Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt
It’s normal to have conflict with your parents. What’s not normal is for them to belittle, insult, berate, or make you feel unsafe or afraid in your own home. It can be difficult to deal with the pain caused by your mean parents. You can overcome this situation with strength and ingenuity.
This article is for parents who are abusive or mean to their children. They either don’t want Child Protective Services involved or don’t believe it’s necessary. Call emergency services if you believe your safety is at risk.
Understanding the Situation with Mean Parents
You are not the Reason Why They are What They are
They will treat you the same regardless of how difficult you may be to get along with, no matter what. They don’t do this because you are flawed but because they’re just too thick headed to treat you the right way.
- A good parent will not make their child feel guilty about their mistakes unless the child is very outlandish
- No matter what you do, a mean parent will always be mean.
Cruel Behavior is a Sign of Emotional Immaturity
They’re like a child that throws tantrums and uses manipulation to get their way.
You’ll Never Win your Parent’s Approval
Your parent’s critical nature is part of who they are. It doesn’t matter how much you do for them. They will not suddenly start to approve of you. You won’t get their approval no matter how much they might think you deserve.
- They’d still be critical of you, even if your body was “perfect”, won a contest, or were elected president. You can’t change the behavior of others by changing yourself.
- It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are incapable of winning their approval. This is a sign that something is not right with them. You’re OK.
You Can’t Fix Them And You Shouldn’t
As much as you might wish, you can’t make your parents a nicer person. Even if they do learn to be kind one day, it could be many years or even decades away. You can only take care of yourself.
Keep Your Expectations for Mean Parents Low
Expect your parents not to be more accepting, self-aware or less critical. It’s likely they will remain this way forever. They will likely never make you feel at ease around them. Sometimes, parents become kinder to their children after they move away. This is because they realize that their child can now decide to leave when the parent is mean to the child.
Know The Difference Between Bad Parenting and Emotional Abuse
Learn the difference between emotional abuse and bad parenting. Abusive parents might use manipulative tactics to control their children. They won’t try to help you and they won’t consider your side valid.  Bad parenting can cause hurt, even if parents mean well. However, emotional abuse can be scary and can cause deep scarring. These are some of the things abusers might do
- Rejecting: Name-calling and personal insults, hostile humor, discrediting “jokes”, condescension, discriminatory remarks, making you feel inferior
- Ignoring: Withholding affection and denying your needs.
- Terrorizing: Threats, exaggerated raging, ridicule, humiliation, blaming others for your actions
- Isolation: Forbids you from attending events, and imposes excessive punishment. This is a way to make your friends against you or to make them against you. It also tells you that no one will believe or help you if they ask.
- Corrupting: You are given drugs or too much alcohol. It teaches cheating, encourages promiscuity and teaches how to abuse other people.
- Exploiting: Makes you do age- and ability-inappropriate tasks, forces you to do things you don’t want, unreasonable expectations for chores or tasks
- Surveillance: Goes through your phone/diary/email/browser history, makes you constantly check in when you’re out, removes locks or doors from rooms
- Undermining: Makes you fail, degrades your achievements, and posts videos on the internet showing you being punished
- Gaslighting/Mind games – Calls you too sensitive, uses emotional blackmail, tries guilt trip you
Avoiding Confrontation with Mean Parents
When You’re Home, Be Quiet And Avoid Your Mean Parents
Close the door and go into your bedroom. Go outdoors if your parents are indoors. You can find places where your parents aren’t. Pay attention to any situations that can reduce the likelihood of confrontation. If your mom is friendly when you’re around your dad, but mean when she is alone with you, it might be a sign that your dad needs to be closer to your mom.
Spend More Time Outside Your Home
Participate in after-school and before-school activities. Spend time with friends and invite them to your house. Find ways to spend quality time with friends far from your family.
You can set time limits for phone calls and visits if you’ve already moved out. Besides, you can say to your mother that you only have half an hour before you make your “appointment”. Then, you can close the conversation by telling your mother that you have only half an hour before your “appointment.”
Avoid The Triggers That Lead To Meanness
Be aware of what happens before they become cruel. If they are mean after drinking, you should leave the room. Don’t mention positive things about yourself if they become mean. Even if it is painful, keeping an incident log can help you spot patterns.
Talk as short as possible to your Mean Parents
Keep your conversations short and pleasant, especially if you notice that your parents are in a bad mood. Avoid giving too much information to your parents as they may use it as a chance for criticism. Keep your manners polite and detached. As much as possible, avoid emotional investment in the situation.
Move Out or Begin Saving Up To Move Out
Start saving money and making preparations to see what your future might look like. Consider who you might need to help you when you move out on your own. Your parent(s), if you choose to live alone, will no longer be your primary caregiver. If you are a minor, an aunt, uncle or grandparent may be able to take you in.
Moving Out or Planning can help to plan your future. You can set goals that you look forward to. You are no longer required to speak to your parents once you have become an adult. It’s possible to end a relationship with your parents at any time. Any type of relationship is voluntary and on your own terms.
Managing Your Mean Parents (or the Meanness)
Do not fight back
Do not respond to your parent’s cruel words with anything cruel. Because fighting back can encourage your parents to say more hurtful things and escalate the situation. Keep calm and try to de-escalate, even though it is difficult.
To be able to deal with people being mean to one another without becoming rude or a nuisance can require a lot of maturity. This is too much to expect of a child. This is not fair. It is okay to be upset. However, you must learn adult conflict management skills early in your life. It can be powerful to ignore criticism or insults, even though it hurts inside.
