Do you ever feel like your parents are trying to control how you think and perceive things? Do they manipulate conversations or discredit your experiences? If so, you may be experiencing gaslighting behavior from them.
Gaslighting is a tactic used to manipulate and control another person’s behavior and emotions through psychological and emotional abuse.
While it can be difficult to see the signs of gaslighting due to the strong emotional connection with your parents, there are certain telltale indicators to watch out for.
According to experts, here are signs of gaslighting parents and how you can best deal with them and protect yourself from their lasting effects.
Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS, MSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Board Approved Clinical Supervisor, Choosing Therapy
They deny their child’s feelings or reality
When we think of gaslighting, we often think of romantic partners or people we are interested in dating who behave in a toxic manner. But parents or caregivers are often the first experiences that many of us have with unhealthy or even toxic relationships when they deny our feelings and experiences in childhood.
Some common signs of gaslighting parents are when they say things such as:
- “You’re just being sensitive.”
- “I was just trying to make you tougher; it’s for your own good.”
- “What are you talking about? Your childhood was fine. We were so good to you!”
Not all gaslighting is done maliciously. Some parents might do this in an attempt to protect or shield their children from uncomfortable feelings, such as parents who tell their children, “no, dad didn’t forget you, he is just busy a lot” when their parent does not come to pick them up for yet another scheduled visit.
When working with survivors of emotional abuse and family of origin trauma, we often have to begin the work by unlearning bad habits and examples they grew up with and then doing the work to relearn boundaries and even how to understand their own thoughts and feelings that had been denied for so long.
Here are some tips that I recommend:
Practice being aware of your own reality
One of the effects of gaslighting that stays with survivors is the denial of reality. When children have their reality denied by their caregivers, they often grow up unable to identify their reality, feeling insecure and distrustful of their own feelings.
If this was a constant part of your upbringing, starting with small, everyday practices will help. Practice being aware of your reality by saying things that are true, such as:
- “I like coffee.”
- “My favorite color is blue.”
- “I feel sad.”
Acknowledge and accept your feelings
Give yourself permission to feel your feelings without needing to justify them to anyone. If something bothers you, it bothers you—you do not need permission. Acknowledge it by speaking its truth to yourself.
This will help you practice when your parents say things such as, “no, that didn’t happen that way; you turned out fine, didn’t you?“
Do not try to convince them
After years of experiencing this, it will understandably feel good to try to argue back with them and prove your case. And while for some parents, who can develop and improve their self-awareness, this might work, it is not encouraged.
Most people will be defensive and try to justify their actions. Meeting them at their level of dysfunction can be all-consuming and can affect your own mental health.
Related: How to Respond to Gaslighting
Practice implementing boundaries
To survivors of dysfunctional families, boundaries are often unheard of. Many of my clients have to learn what their boundaries are and how to enforce them well into adulthood. Whatever age you are, you can learn what your boundaries are.
Start by thinking about what things bother you, such as conversation topics. You have the right to refuse to participate in them and can choose to walk away or end the conversation if you feel uncomfortable.
Related: How to Set Boundaries With Parents
Seek therapy or mental health support
For some, their experiences of gaslighting were part of a larger pattern of emotional abuse and invalidation. There is no shame in seeking therapy or mental health support to help with tools to unlearn these negative patterns.
There are also online support groups and educational books and journals that help with things like developing boundaries and improving self-confidence.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coach | Author, “10 Essential Survivor Secrets to Liberate Yourself from Narcissistic Abuse“
They want you to supply them with constant attention as you seek their approval
Gaslighting from parents is particularly difficult to identify because, as children, we are conditioned to view our parents as authority figures. This gives parents a pass in many ways to manipulate our worldview, attachment style, goals, boundaries, values, and identity from the day we are born.
You can identify gaslighting in parents using the same tactic you’d use to identify gaslighting in anyone else.
Set a boundary—make sure it is direct, concrete, and firm
Parents who gaslight never expect their children to set a boundary and enforce it. In most cases, the gaslighting parent will not know how to react, and their behavior or response will become irrational, possibly violent, or unhinged.
The boundary can be simple. Your mother might imply that she wants you to seek a promotion, move to a specific city for work, spend more time with her even knowing your schedule is full, etc. The important thing is that you set a firm boundary.
