Parental Gaslighting: How Parents Gaslight Their Children And Break Their Hearts


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Parental Gaslighting

“You’re being too sensitive. There’s no need to overreact!”
“We are your parents. We know what’s good for you.”
“Having you was the biggest mistake of my life!”
“You’re lucky to have parents like us. Be more grateful!”
“We never hurt you! Don’t make up things in your mind.”

“I have given you an amazing life. You have nothing to complain about.”

Gaslighting is not just limited to romantic relationships, it can be done by narcissistic parents as well. Sounds heartbreaking and kind of unbelievable doesn’t it? Parents are supposed to protect and love you, not break your heart and make you question your sanity. Unfortunately, there are some who do exactly that – toxic parents gaslight their children to make them doubt their reality, and constantly feed them the narrative that as parents, they’re not doing anything wrong.

Parents CAN be abusive, toxic, and manipulative, and sometimes this can be hard to fathom because of the traditional parent-child relationship. Children normally look to their parents for guidance and emotional well-being, but when parents don’t care about that, and keep on gaslighting them, it changes their thinking and perception of what is normal and what isn’t.

Related: When Parents Offer Gaslighting Instead of Love: Surviving Your Own Mother and Father

What Is Parental Gaslighting?

Parental gaslighting is a kind of abusive and manipulation tactic where abusive parents deny doing anything wrong, and force you to question your own sanity and version of events. They know what they have done, and they know what you’re accusing them of is all 100% correct, but they will never own up to it. Instead, they will control your mind and will repeatedly try to convince you that you are “remembering it wrong” and “you don’t know what you are talking about”.

When parents gaslight their children, they psychologically, mentally, and emotionally destroy them and this can have a horrible impact on a child’s psyche. Children who have gaslighting parents grow up believing that they can never be right, and no matter what they do, they will never be good enough.

So, how do toxic parents gaslight their children actually? There are a few patterns that are always synonymous with gaslighting parents, and the more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to protect yourself and your mental health.

5 Ways Toxic Parents Gaslight Their Children

1. They deny all of their mistakes and pin everything on you.

Whenever you try to call them out on their mistakes, they deny it all and instead blame you for everything. Even if you wave proof of their negativity in front of their faces, they will keep on denying everything. Your parents will charge you with ‘Are you crazy?’ statements and will try to disregard everything you’re saying.

In their mind, they haven’t done anything wrong, and even in the rare cases that they do realize their mistakes, there’s no chance in hell that they will own up to it. They would rather make you question your own sanity than be accountable for their actions. Owning up to their behavior is something toxic parents find absurd, and hence, they never do.

Parental gaslighting

2. They make you question your sanity.

If you have had a traumatic childhood because your gaslighting parents never cared about your emotions and mental health, then chances are that trauma is still haunting you today. Their actions and behaviors have had a massive impact on your psyche and emotional health, but whenever you try to talk to them about it, they don’t just dismiss it, they behave as if you had a perfect childhood.

They were never there for you when you needed their emotional support and understanding, and now as an adult, when you confront them about it, they make you question your reality. They do this by saying things like “What are you talking about? We were always there for you!” and “We provided you with everything. How can you even say something like this?”.

When toxic parents gaslight their children, they are not only invalidating their child’s feelings, but are also manipulating them into believing something that is not true.

Related: 20 Signs Of A Toxic Mother

3. They suffer from a victim complex.

One of the biggest signs of having gaslighting parents is that they suffer from a massive victim complex, and they know exactly how to use it to get their selfish needs met. They are incapable of changing their mindset or acknowledging just how much they have hurt their children and broken their hearts. They have this perception that they can never do anything wrong, it’s always you who misunderstands them and accuses them of vile things.

