Dysfunctional parenting creates dysfunctional childhood, and a dysfunctional adult. In turn it shows up as a dysfunctional parent. Effects of dysfunctional parenting are far more insidious and long lasting than we think.
Most of my therapy clients find that their dysfunctional behaviours, addictions and relationship issues emanate from childhood especially dysfunctional, unmindful and unkind parenting. Unfortunately this parenting style is unconscious and gets passed on from one generation to another, undetected. Only showing up as genetic ailments and negative traits like greed, corruption and lack of empathy or conscience. Sometimes a child will over compensate as a parent trying to distance itself from those memories. This might create a narcissist or simply put a brat. Over protective parenting creates a delicate child unable to handle harshness, grit and monotony of everyday life. Such an adult would eternally want to remain a child. Running away from responsibility. Of life, work or relationship. Some children got attention only when they were unwell or in trouble, so such a child will like stay in problems, and ailments, instead of making empowered choices towards complete cure. Often they are forever in therapy or under medical care.
Parents who are controlling in the name of discipline, and abusive under the guise to anger problems. Humiliation, domination, abandonment, criticism, obligation, belittling, fear, shame, guilt-tripping and intimidation are common tactics in dysfunctional parenting. Children learn by observing, even though they hate being treated badly, they end up treating others or themselves the same way. As a rule parents teach by not what they say, but what they do, as how they behave. That makes parenting such an important role. Unfortunately most parents are unconscious of their behaviour and it’s impact. Often dysfunction is not intended rather is systemic, part of the family system, showing up family scapegoat.
Sometimes parents are absent, physical, emotionally or spiritually. Numbed out, unemotional or cold parents make children dysfunctional later on. Looking for love, in surrogate parents all lifelong, the neglected, or abandoned child repeatedly keeps getting disappointed. Self love is the road of freedom here. Some children are burdened with unfilled or rampant ambitions of parents, and they live life parents designed for them. Feeling empty, saddled by vanity of such parents, they become perfectionists, gradually ruining not just their relationships but also their health.
Often well-meaning and sometimes passive-aggressive parents, train a child to be family flagship or mascots, nice boy or good girl thus caging the child in a perpetual stereotype. Suffocation and self-repression ensues. They remain people pleasers, running after mirages.
Some parents are self-absorbed, leaving children to fend for themselves. With no sense of boundaries or values. They only bother about their social image and privately display dark traits. Many parents keep the children from making independent choices; as a result they never develop a choice making mechanism. Many such parents never allow their kids to become independent fearing they would lose control, they keep them subservient.
Physically, verbally or emotionally abusive parenting makes children equally violent or angry adults and sometimes more. Or they will be vulnerable to rewounding in personal relationships so remain distant or aloof, feel safe in introversion. Violence and fear are learnt behaviour. And can be unlearned. Sometimes extreme neglect and abuse just like over pampering turns child to a brat even a narcissist.
Self-destruction is common symptom of the products of parenting which slowly destroys the spirit of a child through domination. Then there is sexual abuse, which makes disastrous impact on sexuality and adult sexual relationship.
Children cover up, hide and distort their life story to make it palatable, but wounds remain.
It’s tough for many to unlearn and learn to reparent oneself through unconditional self-love. But Inner Child Healing offers a solution of empowering the inner self one choice at a time, through mindfulness.
However, the healing journey of a hurt child ends in accepting the flaws of a parent. Instead of expecting or pushing them to change, meeting them where they are, helps us find peace. Just as forgiveness does. Two powerful tools in healing. Some people aren’t able to get out of their darkness, hurts and thinking patterns. It’s ok.
Do not try to be a idealistic here. We may be supposed to love back our parents unconditionally even though they didn’t. Be unconditional, but safe guard yourself. In case a parent is toxic. We have to be practical and do they best we can, as they did.
Text & photograph © Abhishek Joshi