Do not give the parent suspected of gaslighting any wiggle room to manipulate your words to their advantage, get you to backtrack on your boundary, or brush you off. Make sure your boundary is direct, concrete, and firm.
If your mother implies that she would like you to seek a specific career path, tell her, “That is not an option for me,” and leave it at that.
If she pushes back, do not validate her opinion by explaining yourself and your reasoning behind the decision. What happens in your life is your decision to make and no one else’s.
A parent who doesn’t gaslight will respect that you are in charge of your own destiny. A gaslighting parent has tried to avoid this at all costs throughout your entire life. This is when the gaslighting parent will become offended that you have not factored their opinion, wants, and needs into your decision-making process.
The gaslighting parent has conditioned the child to factor mom and dad into their decision-making process at a subconscious level. They set the child up for a future as a chronic people-pleaser, always striving to please mom or dad even as mom’s or dad’s expectations change—and they always change.
Gaslighters always move the goalpost because their goal is for you to supply them with constant attention as you seek their approval.
That’s the best way to identify and start dealing with a gaslighting parent: set a boundary and stand your ground on it.
Unfortunately, dealing with a gaslighting parent can often become dangerous because parents know so much about us. Once you attempt to set a boundary and stick to it, they could lash out in destructive ways.
Setting a boundary is only the first step in dealing with a gaslighting parent. From there, you’ll need to decide how much contact you want to maintain with them (if any) to prioritize your own mental health and recovery.
Navigating this recovery process is deeply personal and looks different for everyone since we all face different types and degrees of abuse.
Holly Schiff, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Jewish Family Services of Greenwich
They tell you that you are so dramatic or emotional
Gaslighting is manipulating someone psychologically and making them question their own sanity. An example can be your parent telling you that you are so dramatic, asking why you are so emotional or telling you that you are acting crazy or sound insane.
This will make you question your behavior, reaction, and ideas—psychologically, this is damaging because how you view yourself influences your thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
They think the problems are your fault, and they accept no responsibility for any conflict
Your parent may even suggest you see someone or seek counseling or help for problems in your relationship with them. This is a way of saying that they think the problems in the relationship are your fault, and they accept no responsibility for any conflict.
They might claim that a certain conversation never happened or that they never said something when you know for a fact that they did. This destructive process starts to make you doubt your sense of reality, and eventually, you become unsure about your own perceptions and memory.
The gaslighter is trying to create a false narrative, usually, one where they are not at fault and did not do anything wrong.
Or they may say you took something the wrong way, misinterpreted their words, or were just joking and not being serious; again, they are not taking accountability for their behavior and words and blaming you for how you responded and reacted.
Related: Why Is Accountability Important?
They may lash out at you if you challenge them
They will dismiss your emotions and not take responsibility for their behavior. You will be made to feel crazy for speaking up and saying something, therefore lessening the likelihood of you doing so again in the future.
They can’t constantly criticize you, so they will pepper in positive reinforcement to string you along, confuse you, and praise you just enough to keep you from leaving.
How to respond to being gaslighted:
Make sure to document everything
Make sure to document everything and write down exactly what happens and how you feel. This helps you process and validate your own emotions, but it will also give you a tangible record and evidence next time you are made to question your own memory.
Educate yourself on gaslighting
Educate yourself on gaslighting so you learn not to take things personally and realize that they are trying to manipulate you, so you can attempt to regain some power in the dynamic.
Get outside advice
Get outside advice since your own perception of the situation may be clouded. Family and friends can perhaps give you a more objective opinion of what is going on.
They can also remind you of your worth since the gaslighting may have you questioning your skills and take away your confidence.
Joshua Webb, Psy. D
Counselor, Addiction Group
Gaslighting is a pattern of manipulation used by an adult figure such as a parent, relative, or teacher to make a child doubt their thoughts, feelings, or memories. The goal is usually to gain power over the child by making them feel confused and powerless.
This abusive behavior can be very damaging to the victim’s mental health as they may start feeling helpless and disoriented while simultaneously developing low self-esteem.
Signs that you might be experiencing gaslighting from your parent:
They are never wrong
Gaslighters always believe they are right about everything, even when it contradicts reality or evidence that shows otherwise. If your parent never admits they could be wrong about something, this might signal gaslighting behavior.
