Does your mom or dad keep telling you that you’re raising your children the wrong way? Do your parents keep telling you to get a better job than the one you have now? If the answer to these rhetorical questions is yes, you may be dealing with critical parents.
If your mom or dad never seems to have anything nice to say about you, you might need to keep reading this article. You’ll find out how to keep your parents’ unreasonable criticisms at bay.
The Effect of Hyper-Criticism on Children
According to this study, overly-critical parents can have a detrimental effect on their children. Their children may become depressed and have issues nurturing loving relationships.
The study revealed that children with critical parents might avoid looking into their parents’ eyes to lessen their exposure to harsh feelings or words. While some children can adapt and learn to ignore only negative emotions, they may fail to notice positive ones. The blocking of positive emotions can affect their relationships. They may also have a tendency to develop anxiety and depression.
The study also emphasized that what people experience affects the way they react to information in the future. These experiences cause them to develop biases to different emotional stimuli.
So, overly-harsh criticism can cause a child to develop as a cynical, critical adult.
11 Signs of an Overly-Critical Parent
All of us know that overbearing parents are less than relatable. The problem is deciding if your parent is giving constructive parental feedback or criticizing just because he or she can. Here’s how to tell.
Parents who are overly-critical have mood swings
First, if you have an overly-critical parent, you’d almost always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. The fear that you might have said something offensive would be palpable. You’d be walking on eggshells all the time; emotional intimidation is abusive behavior.
Parents who are overly-critical seldom, if ever, have anything positive to say about their children. If you have such parents, you’d feel like nothing you say or do are ever good enough.
Critical parents are not confident in their children’s abilities. As a result, these children often develop self-esteem issues and suffer from a lack of self-confidence later on.
Such parents mock
These parents will criticize your looks, and your failures (these would be mountainous). They might mock you and deliberately raise issues that make you uncomfortable. Needless to say that such an attitude is a recipe for severe self-esteem issues in children.
Any choice of yours gets criticized. Whether it’s the people you hang out with, the clothes you wear, or the college course you pick. Your overly critical parents will always find a reason why your decisions are wrong.
But the worst part is that they will mock you for those. Even when you are an adult, your overly critical parent will continue to judge every decision of yours and make belittling comments.
These parents are dismissive
Harshly critical parents are almost always dismissive of their children’s feelings. They are disrespectful and don’t treat their kids with kindness.
An example of such behavior is telling their kids that they are too sensitive to a person’s remarks when these are hurtful. They chide their children for trying to get attention instead of offering comfort.
A child of overly critical parents may often be wronged and blamed, which can lead to severe guilt issues later in life.
For example, imagine that you are an older child and were left alone at home with your little brother. While playing, he broke a vase in the living room. When your critical mother comes home, she will blame and punish you for not watching over your brother.
Abusively-critical parents need to feel in control all the time. They want to have the upper hand. They take you on guilt trips with their criticisms and make you feel less than worthy.
For example, a critical parent may blame the child for their own failures in life.
- “If it was not your college I needed to pay for, I could afford a better house”
- “Because of you, I gave up on my dreams”
As you can imagine, remarks like this create unreasonable guilt and insecurities.
Since your parents are overly critical, they don’t believe that you are capable of making good decisions on your own. Hence the need to control your every move.
Critical parents are passive-aggressive
Such parents are often aggressive or passive-aggressive. They’ll expect you to second-guess their intentions correctly.
If your parents are outwardly pleasant but verbally harsh behind closed doors, it is a sign of emotional abuse. This behavior is common among narcissists and people with other personality disorders.
Alternatively, your critical parents may be emotionally unavailable as well and passive aggression is the only way they can handle conflict. Do they give you the silent treatment whenever a disagreement arises? Do they deliberately ignore you and refuse to talk to you for days? Chances are, you have passive-aggressive parents.
Critical parents can be overly dramatic
Parents who have overly-critical personality traits seldom react to their children calmly. Instead, it’s with the expectation that they’ll do something they shouldn’t. These overly-dramatic reactions can lead to heightened levels of cortisol and related health problems.
Does your critical parent make a mountain out of a molehill? Do they dwell on problems and negativity, blaming you for the tiniest mistake? Do they create drama out of nothing and exaggerate their hurt feelings?
Chances are, you were raised by overly critical and dramatic parents who have psychological issues of their own.
Toxic parents are emotionally absent
Are your parents good at providing but difficult to approach if you have problems? Are you afraid that they’d criticize you for mishandling your issues? If the answers to these questions are yes, you probably have hyper-critical parents.
You will never get warmth, understanding, and approval from a critical parent. They will be cold and distant as if they don’t care about you at all. Well, in some families, unfortunately, this is the case.
Some other overly critical parents though have emotional issues of their own, which inevitably affects their behavior towards their children. But deep inside, these emotionally unavailable parents still love and care about them.
