Book: Toxic Parents by Dr Susan Forward

Toxic Parents:
a book by Dr Susan Forward

The following abridged excerpts were meaningful and important to me.
If you find them intriguing, click on the book image and BUY THIS BOOK!
The author deserves credit and your support for these ideas.

This book is written for adults that are coming to realize that they were raised by parents whose own needs were allowed to overshadow the responsibility of rearing independent self-confident children. Its two sections help you to first identify if you are the child of a 'toxic parent' and second to clarify and validate the often stressful steps required to finally claim the self-respect and confidence that were not instilled during critical childhood developmental stages.

The real-world examples on almost every page make it easy to see yourself and to validate that you are not alone. However, the "What to do next" section provides only the bleakest ray of hope that a successful mutually respectful relationship can exist between the parents and adult children in the family environments that Dr Forward describes. Sadly, for most of these people, the victory of reclaiming self-esteem comes at the cost of becoming an outcast from their family of origin. Of course, enjoy reading about the "loving" family environments that these folks have been banished from. You will probably agree with her that it is worth the work and pain.

If this description intrigues you, BUY THIS BOOK! Next I'm reading Dr Forward's other book: "Emotional Blackmail" which addresses the mechanics of overcoming destructive family roles.

Excerpt #1

Control: "It's For Your Own Good"

Excerpt #2

Keeping Children Dependent: No Separate Identity

Excerpt #3

Confronting Your Toxic Parent: What to Expect

Book: Toxic Parents by Dr Susan Forward

If you would like to communicate with me, sharing your own stories and
being supportive of mine, click on the button and send me an E-Mail.

If you are interested by these excerpts, click on the book image.
You will transfer to Amazon.com where you can BUY THIS BOOK!

These abridged excerpts are for educational and informational purposes
only, and are meant to enable you to decide if you should purchase the book.

Excerpt #1

Control: "It's For Your Own Good"

Control is not necessarily a dirty word. If a mother restrains her toddler instead of letting him wander into the street, we don't call her a controller, we call her prudent. She is exercising control that is in tune with reality, motivated by her child's need for protection and guidance.

Appropriate control becomes overcontrol when the mother restrains her child ten years later, long after the child is perfectly able to cross the street alone.

Children who are not encouraged to do, to try, to explore, to master, and to risk failure, often feel helpless and inadequate. Overcontrolled by anxious, fearful parents, these children often become anxious and fearful themselves. This makes it difficult for them to mature. When they develop through adolescence and adulthood, many of them never outgrow the need for ongoing parental guidance and control. As a result, their parents continue to invade, manipulate, and frequently dominate their lives.

The fear of not being needed motivates many controlling parents to perpetuate this sense of powerlessness in their children. These parents have an unhealthy fear of the 'empty nest syndrome,' the inevitable sense of loss that all parents experience when their children finally leave home. So much of a controlling parent's identity is tied up in the parental role that he or she feels betrayed and abandoned when the child becomes independent.

What makes a controlling parent so insidious is that the domination usually comes in the guise of concern. Phrases such as, "this is for your own good," "I'm only doing this for you," and, "only because I love you so much," all mean the same thing: "I'm doing this because I'm so afraid of losing you that I'm willing to make you miserable."

Excerpt #2

Keeping Children Dependent: No Separate Identity

Parents who feel good about themselves do not have to control their adult children. But the toxic parents we've met in this chapter operate from a deep sense of dissatisfaction with their lives and a fear of abandonment. Their child's independence is like the loss of a limb to them. As a child grows older, it becomes ever more important for the parent to pull the strings that keep the child dependent. As long as toxic parents can make their son or daughter feel like a child, they can maintain control.

As a result, adult children of controlling parents often have a very blurred sense of identity. They have trouble seeing themselves as separate beings from their parents. They can't distinguish their own needs from their parents' needs. They feel powerless.

All parents control their children until those children gain control of their own lives. In normal families, the transition occurs soon after adolescence. In toxic families, this healthy separation is delayed for years -- or forever. It can only occur after you have made the changes that will enable you to gain mastery over your own life.