They constantly deny your feelings
A gaslighter will invalidate your feelings by telling you that you’re wrong for feeling certain emotions such as sadness, anger, or fear. They may also use phrases like “you shouldn’t feel this way” or “it’s not that bad” to try and make you think otherwise.
They blame you for everything
If your parent blames you for things out of your control, such as their mistakes or failures, this might be another sign of gaslighting behavior. This blaming usually attempts to shift responsibility away from themselves and onto the other person.
They make you doubt yourself
One way in which gaslighters manipulate their victims is by making them question their memories, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs to make themselves appear more credible than the victim themselves.
This makes it difficult for them to trust anything they think or feel because they are constantly being told they are wrong by the abuser instead.
They criticize you in public
Gaslighters often try to humiliate their victims in public settings such as at school, work, or with family members to put them down and weaken their sense of self-worth even further than what was already present prior due to the abuse itself.
How to deal with gaslighting parents:
Find a support system
It is vital to building a family and friends support system when dealing with a gaslighting parent—having someone to talk to about your feelings and experiences can be invaluable in helping you cope with the situation.
Additionally, it may be beneficial to join a support group for individuals who have experienced similar circumstances. This will provide a safe space for discussing your feelings and allow you to gain insight from other people’s stories and advice.
Establish boundaries to protect yourself from further emotional distress
Establishing boundaries with your gaslighting parent is essential to protect yourself from further emotional distress. This means setting firm limits on what interactions are acceptable and what behaviors are not, such as yelling or name-calling, while communicating them clearly and consistently.
Additionally, it is crucial to recognize that it is reasonable to sever all contact with an abusive parent if needed to ensure your emotional well-being.
Reclaim your narrative
Gaslighting can create false narratives by making victims feel like they are bad people or incapable of handling their lives on their terms, damaging self-esteem and mental health.
To counter this narrative, victims of gaslighting parents need to take back control of their story by focusing on the facts rather than the emotions associated with them.
Building resilience through activities such as journaling or talking with trusted friends or family members can also help reframe your perspective of past events or experiences so that you can see yourself through an empowering lens instead of being cast by the abuser’s words or actions.
Maintain healthy habits
To cope with a gaslighting parent, victims need to maintain healthy habits such as:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating nutritious meals
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding alcohol/drugs
- Engaging in activities that allow for relaxation and stress relief (e.g., yoga/meditation)
Practicing these daily routines will help strengthen physical health and foster emotional well-being during vulnerable times so one can better manage difficult conversations or interactions with their abuser(s).
Seek professional help
If needed, professional help from a therapist or counselor can be incredibly beneficial in learning how best to cope when facing gaslighting from a parent figure.
A mental health expert can offer guidance around setting boundaries, reclaiming personal narratives, or any other issues faced due to the abuse experienced by an abuser(s).
They can also provide access to resources such as therapeutic coping strategies designed specifically for those who have endured toxic relationships within their family unit so that they may heal in ways best suited for them emotionally and mentally speaking.
Dr. Ketan Parmar
Psychiatrist and Mental Health Expert, ClinicSpots
Gaslighting is an emotionally manipulative technique used by some parents to confuse and control their children. It can often be subtle or hard to recognize, but it’s important to be aware of the signs to know how to handle the situation.
They have exaggerated reactions
Gaslighting parents tend to overreact and become defensive when their child questions them or defends themselves. They might use words like “Always” or “Never” when talking about a particular behavior, exaggerating the truth to prove their point.
They blame and criticize their child for things that aren’t their fault
Another sign of gaslighting is blaming and criticizing your child for things that aren’t their fault. This can be done in a passive-aggressive way or with outright hostility.
Gaslighting parents will often make their children feel guilty even when they’re not at fault, leaving them feeling confused and defeated.
They have unreasonable expectations of their child
Gaslighting parents may also have unrealistic expectations of their child that are impossible to meet. These expectations can range from academic performance to behavior, and they’re usually much higher than what is actually achievable by the child.
They do emotional blackmail
One of the most common signs of gaslighting parents is emotional blackmail, which involves using guilt and manipulation to get your child to do something or behave in a certain way.
They might use phrases such as:
- “If you don’t do this, then I will be so disappointed in you.”
- “If you don’t do what I want, then you won’t get any love from me.”
