Maintaining a healthy relationship with your parents can be tough, especially when you have a critical parent. Not only do you have to deal with your inner critic but also another harsh critic in your life. This can create a toxic and negative family environment and lead to children feeling unworthy and unhappy in their everyday lives because parents are one of the first people that we derive our sense of self from. It is important to note, however, that not all critical parents are unloving and this is an important distinction.
How does critical parenting effect children’s mental health? How can one understand this more? How do you deal with critical parents? The effect that parents have on their children’s mental health and wellbeing is often something that is overlooked.
Furthermore, parenting techniques effect children’s mental wellbeing in many ways. Such challenges can be internalising (turned inward) such as anxiety and depression or externalising (turned outward) such as aggression or other behavioural problems. Academic achievement is often impacted too either positively or negatively.
There are four main types of parenting: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive and Uninvolved/Neglecting. Parenting can be child-centred or parent-centred, nurturing or controlling.
The authoritative parenting style is known as the most positive and healthy style of parenting- it is child-centred and responsive. Parents are openly affectionate, treating their kids with respect and listening and understanding what they’re going through themselves.
On the other hand, authoritarian parenting styles are highly controlling, demanding mature behaviour and ignoring kids’ opinions and thoughts.
Parents with a permissive parenting style are responsive to their children and aren’t demanding. With little rules kids can usually do as they please with no interferences, parents can often be friends rather than parents with this style.
Lastly, uninvolved parenting is characterised by disinterest and unresponsiveness of parents. Parents give the children very little attention, not knowing what their children are doing and often not really caring.
How exactly does critical parenting affect children’s mental wellbeing? Parents and their techniques of upbringing, play a crucial role in the moulding of the child’s feelings. Techniques such as authoritarian parenting and critical parenting can often lead to children growing up in stressful environments and feeling surrounded by toxicity. This can be in the form of constant negative criticisms- if we are told constantly that we aren’t doing something right or are bad at something then this repetition is likely to manifest and become an accepted idea within our own minds. Whilst parents may not mean for these comments to be negative and to have a lasting impact on their children, criticisms can often lead to a child feeling unworthy. Furthermore, this type of parenting can also be in the form of rules and restrictions that are placed on a child which can make them feel confined to the house and away from social situations.
By being placed in an environment that makes you feel less worthy, this could lead to a negative chain of thoughts in your mind. Am I not good enough for my own family? How can I be good enough for anyone or anything else? In an inconsistent and unpredictable family environment, we can often feel ostracised and secluded, even unworthy and a subject to criticism all the time. Techniques such as critical parenting can lead to these thoughts within a child’s mind.
This can link to generational issues as previous generations aren’t as aware of the effects that they can have on their children and don’t have the same mentality towards preserving mental health as our generation does now. Parents feel that they are trying to help their children by correcting them and making them subject to ‘constructive’ criticism. However, this can certainly affect a child’s mental health by making them feel unworthy, unmotivated and enhancing their negativity when they are placed in social situations.
Not all children cope with criticisms in the same way. The psychological effects of critical parenting on the mental wellbeing of children can also depend on how they react. Some children choose to fight back instead of feeling unworthy. Some choose to prove their parents wrong and work even harder to show them they are worthy. Some become so used to the comments that they become unmotivated to show their parents any different. Some blame others for their problems and for making them feel unworthy. Some develop addictions and compulsions to escape the feelings of unworthiness.
So, how do we deal with this?
With situations like these it is important to reach out to someone, talk to your parents about the issues that you’re having with the way that they treat you and educate you and how that affects you in your day-to-day life. No matter what type of relationship you have with your parents, at the root of it is communication. If you understand and communicate these feelings to your parents, explaining why and how exactly it effects your everyday life this will help grow your relationship with your parents.
Sometimes, even parents should take criticism from their children in order to create a more positive parenting environment, whilst the youth may not have as much experience of ‘life’ as the adults do, it is important to note that because of this, your perspectives are unclouded. Whilst it is understandable that parents are themselves doing what they think is right to teach and educate their children, it can have different effects on children.
Written by Maya Tajuddin
A Level Student