Did you grow up in a home where your parent undermined your opinions, capabilities, or trust, using your age as an excuse? For example, a parent who adds chores to a sleepy child, insisting that tiredness is only a state of mind. Or a parent who denies that a particular past event happened, even though you are sure it did. This gaslighting is a sneaky manipulation that makes a child have low self-esteem, thinking something is wrong with them. So, what are the red flags that you have gaslighting parents?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where an individual makes another doubt or question their sanity. Here, the manipulator comes up with a false claim that distresses or disorients others into questioning their judgment. Once a victim starts having doubts about their beliefs, it can snowball to the point that they cannot make any decision without counterchecking with the manipulator first.
Gaslighting from Parents
Gaslighting often takes place within a power inequality dynamic. For example, it can be between spouses, bosses and their employees, a teacher and student, or a parent and child. The commanding person in the relationship may gaslight the other without knowing since not all gaslighting incidences are malicious or intentional.
That’s why loving parents can gaslight their children as they mold them to become responsible adults. Unlike in other relationships, children feel bound to trust their gaslighting parents. Hence, gaslighting parents can create lasting damage in their children without even knowing it.
The Red Flags That You Have Gaslighting Parents
A parent can deny, dismiss, exaggerate, or brainwash a child to plant self-doubt in them.
#1: Excessively Controlling Parents
Is your parent overly controlling in your life? If so, they may use their authoritative position to gaslight you. For example, they may force you to like or dislike a specific career. Or, they may impose their religious or societal beliefs on you.
#2: An Enmeshed Parent-Child Relationship
Enmeshed relationships occur when a controlling parent is too involved in the affairs of their children. It can be frustrating for a child whose interests conflict with the parent’s desires. In turn, the gaslighting parents will make the children feel guilty, ashamed, and helpless, hence giving into the parents’ demands.
Here are typical traits of an enmeshed parent-child relationship:
- your parents’ ultimate ambition revolves around you;
- you feel responsible for your parents’ happiness;
- lack of clear emotional and physical boundaries;
- your goal is to please the parents even if it makes you unhappy;
- you avoid conflicts instead of resolving them;
- saying no to a parent is never an option for you.
#3: Denying Your Subjective Experiences
A child’s subjective experiences can be events that a child describes based on their opinion. For example, a child saying science is the best subject or learning how to drive is easy. When a parent tells a child, “That’s not what happens.” True or not, this parent denies the child’s subjective experience.
#4: Blaming You for Their Mistakes
We all make mistakes. However, some parents find it hard to own up when they hurt their children. Now, gaslighting parents go a step further to play the victim. They will argue that the child started it. Or they refer to a similar situation in the past to try and justify their blame on the children.
#5: Chastening an Already Apologetic Child
Naturally, a parent is a child’s support, reassuring them about their strengths whenever they fail. However, some parents use this opportunity to make the child feel even worse about the failure incident. For example, they may allege if the child paid more attention in class, they would have passed the college entrance examination.
Healing from Gaslighting
Gaslighting by parents is quite damaging to a child. Likewise, the healing process can be long and painful, as the child is divided between upholding the toxic relationship with the parent and stopping the emotional abuse. That’s why anyone living with gaslighting parents should:
#1: Investigate the Origin of the Gaslighting
Most parents that gaslight their children went through a similar emotional abuse as children. Other parents hold on to a deep-rooted shame, have a burning desire for attention, or struggle with emotional immaturity. Then, find out why your parent is gaslighting you. Empathize with them as you come up with ways to safeguard your emotional wellbeing.
#2: Trust Their Perceptions
Gaslighting parents, as leading figures, may struggle to admit that they are indeed manipulating their children. Some parents are not even aware that they are emotionally abusing their children in the first place. Then, never force a parent to acknowledge their gaslighting. Instead, go with your gut feelings and maintain respectful interactions.
#3: Agree to Disagree
If your parent or guardian insists that your perspective about a particular situation is incorrect, push back by asking them to agree to disagree about it. It is a respectful approach that shields you from abuse.
#4: Set Healthy Boundaries
A gaslighting parent never respects boundaries. You may need to relocate and live independently away from the controlling parents. Or, create your private space at home where you get your “me time” with minimal interruptions.
Can a Parent Stop Gaslighting a Child?
Are you gaslighting your children without knowing it? If so, maybe you are also a victim of the same abuse. You are now parenting your child the only way you know. There are many ways to change your parenting approach and stop unintentionally gaslighting your children.
- For starters, own up to your mistakes. Blaming a child for something you did pushes them away even further.
- Second, learn to take constructive criticism positively.
- Also, reassure your children when they approach you while in distress. Here, resist the urge to dig up past mistakes when a child is in the wrong.
- Instead, use constructive criticism to correct the child.
Are your parents gaslighting you? Or, are you gaslighting your children unintentionally? If your parents are controlling, do not own up to their mistakes, ignore your subjective experiences, or create an enmeshed family; you could be a victim of a gaslighting parent.
Start by discovering the root cause of this behavior in your parents. Trust your gut feelings. And, maintain respectful interactions with healthy boundaries. And, if you are gaslighting your children, own up to the abuse. Be open to criticism, and be the supportive parent your child needs.