They ignore the boundaries set by their child
Gaslighting parents may also ignore the boundaries set by their child and consistently cross them without asking permission first. This can range from physical to emotional boundaries, often leaving the child feeling violated and powerless.
How to deal with gaslighting parents
Dealing with gaslighting parents can be difficult, but there are steps you can take to help protect yourself and your mental health.
Establish healthy boundaries
It’s essential to establish healthy boundaries with your gaslighting parents and firmly communicate them. This will ensure that you are respected and not taken advantage of, as well as give you a sense of control in the situation.
Stay calm and rational
When dealing with gaslighting parents, it’s important to remain calm and avoid getting emotionally involved in the conversation. Instead, stay focused on facts and try to look at the situation objectively so you can make informed decisions.
It can be helpful to connect with someone who understands your situation and can offer invaluable guidance and support. Whether it’s a friend or family member, talking to someone about what you’re going through can help provide clarity and perspective on the situation.
Take care of yourself
It’s also essential to ensure you’re taking care of yourself and prioritizing your mental health in the midst of a challenging situation. Get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and engage in activities you enjoy to help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
Samantha Saunders, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor | Certified Trauma Therapist | Owner, Moving Beyond You
They manipulate information to suit their narrative
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which the abuser manipulates their victim into doubting their reality and perception of events.
It often involves the abuser denying facts or making false accusations, manipulating information to suit their narrative, and attempting to control their victim’s behavior and reactions through tactics such as:
- Constant criticism
- Withholding information
- Refusing to admit wrongdoing
Signs of gaslighting parents may include:
- Constantly questioning you or your opinion.
- Not respecting your boundaries or privacy.
- Being highly critical of your choices or opinions while simultaneously disregarding your feelings.
- Playing dumb when it comes to important topics, even though they know what’s going on.
- Accusing you of making things up even when they know better.
- Using condescending language towards you, lying about insignificant things just to make you doubt yourself more.
- Manipulating conversations so that it always ends in an argument where they get their way.
- They may also try to isolate you from family members and friends by criticizing them behind their backs or discouraging you from spending time with them.
If you suspect your parent is engaging in this kind of behavior towards you, it’s important to remember that none of this is your fault; no one deserves to be treated like this.
It’s essential for your safety and well-being to seek help from a professional who can provide guidance on how best to respond and protect yourself.
In the meantime, there are some strategies that may help deal with them:
Stand firm in what you know is true
First of all, remember that it’s impossible for someone to manipulate reality—so don’t let them convince you otherwise.
Stand firm in what you know is true by writing down all relevant facts surrounding a situation whenever possible so that it can be referred back to later if necessary.
Stating these facts out loud when communicating with the gaslighter can also help remind them that they cannot change reality regardless of how hard they try.
Practice self-care as much as possible to stay grounded
Secondly, practice self-care as much as possible to stay grounded—keep up healthy habits such as exercise and getting enough rest each night so that your mental health stays strong during difficult times.
Focus on building positive relationships outside the home
Finally, try focusing on building positive relationships outside the home with people who can provide emotional support; maintaining a strong support system is essential when dealing with difficult situations at home.
Gaslighting parents control their children
If you have had this experience, you will undoubtedly connect with some of these statements:
- You feel controlled by your parents.
- You don’t want to upset them or fear they will judge you.
- You are constantly saying sorry.
- You take the blame for their mistakes or challenges.
- You don’t have a voice.
- You don’t get recognized for your achievements.
- You are compared to other people.
- You are being verbally abused (Shaming you).
- You get belittled.
- Your reality is challenged—your memories are placed in doubt.
- Your parents play the victim so that you feel you are at fault.
- You question your worth and how you think about yourself (you don’t know how to love yourself unconditionally).
- Your parents tell you what you need and what you are thinking.
Gaslighting parents need to control their children. The manipulation can come across as “caring,” yet it is conditional and focused on being submissive to the parent.
It is a form of mental and emotional abuse with verbal statements and behaviors used to manipulate the child, undermine what they need, and deny them the ability to have a perspective and share it.
What to do about it? You need to be free from this behavior as it will erode your good-enough measure and create co-dependent relationships.
Also, you will carry the hurt and distress with you and become the parent you had. Your mental health can suffer, and your ability to have a healthy relationship with yourself and others will be impacted.