Excerpt #3

Confronting Your Toxic Parent: What to Expect

Once you get going, most toxic parents will counterattack. After all, if they had the capacity to listen, to hear, to be reasonable, to respect you feelings, and to promote your independence, they wouldn't be toxic parents. They will probably perceive your words as treacherous personal assaults. They will tend to fall back on the same tactics and defenses that they have always used, only more so.

Remember, the important thing is not their reaction but your response. If you can stand fast in the face of your parents' fury, accusations, threats and guilt-peddling, you will experience your finest hour.

Here are some typical parental reactions to confrontation:

  • "It never happened". Parents who have used denial to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy or anxiety will undoubtedly us it during confrontation to promote their version of reality. They'll insist that your allegations never happened, or that you're exaggerating. They won't remember, or they will accuse you of lying.

    YOUR RESPONSE: Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean it didn't happen".

  • "It was your fault." Toxic parents are almost never willing to accept responsibility for their destructive behavior. Instead, they will blame you. They will say that you were bad, or that you were difficult. They will claim that they did the best that they could but that you always created problems for them. They will say that you drove them crazy. They will offer as proof the fact that everybody in the family knew what a problem you were. They will offer up a laundry list of your alleged offenses against them.

    YOUR RESPONSE: "You can keep trying to make this my fault, but I'm not going to accept the responsibility for what you did to me when I was a child".

  • "I said I was sorry what more do you want?" Some parents may acknowledge a few of the things that you say but be unwilling to do anything about it.

    YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate your apology, but that is just a beginning. If you're truly sorry, you'll work through this with me to make a better relationship."

  • "We did the best we could." Some parents will remind you of how tough they had it while you were growing up and how hard they struggled. They will say such things as "You'll never understand what I was going through," or "I did the best I could". This particular style of response will often stir up a lot of sympathy and compassion for your parents. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult for you to remain focused on what you need to say in your confrontation. The temptation is for you once again to put their needs ahead of your own. It is important that you be able to acknowledge their difficulties without invalidating your own.

    YOUR RESPONSE: "I understand that you had a hard time, and I'm sure that you didn't hurt me on purpose, but I need you to understand that the way you dealt with your problems really did hurt me"

  • "Look what we did for you." Many parents will attempt to counter your assertions by recalling the wonderful times you had as a child and the loving moments you and they shared. By focusing on the good things, they can avoid looking at the darker side of their behavior. Parents will typically remind you of gifts they gave you, places they took you, sacrifices they made for you, and thoughtful things they did. They will say things like, "this is the thanks we get," or "nothing was ever enough for you."

    YOUR RESPONSE: I appreciate those things very much, but they didn't make up for ....

  • "How can you do this to me?" Some parents act like martyrs. They'll collapse into tears, wring their hands, and express shock and disbelief at your "cruelty". They will act as if your confrontation has victimized them. They will accuse you of hurting them, or disappointing them. They will complain that they don't need this, they have enough problems. They will tell you that they are not strong enough or healthy enough to take this, that the heartache will kill them. Some of their sadness will, of course, be genuine. It is sad for parents to face their own shortcomings, to realize that they have caused their children significant pain. But their sadness can also be manipulative and controlling. It is their way of using guilt to try to make you back down from the confrontation.

    YOUR RESPONSE: I'm sorry you're upset. I'm sorry you're hurt. But I'm not willing to give up on this. I've been hurting for a long time, too.

Book: Toxic Parents by Dr Susan Forward

If you would like to communicate with me, sharing your own stories and
being supportive of mine, click on the button and send me an E-Mail.

If you are interested by these excerpts, click on the book image.
You will transfer to Amazon.com where you can BUY THIS BOOK!

These abridged excerpts are for educational and informational purposes
only, and are meant to enable you to decide if you should purchase the book.


Original Web Upload July 2000
Last Update: Sep 28, 2008