Narcissistic parents who gaslight their children always see themselves as victims who have always got the rough end of the deal. Even if they do admit to their faults on some rare occasions, they will simply expect you to forgive them because they are your parents and have “raised you” and “taken care of you” their whole lives. Because they lack a sense of self-responsibility and accountability, it’s very easy for them to see themselves as the victim and you, as the insensitive and ungrateful child.

4. They believe they know what’s best for you, more than you.

It’s a natural thing for parents to guide their children on the right path and make them understand what is best for them, and what is not. However, gaslighting parents exploit this sentiment to control their children and their lives. They are never there to love and support you, but when it comes to making decisions about your life and judging your choices, then they are always ready with an ‘open mind’.

For example, if you want to be a veterinarian surgeon because you have always been an ardent animal lover, they will put you down for choosing a less ‘prestigious’ and ‘lucrative’ line of work, and force you to be a ‘real doctor’. If you want to go to therapy because you want to take better care of your mental health, they might discourage you by saying things like “You don’t need therapy. You are fine. People will think you are mad and that’s embarrassing!”.

What you want to do with your life and what will make you happy doesn’t matter to them; the only thing that matters to narcissistic parents is controlling you as much as they can.

Toxic and narcissistic parents

5. They never acknowledge or appreciate your efforts.

They are always very quick to judge you and put you down, but appreciating you for your achievements and hard work? Never in a million years. No matter how much you may achieve in your life, they won’t even crack a smile on their faces, nor will you ever see a hint of pride and happiness in their eyes.

Rather they will try to downplay your accomplishments, by making statements like “You got lucky”, “It’s not that big of a deal, anybody could have done this!”, “You could have done more” and on and on it goes.

You feel emotionally and mentally depleted and completely heartbroken because all you expected from them were a few kind words, and instead got insults and more pain. No matter how hard you try, and how much you accomplish, it will never be good enough in their eyes.

Related: Self-Identifying as an Adult Child of Narcissistic Parents

What Happens When Narcissistic Parents Gaslight Their Children?

When instead of love, parents offer gaslighting, indifference, and abuse to their children, their children grow up believing that they are unlovable. It destroys you emotionally, and you find it hard to recover from it even when you are an adult. It’s not always possible for a child to understand the difference between genuine love and toxic love, so when they get gaslighting from their parents, they internalize it and see it as their truth.

When children get manipulation, abuse, and gaslighting instead of love, support, guidance, and understanding, it distorts their minds and perception of the world. Toxic, abnormal things become normal and normal, healthy things seem farfetched and impossible. When parents gaslight their children, they are not just hurting them but they are also giving off the message that their feelings and emotions don’t matter and hold no value whatsoever.

Children of gaslighting parents will always believe that they don’t deserve to be loved and whatever bad happens to them, they deserve all of it. Is this how a child deserves to grow up? Feeling that they don’t matter and that they are not good enough, and never will be? You grow up thinking that you need to win and earn your parents’ love for them to be there for you.

Want to know more about how toxic parents gaslight their children? Check this video out below!

How Can You Heal From Parental Gaslighting?

Even though it may feel like there’s no way you can ever heal from the damage caused by your narcissistic parents, the truth is, there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. You need to understand that the way your parents treat you, none of it is your fault nor will it ever be. If they can’t give you the love you deserve, it’s on them, not you. You don’t need to earn or win their love, because emotionally healthy parents never expect that from their children.

If your gaslighting parents show no signs of changing their ways, or if they still refuse to acknowledge their toxic nature, then setting some boundaries can help you heal. Know what you need and prioritize your happiness, and let them know that. If they refuse to understand then put some distance between the two of you. Your mental and emotional health matters the most, and if they are too selfish to understand that, then you got to do what you got to do.

Related: How Adult Children of Narcissists Can Begin to Heal

You can also opt for therapy to better understand how you can move on from all the damage caused by your toxic parents. Healing from parental gaslighting can be a painful process, and therapy can help you a lot with that. Leaning on your close friends and trusted family members for support can also help you feel better, and heal from this in the long run.

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