3 Toxic Parenting Mistakes

There are some parenting toxic mistakes that can be really toxic for children. Learn what they are today so that you can avoid them.
3 Toxic Parenting Mistakes
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 02 May, 2023

When we talk about discipline, not all people understand the same thing. For example, there are those who make certain toxic parenting mistakes or impose severe discipline, which becomes very harmful to their children. Therefore, it’s crucial to know what we’re referring to in order to avoid these mistakes.

Positive discipline to raise children

Children need rules and limits. Parents should do their best to help their children grow up in a healthy way, including emotionally. Positive discipline helps children to learn the rules of the environment, the limits that exist, and, above all, understand that every action has its consequences.

For a child to build healthy and strong self-esteem, it’s essential that they understand the rules and limits and that they take responsibility for their actions. However, many times, punishments and yelling predominate, which can cause serious emotional wounds that are very difficult to heal.

A black mother scolding her daughter.
Many times, parents understand the word discipline to be synonymous with punishments, authoritarianism, and yelling, which can cause serious emotional damage to little ones.

Discover three toxic parenting mistakes

When there are problems with discipline and parents think that authoritarianism is the solution, that’s when the issues become harmful to minors. Therefore, it’s essential that you know these three toxic parenting mistakes to remedy them.


Labeling children with negative connotations can produce serious emotional problems for the children who suffer from them. Sometimes, when parents want to correct a behavior, they try to make the child understand their behavior through labeling. For example, when they tell their child phrases such as the following: “You’re lazy,” “You’re boring,” or “You’re naughty.”

These are labels that do a lot of harm. And, what’s worse is that children believe them and the behavior that was intended to be changed becomes the main problem. Therefore, it’s crucial not to label children and to separate the person from the behavior. In these cases, the best thing to do is to talk about the behavior in order to find solutions.

2. Yelling and/or threatening

Yelling blocks children emotionally and they automatically stop listening to what their parents tell them. Therefore, the adult distances themself from them even if they’re by their side. These attitudes trigger the defense instinct and, therefore, children may feel fear and insecurity. What’s more, their self-esteem is affected.

A young boy plugging his ears while his father yells at him.
Threats occur when parents lose control and don’t know how to manage the situation. In addition, they generate resentment in children, as they feel that their environment is hostile.

3. Punitive discipline

When a child is disciplined in a punitive way, it shows them that it’s the adult who has the power and that, therefore, they can’t do anything about it. Therefore, they feel that their opinions and emotions don’t matter, so it doesn’t matter what they do or say. For example, punishments can be sending them to their bedroom for several hours, making them write lines, or stopping them from talking. These types of sanctions, besides being toxic, greatly damage the child’s emotions.

Parenting should be based on love

It’s essential that children know what the consequences of their actions are so that they feel that they’re in control of their decisions. For example, they’ll be able to decide whether to abide by the consequences or change their behavior in order to obtain good results in the relationship and coexistence. Therefore, it’s always essential to talk about the behavior and look for solutions for the future. In this way, the child will be able to better understand what’s happening.

Parents are the guides, examples, and role models for children. They’re the ones who have to teach their children about proper behavior through a calm upbringing based on love and mutual respect. You should know that children learn quickly through affection, but if the environment is hostile, they withdraw into themselves and the consequences on their emotional development can be very dangerous.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rojas, L. (2016) La familia: De relaciones tóxicas a relaciones sanas. Editorial: DeBolsillo Clave

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.