including the ages of the children, how they are making sense of it, whether or not they feel safe, how they feel about their relationship with their dad, whether the fighting happens in front of them or away from them etc. The important thing to remember is that your children only have one father. They might have other men in their lives who love them, but they only have one dad. As much as possible I think it’s important to support that relationship and work on ways to make it safe and nurturing for everyone.

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Mary

My daughter just asked me what to do about her boyfriend of 4 years who is the father to their 3 yr old and 1 yr old boys in dealing with the holidays. My daughter also has a 10 year old daughter. The boyfriend treats my granddaughter much different then his own boys. He calls her names, makes fun of her and seems to constantly bother her, he is a good father to his boys. He has even woken my granddaughter up one night to tell her that her natural father is a loser, and some other terrible things. My daughter has tried many times to tell him about his hurtful behavior and now has other family members watch my granddaughter when my daughter works. I have suggested family counselling to them but they have not gone and now my daughter has shared that she is done and is leaving him. What should I do or say?

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Abigail

I feel like i let my son down because I let him go over to my husbands parents house where my husband’s mother has always acted very strange she came and picked up my husband on Valentine’s day and told him to divorce me and when I found out I was pregnant with my son in the first place she tried with her family to bully me into an abortion to murder our son in the womb with her equally crazy partner who called me up and told me while I was pregnant with my son that me and my husbands relationship was unimportant while she listened in the background Anyways I am a kind person everyone says that about me and I decided to give them chances well i let my son go over there and eventually while I am there she’s with my son on the patio with a 13 ft pool in the backyard he’s two years old and I see them outside together and then just she walks in by herself I run out side in a panic to where she has left my toddler near the pool by himself and she tells us it’s not a big deal because it was an accident! We thought she had changed then it happens again when he’s three while I’m over there again! She left the door open to the pool than walks out to the garage where and my husband are I yell where’s my son and run back in to find the door to the pool open and him by himself! Near the door! Then she slips out and says it’s only happened a few times he’s gotten out there by himself it’s not a big deal! and each time was an accident! So it’s not a big deal I am just floored she works in a hospital so does her husband who’s an RN I’m asking myself is this even real so after that I put my foot down Roman was only allowed over there with a babysitter who is pre med because my son also has a feeding tube temporary from prematurity so essentially I have to pay a babysitter to watch the grandparents and my son at the same time whos 20$ an hour and the father in law says oh it’s your choice we could of easily watched him! Are u kidding me I’m not going to let my son accidentally die because of these people because before the pool incidents even Roman kept coming home with huge bruises on his head caused by my husband’s mother that also weren’t a big deal to her she said oh it’s normal for toddlers to have bruises on their head all the time I said yes it’s normal if they cause them themselves not when other people cause them from when she dropped him and left a drawer open that he ran into and she didn’t see it because she was showing someone her knife collection with a three year old running around and she doesn’t even think anything is wrong with that and neither does her husband it’s terrifying that they think this way and then expect my son to still be under their care and the other time she tripped my son on purpose because she was annoyed he was running around with his toy car so she purposely tripped him on to hard stone floor he had a huge bruise with a huge bump he was throwing up violently it hurt so bad and it was the mother in law’s birthday and she goes oh now my birthday is ruined because of Roman I feel like these people are insane and then Christmas comes up they buy my son my husband and the father in law’s dad an iPad and tell me if I wanted one I have to buy my own and then two weeks later of my husband asking repeatedly where is Romans ipad my husband’s mother says it’s Ray’s now her husband because he decided that he wanted it after Roman had been using it to watch his you tube shows now Ray the husband decided he was going to just take it from a disabled three year old I feel so disgusted that this would happen to my son and then they the inlaws lie and tell everyone around them that me and my husband are crazy etc and that we are somehow in the wrong it just sounds like insanity to me and my son is only three and a half and nonverbal do u think I should get him counseling because these people never one time even called me to let me know when he had been on the porch by himself or gotten a bruise who knows what else they have done to him do u think counseling is appropriate thanks for your time he is never going around them ever again I feel like this is the only solution for his safety -AS

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Karen Young

The best thing you can do now is to make sure he is never with them without you. If your son is not showing any outward signs that he is struggling, I wouldn’t think he would necessarily need counselling. Kids can move through trauma if they have the love and care of a supportive adult to help them feel safe and strong. There is no benefit to him in looking for ways he might have been affected if he isn’t showing signs that he has been affected. You are right to protect him from any further risk that may come from any adults in his life not understanding what they need to do to keep him safe when he is in their care. It sounds as though he is in very safe and loving hands now.

