Unhealthy Parent Child Relationship

Table of Content

Parenting is an art. It is an extremely demanding task which requires utmost dedication and readiness to deal with the thousand challenges it comes with. Yet, in the eyes of the children, this task often gets devalued or neglected which results in unhealthy parent-child relationships. The key to having a healthy parent-child relationship is to learn to treat each other with respect, even though a child is young, it is necessary to respect their individuality and boundaries and therapy can help you find the ideal balance.

A healthy parent and child relation ensures the holistic development of the child and lays the foundations of his/her personality, behaviour, mental/emotional strength, and overall personality.

However, the modern lifestyle and the emergence of nuclear families are leading to a massive cultural shift in how the kids perceive their parents and vice versa leading to friction in the family. It is imperative to understand what leads to such toxic relationships in order to work on improving them.

What causes unhealthy parent-child relationships?

Parent Child Relationship

There are various reasons that might lead to a rift between a parent and child. Acknowledging and understanding these causes will help in better solving the problem.

  • Not setting boundaries: No human being likes being controlled and the same applies to your kids too. Driven by hormonal changes, they often try to rebel against their parents leading to fights. However, having healthy boundaries and consequences for tantrums is an essential part of parenting.
  • Rejection: It is manifested in various ways like – by physical neglect, denial of love & affection, lack of interest in the child's activities & achievements, failure to spend time with the child, & lack of respect for the child's rights & feelings as a person. In a few cases, it also involves cruel & abusive treatment. Studies show that parental rejection tends to foster low self – esteem, feelings of insecurity & inadequacy, increased aggression, retarded conscience and general intellectual development.
  • Overprotection & Restrictiveness: The child-parent relationship is unique and special. However, in the pursuit of protecting their child, parent can often cross the line between right parenting and overprotectiveness. The unwanted restrictions often hamper the development of such kids and they miss out on the freedom, the right opportunities and can often show signs of over-anxiety or fear. Safeguarding the kids from falling out of behavior is considered okay, but it shouldn’t nurture the qualities of dependency, submission, hostility, etc. in your kids.
  • Over permissiveness & Overindulgence: Sometimes one or both the parent caters to the child's slightest whims & in doing so fail to teach & reward desirable standards of behavior. Overly indulged children are characteristically spoiled, selfish, inconsiderate & demanding. High permissiveness & low punishment at home correlates positively with antisocial & aggressive behavior. These children readily enter into relationships but exploit people for their own purpose. Such children are often rebellious.
  • Substance abuse: Children especially in their teens are quite fascinated by anything that gives them a rush. The lure of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs to look cool in front of their peers often excites them. Parents need to exercise caution and must indulge in healthy conversations to help them understand the consequences of developing a habit.
  • Unrealistic demands: Some parents place excessive pressures on their children to live up to unrealistically "high standards”. Under such sustained pressure, there is little room left for spontaneity or development as an independent person. Too often the parents do not take into consideration the capabilities & temperament of each child that leads to Parent Child Relationship problems.
  • Communication failure: Parents can discourage a child from asking questions & in other ways fail to foster the "information exchange" essential for healthy personality development. Some parents are too busy with their own concerns than to listen to their children & try to understand the conflicts & pressures they are facing. As a consequence, these parents often fail to give needed support & assistance during crisis periods. Other parents may have forgotten that the world often looks different to a child. One extreme pattern of pathological communication that conveys a contradictory message is referred to as double bind communication. Parents may convey one message by their words & another by their behavior.
  • Undesirable parental models: Since children tend to observe & imitate the behavior of their parents, it is apparent that parental behavior can have a highly beneficial or detrimental effect on the way a youngster earns to perceive, think, feel or act. A parent who is emotionally disturbed, addicted to alcohol or drugs, or otherwise maladjusted may also serve, as an undesirable model.

Parent-Child Relationship: How to resolve conflict? 

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”- by Frederick Douglas

 The above saying fits well when it comes to resolving conflicts between the parents and the child. And since no two problems can be similar, the “One Size Fits All” approach does not work all the time. That being said, try following the below-mentioned to resolve various parent-child relationship problems you may encounter:

  • Listen to what your kids tell you. They could be experiencing issues with their friends, in their relationship, etc. Let them explain their problems and then make them realize the consequences of their actions. Listening to your child is very important as unhindered communication is the best way to keep a relationship healthy. 
  • Start trusting your kids and believe in the decisions they make. Loss of trust is one of the primary factors behind family disputes, so avoid it.  Kids will learn from their mistakes and they need to learn themselves for their personal growth. Hence, trust your child to make their own decisions instead of cushioning them all the time.
  • Compliment them every time you see them finishing a task or doing excellent in academics because appreciation goes a long way with kids and encourages positive behavior. Kids need reinforcement to perform positive actions and this boosts their confidence as well.
  • Spend time with your kids devoid of electronic gadgets. Take a walk with them or have dinner together. These little activities will nurture your bond with each other and minimize conflicts.

Book an appointment with our counsellor to help better understand your strained relationship with your child. 


1.What is a good parent/child relationship?

Ans. Parent-child relationship is the most important relationship while growing up. A good bond between the child and the parent sets the base for a child’s upbringing and holistic development. It also influences the development of a child’s overall personality. 

2.How important is parent/child relationship?

Ans. Parents are a child’s first point of contact into the world. They are the ones who influence a child’s upbringing, worldview, and personality. Unhealthy relationships with parents can cause problems for life in a child. A healthy parent child relationship ensures holistic development of the child as well. 

3.What are Parent-Child Relationship problems?

Ans. An unhealthy relationship with parents can deeply impact the child over time. These problems include a lack of boundaries, rejection, restrictiveness and overprotection, overindulgence, substance abuse and unrealistic expectations from children. The parent child relationship problem can permeate into multiple aspects of life. 

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