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Are you a Toxic Co-parent?

Majority of us are well intended and loving parents, with an occasional ‘bad day’. Does that mean you’re a toxic co-parent? Probably not.
(2 min 40 sec read)

Dave Chartier
A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The majority of us are well intended and loving parents, with an occasional ‘bad day’. Does that mean you’re a toxic co-parent? Probably not. But if your baseline for parenting involves what is labeled as toxic, you may want to read on.

There are a few things that categorize toxic behavior regardless of whether you are a parent or not; you’re self-centered, manipulative, lack empathy, or are generally hyper-critical of everything you do, and/or abusive. 

Sounds terrible, right? Now, take that general bundle of dysfunctions and apply them in a parenting scenario and you have a recipe for disaster. 

Generally, toxic behavior and parenting is the product of a toxic upbringing. So, we cannot talk about this without flagging the importance of self identifying any adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) and its snowball effect on bad/toxic parent patterns. If a child (*like yourself perhaps) has grown up in an environment of high stressors (any form of abuse, violence, family member fighting with addiction, substance abuse, mental challenges and/or conditions, etc.) there is a much higher chance you will become a toxic parent yourself. 

There are tests available to gauge your ACE score which is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood. The rougher your childhood the higher your score. The higher your score, the higher your chances of having toxic parenting tendencies. We will provide links below that provide additional resources, for those that need to know more.

Most of these telltale signs are a bit challenging for some since even the best parents stray and have a bad day. When looking at these traits ask yourself is this an ‘exception’ or the ‘rule’ for my parenting.

  • Do you tend to overreact or create a scene? Do you make frequent and/or unreasonable demands? 
  • Do you try to control your children (this is typified by classic authoritarian “My way or the highway” style parenting)? Do you unreasonably criticize? Are you hypercritical?
  • Do you manipulate (with money, food, etc.), use guilt, or play the victim? Do you use emotional blackmail?
  • Do you blame or attack your children?
  • Do you take responsibility and apologize?
  • Do you respect their physical and emotional boundaries?
  • Do you disregard their feelings and needs? Do you use toxic jokes (making fun of height, weight, intelligence, etc.)
  • Do you envy or compete with them? Do you put your feelings first?

If you can say these traits are within the spectrum of your behavior, adjust how you parent and make sure to address these patterns for the sake of raising your children so they do not suffer from similar adverse effects. Unless you take action, though, it will be much harder to correct the emotional and psychological damage that was done to you during your childhood. On the plus side, any toxic parent who recognizes themselves within the eight points in this article can turn to a trained counselor for assistance with breaking their negative behavioral patterns.


Avoid being a toxic parent | WikiHow

Handouts for parents about Understanding ACEs, toxic stress, resilience & Parenting with ACEs | ACEs Connections

Find your ACE score 

Take The ACE Quiz — And Learn What It Does And Doesn’t Mean

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