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ML

The deliberate setting of scenes for an accident is very creepy, and something familiar to me from my inlaws. At first I gave them chances and accepted the “it was an accident and nothing happened” excuse, until I noticed a definite pattern. I think two factors at play with my inlaws were a) love of drama, particularly getting to be at the centre of drama whatever the cost, and b) they could not be wrong, so therefore leaving a toddler in a dangerous situation was kind of a challenge, to show they could do what they wanted. The clue to me that it was seriously toxic behaviour was that there was never any sincere apology, and only concern for their being right, no concern for the child’s safety. I think you are right to never leave your son alone with them. You may find looking up discussions of grandparents with NPD or other personality disorders helpful.

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Ads

I am from Asia. Divorce is rare here but my wife and I are divorced. We have two kids who live with my sister.
Only two years back I was able to overcome my alcoholism. Despite suffering severe bullying at the hands of my then employers, I had money to spare. So I asked my teenaged children if they wished to come and live with me. My sister who is emotionally needy did not want to let them go. She wrote some mails to my abusive ex employers twisting many facts to portray that I talk inappropriate sexual topics to my daughter. Even those abusive ex employers did not believe those allegations but they often used them to needle me.
I left that job a year later but my career has only been going downhill. I really feel more sorry for children than myself. But I find it so tough to merely hang in there. But I know I have to

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Drunk Wiz K

Hi, I have a very difficult situation and decisions to make. I had a whirl wind relationship with the father of my kid. We both just decided to have a kid since my biological clock was ticking. So I didn’t really get to know him and his family all that much until I had to stay home and stop working and be a mom. It was a very difficult birth between life and death for me and my kid. 3-4 months into recovery my partner took a call and told me it was a family and good friends and that he might need to get them a grocery run and I said are they really that broke? And he said they don’t have a car and so I said they couldn’t afford a cab? All these didn’t really make sense until we went on holidays and thought I left my phone at my aunt’s car so he lent me his phone and I accidentally ran into a girl’s messages and connected the dots. My trust was broken. And since I was breastfeeding it was very inconvenient to be waking up at every feed time so I tried taking my baby to our then room when the baby started crying he was so mad he punched the headboard of the bed and walked out of the room because he has really bad sleep problems. It was very traumatic for me and my kid so I started just sleeping in my baby’s room to save us from troubles. Which then now turns to be still a problem I couldn’t sleep train him now that he’s toddler because every time my boy cries his father would rage into anger screaming and yelling, calling me names and threatening me that he’d call protection services because I’m letting my kid cry it out to get him sleep trained. He is very manipulative and our relationship has gone downhill from then on. Then a work acquaintance wrote me one day telling me how she was trolling on tinder and found the father of my kid’s picture along with some nice introduction about himself and what basically he’s looking for, where he works with some pictures. Being the second time didn’t surprise me as much. When I confronted him about it. He told me he’s looking for a new fling and relationship and wanting to get rid of me and so someone else new can watch my kid for him. It is absolutely disgusting just the thoughts of it someone he doesn’t even know himself would watch my kid for him. Then we started having more issues that includes his dog being really really protective of him almost bit me and then lunged and almost bit my kid on a separate occasion. Nobody was trying to hurt the dog. He almost bit me because it took me a while to help him up the couch and as soon as his owner said something while I was still holding him he lunged at me with serious intent to bite. I was shaking. Then my kid was just starting to take his first steps then he got to the couch where this dog was licking him like no tomorrow when my kid got to his father, he took my kid’s hand out where the dog was licking it gave the dog the wrong message so he lunged at my little guy and his father was quick to pull him out of the situation. There was no actual bite but this was traumatic enough for me. Then this dog was also not home broken properly that it was a complete struggle for me to do the child proofing. The dog leaves poop piles anywhere convenient and good places for him in the house. With my kid starting to explore and put everything in his mouth, I asked that I put gate on the big bedroom and the baby’s room because that’s where he used to lay poop pads so the dog thinks it poop safe for him. He never liked any of the idea that he had to close bathroom door, gate on his bedroom he violently tore the gate apart out of rage. And dog proofing under the bed he thinks I’m the crazy one for thinking about the safety of my kid. And the list goes on and on and all these acts of complacency does not give me confidence about having him handle the kid by himself. He does not know how to handle stress. He grew up with ADHD and sleep problems and still on medication for anxiety. We were at the airport once and I was holding the kid and few other things so I made him fold the stroller. He was in absolute panic looking at all the passengers getting on board while he’s still trying to figure out the stroller. He eventually got it by pulling random things. When he claimed our stroller it was missing the handle that cradles the car seat so we had the dilemma between catching the next flight and looking for the missing part while he’s pushing the stroller i noticed that the arm was actually latched on to the car seat from his not focusing on the task. And if I didn’t pay attention it was missing the arm I’d drop my kid. Like he did at home. He was pulling on random things and I nearly dropped my kid going thru the bump because he had the arms loose. The other week he left the transparent jug of orange juice filled with gasoline because almost every night he invites friend or friends over if he was not to party out with them. I nearly passed out myself when I tried to check what’s on it and smelled it. He left it right next to the kid’s picnic table. Then another day I found his anti-anxiety medication lying on the floor behind the couch. He told me it was safe because it was behind the couch. Then I showed him how to secure and buckle up the kid and told him the kid really needs to be snug with the straps on properly done. He told me I was hurting and squishing the kid’s genitals and that’s why he didn’t want to be put on the car seat. Nobody ever likes car seats but I’d rather squish the odd child balls than have him brain dead or with broken spine in an accident, the doctors might not be able to fix. So then the other day he buckled up the kid, good thing I checked because he left the chest buckle right down on the kid’s tummy. He would be flying off the car seat in a second in case of an accident. All these seemingly harmless mistakes can be very fatal to my kid. I don’t get any financial support from him not even a penny out of charity since I had to stay home to care for the kid. So I’d have to get back to work soon but work would be long shifts and may require a move out of town for few months. He won’t allow me to move with my kid even with the offer of regular visits back and forth. He does not support any of my personal goals. And I don’t feel like my kid can be safe with him and he has very very sharp tongue. He doesn’t have control over the f words and some really hurtful words in front of the kid and his mom come in and relentlessly blame me for everything and harass me call me mentally and emotionally unstable because of my concerns for the safety of my kid. I have no personal support close by and I have been emotionally battered trying to stand up for myself being my kid’s advocate. He won’t go on counseling and didn’t think he has issues. There is also a lot of alcohol in the house and not a day without a beer pile either under table under the bed or in the fridge. I am so worried about the over all well being of my kid under his care if we go separate ways and his safety and the influences he’d put my child under.