There is a way to keep connected with your parents and to start unwinding the vice of control that has kept your parents safe and satisfied.
Work on your mental fitness
Understanding that when you have gone through gaslighting, your survival behaviors are triggered, and you are focused on the past and anxious about the future.
Being present allows you to remind yourself that you are safe. You have a choice at this moment, and you can take a breath; meditation or mental presence activities can often help with this. This practice helps with the ability to navigate your choices and your understanding of the situation.
Start a journal
I have a practice that helps me remember who I am, not who I have been told I am not. In this journal, I recommend that you capture your life stories from your perspective.
You consider and honor your experiences, and then you ensure you can start reminding yourself of who you really are and the goodness you bring to the world.
Set firm boundaries
Boundaries allow us to have the relationship still, yet it allows us to be safe. You will limit the control they want to exert on you. You will be able to communicate what you need and what is ok for you and not ok.
Don’t get caught in an argument, be peaceful, share your boundary, and don’t allow the control or victim behavior to creep in. You will feel more peaceful because boundary setting is a form of honoring and loving yourself first.
Recognize that it will happen, and that is what it is
It is what it is. Don’t argue, don’t agree, and recognize you can’t change your parents, and you don’t have to either. You know who you are, and you know your worth and control of you belong to you.
Find a good coach or therapist to help you
Find a good coach or therapist to help you unpack, forgive and release, work on your mental fitness and find yourself. I did it and have captured my story in my new book, “The Glass Angel”—I have found me, my voice, and my love of self. My life has transformed.
Survivor of Childhood Emotional Abuse | Self-Publishing Consultant, House of Hives
They will try to override a belief, idea, or value that you have
Whether by denial, lying, or being covertly abusive—phrasing what they say very carefully to intentionally hurt you (sometimes referred to as innuendo)—an abuser will use gaslighting to make you doubt your own memories and experiences.
When you no longer trust your own observations and memories—when they have complete control over your reality, they can construct a world around their target. Usually, one where the target can’t (or will at least feel that they can’t) possibly survive without the abuser.
What happens when you’re being gaslighted is that the abuser is trying to override a belief, idea, or value that you have. This effectively leads to you having two competing versions of that information stored in your mind. Understandably, this creates stress and confusion.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you deal with gaslighting:
What not to do:
- Don’t take responsibility or blame for what the abusive person is doing.
- Don’t make snap judgments of others just because you have heard bad things about them.
- Don’t engage in arguments with a toxic person or try to convince them you’re right.
- If you feel unsafe in any way, get help or leave!
- Don’t keep the experience secret. Secrecy isolates you, so find someone you trust to share your experience with.
What to do:
- Realize that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s behavior than your own.
- Talk about the experience to those you trust.
- Journal. It can help keep track of what actually happened and will ensure that you don’t get lost in the abuser’s version of the story. Make sure that whatever you journal is kept private. If you don’t feel you can keep a physical journal private, can you store your entries on a private laptop or computer where no one else has access to them?
- Remember, you will never win a debate with a toxic person, as they can be so convincing in how they run rings around you—proving how “wrong” you are and how “right” they are.
- Keep a record—especially in the workplace, where abuse may lead to legal action. Send emails to the abuser that summarise your face-to-face meetings factually. For example, you could write something like the following: “Am I correct to understand that a, b and c? If I have missed anything, please reply to this email.“
- If any events escalate to violence, find safety first and then report it to the police immediately.
Chief Research Officer, HIGH5
They want to maintain control and undermine the child’s sense of self-worth
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that parents can inflict on their children. It involves the deliberate manipulation of facts or behavior to create doubt and confusion in the victim, making them question their own reality.
Gaslighting often results from one parent wanting to maintain control over the other parent or child while also trying to undermine the victim’s sense of self-worth.
Signs of gaslighting parents include:
- Offering contradictory information or explanations that make no sense to the child
- Blaming the child for their own behavior, suggesting the child is wrong when they are not
- Denying that certain events happened, even though the child saw them occur
- Refusing to accept responsibility for their own behaviors and actions
- Criticizing the child’s character instead of addressing specific behaviors or issues
- Isolating the child from family and friends, restricting their freedom and independence
- Making the child feel like they are not good enough or that their feelings are invalid
How to deal with gaslighting parents:
Seek outside support
Finding a trusted family friend or mental health professional to talk to about the situation is important. This can give you an outside perspective and help you process your feelings in a safe environment.
