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A Letter To My Daughter As A “Toxic Parent”

A Letter To My Daughter As A “Toxic Parent”

“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do.”

Last night I put all four of you to sleep in your own cots. Waking up in the morning, in my bed, I’m arrested under a tangle of limbs in all directions and at the oddest angles. I was vaguely aware of them, one by one, crawling into my bed at different times in the night. Some parts of me feel truly sore from having stayed weighed under in the same position for the last few hours. But my heart feels so full and warm as I watch all of you cuddled up together.

As I reached out to ruffle your hair, my dearest daughter, remorse washed over me. Little one, am I being a good mother to you? Teaching you responsibility and independence at such an early age. You turn six next week. Just six! You are so much more responsible than your eight year old brother.

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Your mother, your younger two sisters, spending time playing with them, helping me bathe them and dress them up. You even help me tidy up the rooms and fold the laundry in your own little ways. I love the way you tidy up the shoe rack, searching and collecting shoes scattered around the house, pairing them like you are solving puzzles and arranging them in neat rows on the rack. You make such a mundane task seem like a fun thing to do.

Making your Own Sunshine

But I worry little one. Am I doing it right? Your grandparents did what they thought was best for me as they raised their children.

But as Virginia Satir said “Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don’t realize what messages they are sending.”

I write this letter to prepare you my dear child, to learn the good lessons from the bad experiences caused by toxic parenting. Parents also make mistakes despite their best intentions. But you, my sunny-natured one, can still come out shining from behind any cloud.

He who controls your purse strings, controls you

My best advice to you dear daughter is to stand on your own two feet. Be independent. Be strong. Let no one bully you. Not even your own parents. As you grow up, begin your career, get married and raise your own children, be in control of your finances. Today, you see me typing at my computer, working on articles, despite the pressures of raising four children. I am indulging in my passion, I have an outlet for my creativity and most importantly it gives me financial freedom.

Your father is the provider in our home, but I am not dependent on him for my personal needs. Fathers and husbands don’t quite understand a female’s unlimited fancy for clothes, makeup or shoes. But they tend to leave you alone as long as you don’t trouble them for the money. My weakness is buying pretty dresses for my children and cute plastic containers for the kitchen.

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On a more serious note, financial independence gives you the means to take care of yourself, it equips you to handle better the obstacles life will throw at you. But remember, money is never enough and it shouldn’t be the goal.

Let Go of the Need to Seek Approval

Seeking validation from anyone, even parents, will only lead to harm and low self esteem. Correcting children’s mistakes is a an important part of parenting, but sometimes people don’t know where to stop. When parents are overly critical, the child tends to develop a harsh inner critic and many children end up with anxiety disorders as they grow older. Validating your own thoughts and feelings will help you manage your emotions more effectively.

Learn to Deal With Guilt and Manipulation

You are responsible for your own happiness. Expecting others to make you happy will only give you disappointments in life. The same rule applies to your parents too. Some toxic parents place unrealistic expectations on their children’s shoulders by repeatedly drilling in stories of sacrifices made to raise them up. Such parents may demand their children give up their own desires in order to do what the parents want.

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Learn to deal firmly with anyone, even parents, if they use manipulation, guilt, and self-pity to make you do whatever they want.

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Even I had my share of grudges against my parents, especially my father. But when I became a parent, I was better able to understand that no parent is perfect. I learned to stop judging them and blaming them for not understanding me better. They were times I felt abandoned, when they didn’t realize I needed them desperately by my side.

Finally getting through those troubled times by myself, solving my own problems, have actually made me a stronger and independent person. Even if they are unwilling to understand or acknowledge their mistakes, forgiving them and yourself, is the best way to begin healing.

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These are valuable insights in any relationship. It applies to emotional dealings with all the people in your life, from your boss to your mother-in-law and your own children. Let no one dictate your life, your emotions or your happiness.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Anju Mobin

Anju is a Certified Nutritionist, and a Highly Experienced Health, Fitness and Nutrition Writer.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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