Raising a child is an extremely challenging and responsible task which requires love and commitment for the well-being of the child. Becoming a parent can be unplanned and unwanted and that is what often has a negative impact on the parent and the child both mentally, emotionally and physically. Many young people become mothers and have no parental skills resulting in damaging consequences.

Not many parents realize that they are parenting badly because their way of parenting is part of their legacy, passed down to them from their parents and their parents in turn. It is passed down between generations. Parents often model themselves on their parents who might have been bad parents and so the cycle of bad parenting continues; they were brought up in a dysfunctional home and their own home becomes dysfunctional as they repeat damaging patterns. Those patterns they suffered from as children their children also suffer from. But it is possible to break the cycle.

The causes for poor parenting are often family dysfunction including: criminal behaviour, substance abuse, separation of parents, parental health problems and violence which results in the child being raised in a toxic environment.

Bad parenting can also come from a place of hurt and anger for what a parent experienced growing up: they now take it out on their children but are often unaware why they are doing it. They don’t know how to show or give love because it was never shown to them therefore they do the same to their kids.
Even if they suffered from a dysfunctional family that might be the only thing they know and their parents are their only role models so they recreate the same situations not realizing they are doing the same to their child that they had ‘done to them’ as children and which affected them negatively.

In my area there are a few parents who are dysfunctional and it is affecting the healthy growth of their children. A good example is one of my neighbors (not mentioning any names). The mother emotionally and mentally abuses her son and daughter. The reason being that she is a single parent and blames the children for that. Also that the mother is jealous of her only daughter saying she stole her beauty. They don’t have their freedom and that affects their way of socializing effectively.

One common effect of bad parenting includes failure of the child to thrive and poor growth and development both physically and mentally. Some signs of poor parenting include: reprimanding a child excessively; disciplining the child in front of everyone in a humiliating way; constantly giving advice but no encouragement; withholding affection; not setting rules; not giving support; comparing your child to others and not being proud of his/her achievements.

Many parents I know of in my community are really strict and uncompromising to the detriment of their children. They always expect their child to succeed in everything they do. If they don’t they will give them harsh words such as ‘you are dumb’ or ‘you are not my child’. The effect on one of these children is that they can’t get on well with others and are always talking about their achievements as if it were the only important thing in life. This child is always going on about how smart they are and trying to humiliate other children – treating other children just like his own parents treat him. At times his father lets him speak ill towards someone else for his own pleasure.

Even if people have had bad role models as parents they can break this cycle of bad parenting. Here are some suggestions on how parents can end abusive patterns and set a different tone with their kids:
Acknowledge your own abuse. Recognize the risks (and ask for help). Set boundaries with the older generation. Celebrate success as it comes. When you feel vulnerable, examine your motives.
One good example is my aunt who was being abused and neglected by her parents. With tears in her eyes she confessed that she did not want that life for her child(ren) as it breaks you down mentally. She came out stronger at the end because she took all that abuse and turned it around as a lesson for life. Now she and her children are going on family trips and they have open communication.

Good parenting involves a great deal of consistency and routine, which gives children a sense of control. That is, there is a match between expectations, discipline and resilience-building strategies and children’s developmental age.

Good parenting aims at socialising kids. Principles of good parenting include: apologising when wrong, guidance and support, allowing kids to be independent, never being mean, spiteful or unkind. Positive parenting is to create a safe, interesting environment. Bored kids are likely to misbehave. Have a positive learning environment. If a child or teenager comes to you for help or a chat, they’re ready to learn. Have realistic expectations. Take care of yourself as a parent.

Our parents are our role models, motivators, biggest supporters. But all of that does not necessarily make them good parents and their parenting methods can be toxic. We as children see their behaviour and learn it. But there is always hope and new ways to overcome that behaviour. Educate yourself about the problems you’ve identified so far. Examine your relationships with other people in your life. Validate and process your emotions. Examine your limiting beliefs. Reconnect with your inner child. Find the direction in which you want your life to develop.

It is very important to take care of yourself as parenting can keep you so busy with your child that you forget about your mental and physical health. Get support from churches and local ‘homes’. If you feel that you don’t know how to do this parenting, go and seek professional help. Allow your partner to support you and even your close people, but only if they mean well. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect parent’ we can only be the best parent we can and part of that involves unlearning the toxic way our own parents might have brought us up and search for new role models that are healthy.

When a horrid parent starts criticising your parenting it can be frightening and infuriating. Don’t retaliate. Look to your future with hope. Believe in yourself. Talk to someone you trust. Look after yourself. Learn the difference between disciplining your child and abusing your child. Be open to possibilities of your child telling you how you treat them and if it is bad, listen to them and try to find alternative ways to fix it. Don’t over water your child, being over protective. Let them be who they want to be as long it is not something negative and will have a negative impact on their life. Apologize to your child. Respond with intention, rather than reacting in anger. Set limits when you’re calm and talk about them with your child. Work hard to repair the relationship with your teen.

Remember these steps and you will better your relationships with your kids. Allow for unstructured, uninterrupted time with your child each day. Let your child know you’re interested in his activities. Encourage children to express their feelings in age-appropriate ways. Respect your child’s feelings. Play games that explore feelings. Most importantly talk with other parents and some one more professional in the field.

Even if you had a toxic upbringing your children don’t have to have one too. You can break the cycle of toxic parenting. Celebrate your children – enjoy parenthood!

For more help on parenting visit: www.theparentswebsite.com or www.parentswithconfidence.com.