Speak up for yourself
Don’t let your parents’ words or actions go unchecked. Be assertive and make sure your voice is heard. It’s important to remember that you are not responsible for their behavior, but you can control how you respond.
Make an action plan
Create an action plan for when your parent starts to gaslight you. This could include walking away from the situation or using positive self-talk to remind yourself of your own worth.
Practice healthy coping skills
Practicing healthy coping skills like mindfulness, journaling, exercise, or spending time with friends and family is essential. This will help you maintain a sense of balance despite the gaslighting behavior from your parent.
Know your boundaries and clearly communicate them
Establishing clear boundaries with your parents is vital in protecting yourself from further abuse. Make sure to clearly communicate these boundaries and let them know that you will not tolerate any behavior that violates these boundaries.
If you believe your parents are gaslighting you, it is crucial to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. They can provide guidance and support to help you build coping strategies and find ways to deal with the abuse.
It is also beneficial to reach out to family members or trusted friends who can provide emotional support. Finally, mindfulness and meditation practices can help to reduce stress and cultivate inner strength.
They isolate you from your support system
Gaslighting parents will try to cut you off from your support system, whether that’s family, friends, or professionals.
Instead of listening to your perspective, they might make up lies about why you don’t need any outside help or advice. They may also manipulate you into believing that no one understands or cares about you except them.
They throw you constant put-downs and criticism
Another sign of gaslighting parents is constant criticism and put-downs. They may constantly point out your flaws and mistakes to make you feel inadequate or ashamed. They might also use subtle words and phrases to make you feel small or unworthy.
They manipulate your memories and actions
Gaslighting parents may also manipulate your memories or actions by telling you that something didn’t happen when it did or by pretending like certain events never occurred at all. They may also twist around the facts of a situation to make you question your own judgment and reality.
They control your life and choices
Gaslighting parents may also try to control your life and choices. They might make all the decisions for you or tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. They may also manipulate you into believing that their way is the only way and that other paths are wrong or bad.
They divert attention away from your feelings and needs
Finally, gaslighting parents may divert attention away from your feelings and needs. They may insist that their opinion is the only one that matters and makes you feel like your thoughts, opinions, and emotions are invalid.
Additionally, they may deflect blame away from themselves and onto you or someone else.
How to deal with gaslighting parents:
Be aware of the signs
Gaslighting parents are often emotionally manipulative and attempt to control their children by questioning their perception of reality. It can be difficult to recognize gaslighting for what it is, but there are some common signs that may indicate this type of behavior.
These include verbal or emotional abuse, invalidation of feelings, or a parent making their child feel like they’re crazy.
Talk to someone
If you recognize the signs of gaslighting, it is essential to talk to someone about your experience. Talking to a family member, friend, teacher, counselor, or therapist can help you process what is happening and find ways to cope with the situation.
Set healthy boundaries and a safe space
In order to protect yourself from gaslighting, it is crucial to set boundaries with your parents. This can mean learning to say “no” and not engaging in arguments that are fueled by emotional manipulation.
Setting boundaries also means establishing a safe space for yourself away from your parents so that you can take some time to process and reflect.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Parents Gaslight So Much?
• Power and Control: Some parents may use gaslighting as a way to assert their power and control over their children. By making their children question their own reality, the parents can control the narrative and shape their children’s beliefs and behaviors to align with their own.
• Lack of Empathy: Some parents may not have the emotional capacity to understand their children’s experiences and perspectives. Instead of trying to understand their children, they may resort to gaslighting to discredit their children’s feelings and experiences.
• Unresolved Trauma: In some cases, parents who have experienced trauma in their own lives may use gaslighting as a defense mechanism. They may unconsciously use gaslighting to avoid facing their own emotional pain or acknowledging their own wrongdoing.
• Rigid Belief Systems: Some parents may have very rigid belief systems, and gaslighting can be a way for them to maintain those beliefs, even when faced with evidence to the contrary. They may use gaslighting to avoid admitting that they were wrong or to avoid changing their beliefs.