In any case, when you are an adult child of critical parents, you will probably have a purely formal relationship with them. You will not confide anything personal to them as you know that anything you say will be faced with criticisms and misunderstanding.
Your parents were over-involved
All children want their parents to be present in their lives, but in a positive, balanced way.
Hyper-critical parents are too involved in their kids’ lives because they feel that their kids are incapable of making appropriate decisions. Thus, they have the need to constantly control them. They genuinely believe that they know better what is right for their children, even if they are already adults.
This can show in the most mundane everyday things, such as watching over your shoulder when you are cooking a meal. But it can also extend to big decisions, such as your career or relationship choices, when your critical mom or dad knows better who you should marry or what job is right for you.
Your parents have no boundaries
Hyper-critical parents have few boundaries when making unkind remarks. Put differently, they lack tact and will comment on anything and everything.
You’ll find them commenting on everything in someone’s home. They’d make suggestions about everything, saying, “You should add this,” “You should put this here,” or “You should decorate the hall this way.” The word “should” almost always appears in their statements.
Overly critical parents don’t respect your privacy either. They may enter your room without knocking or rummage through your personal stuff. It’s not uncommon for such parents to read your messages or personal diary and check your social media accounts.
You blame yourself for the awful behavior of others
Also, you would think that people misbehave because of your actions. You’d think that your parents mistreat you because it’s challenging to put up with you. And these dynamics transfer into other relationships.
It is sad that overly critical parents ruin their children’s psyche with the behaviors we discussed above. But when you are constantly mocked and criticized as a child, having guilt and self-esteem issues is inevitable as an adult.
As a result of such a toxic and unjustified attitude from your parents, you learn that everything is your fault. For example, if your partner gets abusive, it’s because you did something wrong. You always blame yourself for everything.
You are also self-destructive
The negative feelings that come up because of your parents’ critical feedback may make you lean towards self-destructive behavior. You may not have the coping skills to handle their extreme negativity.
This is another unfortunate consequence of insubstantial and harsh criticisms you faced as a child. Your critical parents never made you feel good about yourself and know your worth. So as an adult, you may be feeling worthless and punish yourself for being such a failure.
Needless to say that these toxic thought patterns can lead to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
How to Deal with Your Parents If They Are Overly-Critical?
1. Set boundaries
Hard to believe though this may be, critical parents may think that they are trying to help. But they may be making the situation worse or preventing you from making healthy, independent decisions.
Unhealthy parenting patterns like this seldom stop until you set emotional boundaries, albeit tactfully. Tell them that you’ll let them know if you need their help.
The situation may be more difficult if you are your parents’ caregiver because the overbearing ways may intensify. Try the BARB strategy:
- Behavior: Describe their unwanted behavior. Eg. “Mum, please don’t give me advice unless I ask for it.”
- Affect: Tell your parents how their behavior affects you.
- Request: Tell your parents what you prefer. For example, let them know that you’d prefer to ask for their advice.
- Benefits: Tell them how the change in their behavior will benefit them. Perhaps, “I’ll have a better relationship with you if you let me make my own decisions.”
If this fails, seek the involvement of a third party, like a trusted aunt, who may be able to help you and your parents reach compromises.
2. Accept your parents
Your parents may be overbearing or verbally mean, but they may love you to bits. It’s just that cynicism is a way of life for them. Remember their positive qualities and that deep within, they do realize yours. Accept them for who they are.
3. Stop comparing
Don’t compare your parents with others. All that does is magnify your unhappiness. Understand that your parents may show their concern for you in other ways.
4. Avoid your parents’ criticisms
Your overly-critical parents probably comment on the same things whenever they meet you. Know what they will criticize you for and avoid stepping into the firing range. To understand the motivation behind your parents’ criticisms, first, realize that there are different kinds of critical parents.
- Are your parents controlling? If so, you may need to set boundaries with them.
- Are your parents narcissistic? If they are, they’ll feel threatened by your independence or afraid that you will supersede them. Avoid talking about your achievements.
- Are your parents overprotective? They may just be worried about you. Set boundaries and assure them that you can take care of yourself.
5. Change Yourself
While your parents may criticize too much, their words may be valid. If you realize this, work on yourself. That way, they’d have no reason to criticize you.
6. Don’t seek your parents’ approval
Your parents will seldom have anything nice to say, so don’t expect them to do so anymore. Remember that you are responsible for your actions, happiness, and life choices. Your survival doesn’t depend on their acceptance. Your approval of yourself is what matters.
7. Don’t take your parents’ criticisms personally
You may be aware of your parents’ histories and the reasons for their critical behavior. If you are, you’d know that you aren’t the monster they’ve made you out to be. Remember that their critical remarks are weightless, and don’t believe them.
Critical parents are a challenge, but one you can put up with on your terms. Reflect on what these are and move forward with these tips.
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