Too many children grow up in toxic families. This can be detrimental to their mental and emotional health as adults in the world. As parents, there are things we can watch out for in ourselves to prevent a toxic family upbringing in our homes. 

There are typically considered to be two harmful levels in a toxic family upbringing that cause damage to a child’s psyche. 


The first level is psychological abuse.

Psychological abuse comes in many shapes and sizes. It often comes from the parent-end of things. It can come in the form of:

  • Neglect
  • Threats of Violence
  • Allowing your child to witness violence or aggression between you and your partner
  • Withholding Support, Love, Attention, Guidance, or Needs
  • Being Over-Controlling
  • Infantilizing
  • Punishing Rather Than Disciplining
    • Toxic Punishment is when the child is being punished while there is no lesson to be taught
  • Overly Harsh Criticism

These things can often be a reaction to an external source outside of the family; it is imperative not to take it out on your family. While we may get angry, stressed, anxious, distraught, or even depressed, when it comes to how we treat our children, patience is KEY! These behaviors can cause permanent damage to a child’s emotional and mental health, and we may not even realize the full impact it has on them in the moment. Children pick up on a lot more than we give them credit for. 


The second level of a toxic family is deniability.

Have you ever sworn you could remember that your friend or partner borrowed your hair tie, and they deny ever touching it? Most likely, they just forgot they borrowed it. But still, the feeling of KNOWING you gave it to them, and them having no clue what you’re talking about can drive you absolutely crazy. You start to doubt yourself and your own memories before long.

This feeling is amplified when it’s actions someone took against you.

Often after the parents display psychologically abusive behaviors, they would rather deny they ever happened than take accountability for their actions. They may also deny they were doing anything wrong by doing so. They could act as if their behaviors are normal behaviors in a parent-child relationship, which couldn’t be more wrong. This traumatizes the child again, making it a two-level process. When the child experiences something, and knows what they experienced, having an adult tell them it wasn’t as bad as they remember it, can be really damaging. The child questions their own recollection of things, as well as their own self-image at times. They can also question their expectations of a parent-child relationship, which leaves them afraid to discuss things with you, and can break the bond between child and parent. 

As hard as it is after an outburst, the healthiest and most responsible thing to do is take accountability for our actions. And on top of that, being willing and able to admit when the actions we took were wrong and inexcusable. Walking our children through the impact of psychological abuse is a lot more helpful than denying it’s impact or calling it a normal behavior. An open conversation and an apology begins the path towards both healing and forgiveness. 


If you grew up in a toxic family upbringing it leaves you emotionally helpless as an adult. 


Parents typically want their kids to lead better lives than they did. Sometimes, it is easy to follow the patterns of our parents, but if you grew up in a toxic family upbringing, it is time to break the chain. 

As our children grow into adults and functioning members of society, we should be encouraging positive mental and emotional health habits like:


Let’s encourage our children as they grow and watch out for any potentially psychologically abusive behaviors and nip them in the bud as soon as we notice them! 

Here’s to Happy Families = Happy Lives!

To Read More about this topic, check out: But It’s Your Family by: Dr. Sherrie Campbell