The most practical way to deal with a toxic parent

Who would ban money from their country?

Currency has always been a part of a well-run government. It allowed for business and basic ventures to occur. Yet, there stands one civilization that could operate without money. So which civilization is this?


The answer is ancient Sparta.

Sparta had a lot of well-thought rules governing its citizen. And the forbidding of money was one of them. They ensured no gold or silver ever came into Sparta.


The Spartans banished the idea of wealth from people’s minds; they accomplished this by making everyone live in simple homes with no luxury. Nobody could look better off in Sparta.


But why such rules?

Lycurgus, the king who created the rules, found wealth corrupted people. From his experience, he found it impossible to be wise and disciplined around wealth. And since he wanted the best for his people, he banished money.


In the end, Lycurgus was right.

Because Sparta became the most dominant and respected civilization in the Greek world.


When dealing with a toxic parent, respect is hard to come by. And on top of that, a lot of other problems come about that make dealing with a toxic parent an exhausting affair. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. We can courageously deal with a toxic parent and live an authentic life.


But how is this done?

There are three practical steps:

  • Limiting your interactions with them.

  • Setting boundaries.

  • Being okay not having a relationship with them.

Limit your interactions

I know this one is not an easy step, but it is necessary.


A toxic parent relies on their children to usually engage with them. Regardless if the parent is acting poorly or not, they know that their children will be their audience.


However, this can be draining.

Because by allowing the parent to interact with you whenever they want, they leave you with an emotional mess. And since there are no consequences for them, they will keep repeating this cycle.


So for your emotional well-being, you need to severely limit your interactions with the parent. This is sending a message that you will not tolerate any toxic behavior.



Keep in mind, there will be backlash.

But if you want a peaceful home life, this is a necessary first step. It doesn't matter if the difficult parent gets upset, you have to take a step back from the relationship.


This might require moving out of the home with the parent, ignoring their calls. Whatever you feel is necessary to gain your peace of mind back.


But after a while, if you’re ready to reconnect with the toxic parent, you can do so with control of the relationship.


Boundaries

To have more control of the relationship, you need to set boundaries.


The best way to look at boundaries is by thinking of the standards you want in life. With standards, you are deciding what you tolerate in life. And when those standards are not met, you take the necessary actions to fix them.


So with boundaries, you are creating the standard of a healthy relationship with the parent. And considering that you took a step back from the relationship, they will be more open to behaving according to the boundaries.


That being said, you have to ensure that you enforce the boundaries. Otherwise, the toxic parent will go back to their old ways. To change the relationship you have to accept your personal power and enforce the boundaries you want.


Whether it’s a small or large infraction, there have to be consequences. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.


Before moving on to the next section. Take some time to think of some boundaries to enforce. Here is mine below:

  • Not tolerate disrespectful language.

  • Not tolerate being yelled at.

  • Not tolerate disparaging comments about other family members.

And if none of this works, then it’s time to move on to a different chapter in life.


Being okay not having a relationship

This might seem drastic, but for difficult relationships, we have to accept that we don’t have to tolerate them.


Again, our lives are our responsibility. And if someone is making it more difficult, then the necessary actions have to be taken. That includes cutting them off.


How can we continually invest in a relationship that is emotionally draining? Children grow up and change. But toxic parents try to keep the same dynamics. They don’t want their children to become independent individuals.



But this is a huge obstacle to living an authentic life.

Sometimes, it’s easier just to let go than trying to change the relationship.


Yes, this will be painful.

But with that pain comes freedom.


Freedom to a drama-free life.

Freedom to be honest.

Freedom to become who you want to be.


Yet, none of this can happen with a toxic parent who is not willing to change for the better. And funny enough, when the toxic parent sees that you are capable of ending their relationship. That might be the spark for them to change.


Then again, I understand this is all easy in theory. Because in a lot of cultures, the parent is highly esteemed and revered. And there can be no trace of disrespect.


And I get it.

I come from a Muslim Ethiopian family. And have been taught at a very young age to respect my parents and elders.


And to this day I do.

But I don’t tolerate horrible behavior. I understand that a lot of my difficulties with my toxic parent started with me not accepting the personal power I had over my life.


I would hope that my toxic parent would change. But they never did. And my quality of life was at stake.


Because the way I let this toxic parent treat me is the way I let others treat me. Since I allowed this parent to bully me, I allowed others to bully me as well.


Most of your relationships tend to have similar patterns. Whether it’s in the family, at work, friends, etc.


If you want to improve your quality of life, you need to be serious about accepting your personal power in all relationships. Regardless of whether they are family or not.


Life is too precious to be dealt with emotionally exhaustive people.


Let’s get a little classical

When it comes to toxic parents, you are not alone. This has been a problem for thousands of years. It’s even personified in art.


In the play, The Libation Bearers, by Aeschylus, there is a situation where Orestes has to deal with his toxic mother. I’m not going to go into too many details, but Orestes comes back to take vengeance against his mother (for some serious wrongdoings). Anyways, out of the blue, she starts professing her love to her son. And Orestes falls for it, he becomes weak and loses the desire to hurt his mother. But it wasn’t true love from the mother. It was just a way for stalling, so she could summon soldiers to kill Orestes. And when Orestes figured this out, he killed his mother.


Now, I’m not saying that killing your parent, or anybody for that matter, is right. What I am trying to point out is that dealing with difficult parents has been a problem for many people. And the same old tricks, of where the toxic parent pretends to change only to retort to poor behavior, is something that we need to be mindful of.


It wasn’t easy for Orestes to deal with his toxic mother. And it won’t be for us. But we can take the necessary actions to distance ourselves from them and build our own lives.



I touched this on earlier, but it bears repeating.

Just because the difficult parent starts changing doesn’t mean that they changed. They can just be acting nice to get you to come back or reconnect, then go back to their old ways.


Trust me, when they start acting nice, it can be intoxicating. Because you feel you are seeing the reward for all the years of dealing with the parent's poor behavior.


But like Orestes, you can’t fall for the simple trick.

You have to verify that they keep this behavior consistently. Because sooner or later their true colors will come out.


And if they truly changed, they will do so for a lifetime. But if not, then you saved yourself a lot of future headaches.


And to prevent another headache, let’s wrap this article up.


Summary

  • Three steps in courageously dealing with a toxic parent are: Limiting interaction, Setting Boundaries, Being okay having no relationship with the parent.

  • Limiting your interactions lets the toxic parent know you do not tolerate poor behavior.

  • Boundaries are about setting a new standard for the relationship. And if the boundaries are not respected, there are consequences.

  • Being okay with letting the relationship go indicates that you will no longer entertain the toxic relationship. Leaving you free to live life more in peace.

  • A lot of cultures require people to respect their parents. And that’s how it should be, but it should not come at the cost of sacrificing your quality of life for a toxic parent.

  • Don’t fall for the simple mistake of allowing the toxic parent back into your life because they are nice. Verify if their change is genuine or not before allowing them back in.

I know this isn’t an easy topic.

And not everyone will agree with my methods. But you have to realize that the quality of your life is based on who you have around. And if a toxic parent is constantly around, bringing you down in the process. Then it just makes life more difficult than it has to be. You have to take the necessary step if you want to improve your life. Just like Lycurgus did with the money. And, it turned out pretty great for him and the Spartans.


Bulcha

The Charismatic Nerd