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JW

My daughter suffers from anxiety and some medical problems, which she can become tired, angry easily. She had two girls that she had been really close to, and they used to have playdates and do a lot of things together until recently, all of a sudden my daughter is not being included in the playdates or being invited to do things anymore. My daughter is already in counseling and it is helping her, but she is having a hard time understanding why she isn’t included anymore. I don’t know why she isn’t being included because the parents of both girls will say to me, we need to get all 3 them together but then make plans and not include us. And when they do see each other at birthday parties the other two girls basically ignore my daughter and hang out together, it’s like she’s become the 3rd wheel and not wanted and she’s starting to notice it.

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Jessica

I’m fixing to be 36 in December and my dad always says mean things to me like I just got married today and my daughter video taped are wedding and I showed my dad the video and he said that I reminded him of alfred Hitchcock. I’m a woman and my dad well also call me a roadblock because I’m at he constantly picks at me and makes insulting comments and he belittles me and bullies me and makes cruel jokes about me.

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Paulina

I have a different case my daughter is very, very pretty I often get stopped by people taking Pictures of her or indulging her looks. I constantly reinforce the beauty is inside not out from your looks and at home we have teach her this. I protected from exposure to this situation because is uncomfortable for us, I don’t want my child to grow with stigma of been the beauty queen, is just not I want my child to become. I have focus on sports (she is a great surfer) and she loves her guitar classes but her music teacher says she has an amazing voice and now we are in the dilema of just let have vocal classes. And why is our dilema now she is 10 a lot her classes mates are very jealous of her but also parents. I just can’t see why people focus on her and her achievements. It almost feel I have to put her down or not let her be good at what she is great, just to be accepted.

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