Use Self-Calming Techniques
Use whatever helps you to manage your emotions in the face of hardship. There are many coping strategies that work for different people. So experiment on finding the right self-calming technique that works for you.
Remember that Your Mean Parents’ Opinions Do Not Define Reality
It doesn’t matter if your parents say that you are lazy, selfish, fat, etc. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are. You don’t deserve to be treated badly by others, even if they do.
Talk to your Parents in a Calm, Firm, and Quiet Voice
Arguments back to your parents will only make them more defensive. Instead, you can try to set a boundary or make an observation. Be calm and sensible. Sometimes, a reasonable person can be compelled to behave.
Set A Boundary with Mean Parents, Then Change The Subject
Although this deflection technique may not always work, it is often worth trying. This is a mature and sensible way to deal with an unreasonable person. Find a topic that is generally safe and ask your parents if they will talk about it.
You Can Use Access To You As A Bargaining Chip
Your parents should be nice if they want to spend time with your family. They will usually behave a bit better if they love you. You can follow a simple rule: if they say something you don’t understand, change the subject. You leave the second time.
Get Out Of There As Soon As You Can
You can go to the bathroom, get out of your room, or look for somewhere else. You can also temporarily leave, such as by buying yourself or your parent food or drinking water and taking a moment to breathe. Try walking somewhere more public like on the street if your parents are following you. If people stare at them, they may not be as likely to make a scene.
After The Event, You Should Deal With Your Emotions
Even if everything goes well, it is possible to feel anxious, scared, angry, confused, or shaky. It is normal to feel this way. Recognize your feelings and find a way to cope. Don’t retaliate. This can make things worse.
Reflect On The Way You Dealt With The Situation
This can help you plan for the next time. Reflect on how you handled it and what you could do differently in the future.
Coping with the Mean Parents
Give Yourself Space And Time To Feel What You Are Feeling
Sometimes you may be angry at your parents for not treating you this way. On other days, you may be sad about the unhappy childhood you didn’t have. Different feelings are normal. Feel those emotions.
Stop and ask yourself “How do I feel?” It’s a good idea to take a moment and label your emotions. Mean parents can make their children feel angry, alone, scared, anxious, afraid, on edge and guilty. They may also feel hurt, misunderstood, hurt, confused, and sometimes even be afraid. These feelings are normal.
Accept That You Can Be Afraid To Try Assertiveness Methods With Your Mean Parents
If your parents are cruel, it can be frightening to set boundaries, talk about feelings, or do anything that acknowledges you’re human. It’s normal to feel stressed when you have parents who are mean.
These techniques can be especially challenging when you are in panic mode. This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert overnight. You can always say, “I need some air”, and then leave if you are unsure what to do.
Do What Makes You Feel Better
Different people have different ways of coping. While one person may find that watching television with popcorn is a great way to unwind, another might prefer basketball. Different stress management strategies work for different people.
Take Care Of Yourself
Healthy habits can improve your mood and resilience, which will make it easier to face every day. You may not have learned how to take care of yourself if your parents are negligent. These are some tips to help you be your best self.
- Meals: Eat whenever you feel hungry and stop when your stomach is full. Fruits and vegetables should make up 1/3 of your plate. Limit simple sugars. Eat healthy snacks if you get hungry between meals. Avoid diets that exclude certain food groups or fads. These aren’t sustainable, and can cause problems with your metabolism.
- Sleep: Try to sleep between 8-10 hours every night if you can. Follow a schedule and set a consistent wake-up and bedtime. Before you go to bed, turn off your screens or use a blue-light filter on your device. You may not be getting enough sleep if you are having trouble getting up in the morning.
- Exercise: Find a type of exercise that you enjoy, such as walking or playing sports. At least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week is a good goal. Stop if it hurts and take a rest..
- Cleanliness: Shower daily. Cleanse your hair and body daily. To avoid clogging pores, use a facial soap. Apply deodorant daily. Make sure to brush your teeth well every day and floss regularly.
- Recreation: Make sure to set aside at least 30 minutes every day for something that is purely recreational. You can think about what you love most, such as drawing or watching cat videos. Get in the habit of doing these things. You can always take more time the next day if you don’t have the time to do something that interests you.
Be Kind To Yourself
If you live in a negative environment, self-love can be hard. You might not feel the love you deserve right away. Make loving choices for yourself, until then. You can learn to love yourself with patience and time.
You Can Identify Any Negative Beliefs Or Behaviors That Are The Result Of Bad Parenting
Your thoughts can be distorted by mean parents. It is possible to feel powerless or worthless. Challenge negative thoughts about yourself.
Reaching Out when You have Mean Parents
Participate In Your Local Community
It is easy to fall into isolation. Participate in community events and have fun with others. It is important to feel connected with others, even though you may not be able to do so at home.
Spend Time With People Who Are Positive
Find friends who make you feel good about yourself, regardless of age. A support network can help with your stress and make you feel better about yourself. Talk to someone who is a good listener. They can validate your feelings, help you to brainstorm solutions, and even offer to vent.
Find Online Communities That Help Others In Similar Situations
The world is full of people who have lost their parents. This doesn’t mean you are the only one. You can also find other people online. You can search for…
- Forums for those with mean parents
- If your home has caused you mental health problems, there are mental health recovery communities.
- Websites that offer advice
Look for Mentors
If your parents aren’t there to support you in dealing with the growing pains of childhood, find new mentors. These adults can help you learn and deal with any problems you may have. Find mentors who are available in your area.
- Favorite teachers
- Parents of friends
- Club supervisors
- Clergy members
Talk to a counselor if you are able. Cruel parents can cause a lot of emotional harm. Counselors may have expertise in this area and can help you deal with your situation.