• Insecurity: Some parents may engage in gaslighting behavior because of their own insecurities. They may use gaslighting to maintain the illusion of being in control, to avoid criticism or accountability, or avoid feeling vulnerable.
Breaking the pattern of gaslighting requires a lot of self-reflection and a willingness to change. Parents need to recognize the harm gaslighting can cause and work on developing healthier communication patterns. This may involve seeking therapy, learning new coping skills, and developing a greater capacity for empathy.
What Are the Most Common Gaslighting Phrases?
Here are some of the most common phrases used in gaslighting:
• “You’re too sensitive.”
• “I never said that.”
• “You’re just imagining things.”
• “You’re overreacting.”
• “You’re just trying to cause trouble.”
• “You’re lying.”
• “I’m the adult. You’re the child.”
• “You always misinterpret things.”
• “You can’t handle the truth.”
• “I know what’s best for you.”
• “You’re just being paranoid.”
• “I never promised that.”
• “You’re always causing problems.”
• “You’re just being dramatic.”
• “You don’t remember things correctly.”
• “You’re just trying to get attention.”
• “You’re too young to understand.”
• “I’m not going to argue with you.”
• “You’re just making things up.”
• “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
It’s important to note that not all parents use gaslighting phrases intentionally, and some may not even realize the harm they are causing. However, it’s essential to recognize and address gaslighting behaviors to maintain healthy relationships and promote emotional well-being.
What Are the Effects of Being Gaslighted as a Child?
When gaslighting happens to a child, it can have long-lasting and profound effects on their development and sense of self. Here are some of the critical impacts of being gaslighted as a child:
• Loss of trust: Children who have been gaslighted may struggle to trust their own memories and perceptions. They may also find it difficult to trust others, leading to issues in forming healthy relationships.
• Confusion and insecurity: Being gaslighted can cause a child to feel confused and unsure of what is real and what isn’t. This can lead to a sense of insecurity and a lack of self-confidence.
• Difficulty with self-esteem: Gaslighting can result in children doubting their own sanity, intelligence, and worth, leading to decreased self-esteem and self-deprecating thoughts.
• Emotional dysregulation: The effects of gaslighting on children can lead to challenges in managing their emotions, feeling overwhelmed, and healthily expressing their feelings.
• Difficulty with boundaries: Children who have been gaslighted may struggle to set and maintain healthy boundaries with others. They may also have trouble recognizing when others are crossing their boundaries.
• Trauma: Being gaslighted can be a traumatic experience for a child and may lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
• Intergenerational trauma: When children who have undergone gaslighting grow up, they may unknowingly pass on their coping mechanisms and behavioral patterns to their own children, creating a vicious cycle of intergenerational trauma.
How Do You Respectfully Set Boundaries With Parents?
• Acknowledge that it’s okay to have boundaries: The first step towards setting boundaries is to acknowledge that it’s okay to have boundaries in any relationship, including with parents. This can be hard, primarily if you have grown up being told that your parents know best.
• Identify your boundaries: Take some time to think about what you need to feel safe, respected, and comfortable. What do you want to protect, whether it’s your privacy, your time, or your personal beliefs? What are your non-negotiables? Write them down if it helps.
• Communicate your boundaries clearly and respectfully: When you’re ready, discuss your boundaries with your parents. Be honest and direct, but also be respectful and non-confrontational.
For example, you could say something like, “Mom and Dad, I love and respect you, and I value our relationship. However, I need some space to grow and establish my own identity. I would appreciate it if we could agree to limit our conversations about my personal life to once a week.”
• Be prepared for resistance: Unfortunately, not everyone will be on board with your new boundaries right away. Your parents may push back or try to negotiate. Stay calm and firm, and don’t give in to guilt or pressure.
• Reinforce your boundaries: Once you’ve set your boundaries, it’s important to reinforce them. If your parents continue to cross your boundaries, remind them in a kind but firm manner. Over time, they should get used to your new boundaries and respect them.
• Remember that boundaries are flexible: While it’s important to have boundaries, it’s also important to be flexible. Life changes, and so do our boundaries. Be open to adjusting your limits as needed, but always do so respectfully and thoughtfully.
Setting boundaries with parents can be challenging, but it’s an essential step toward maintaining a healthy relationship. Remember, it’s not about putting up walls or cutting your parents out of your life but about establishing a balance that works for both of you.
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