Lifetime scars: Toxic parenting can leave a poisonous legacy for children. (Unsplash/Chin Le Duc) (Unsplash/Chin Le Duc) Not all families are blessed with bliss. For people born to so-called “toxic parents”, the effects may persist a lifetime.
Toxic parenting. The term seems to be trending lately as many Indonesian parents learn to be better mothers or fathers by avoiding their own parents’ mistakes. From dominating their children to being verbally abusive, parents’ faults may have lasting effects on their children.
For some, such toxic behavior is the result of generational trauma or economic struggle. For others, it is the consequence of a bitter truth: that some parents have never grown up.
“Toxic parenting comes from ignorance,” psychologist Sani Hermawan said. “Parents refuse to learn the right parenting methods for their child, and they repeat the toxic patterns they learned from their own parents. They just imitate without consciously considering the long-term effects.”
“Instead of helping the child grow and develop, toxic parents prune them like a bonsai tree,” she continued, explaining the negative effects of toxic parenting on children. “This creates a child whose development is arrested. The child becomes insecure and prone to self-blame.”
Hard to look back
Mesach Albert Gunawan remembers the scene like it was yesterday. “One day, my mother took me to the market to pick out two blankets,” he said. “I asked her what they were for. She said, ‘They’re for your sisters.’”
A harmless act, until he noticed the finer details. Albert’s father had repeatedly cheated on his mother, and his mother always forgave him. That was until, one day, his father returned bearing news that he had had two daughters with a longtime mistress. A changed man: Mesach Albert Gunawan (right) and his family pose for a holiday photo. He has engaged in ‘remedial parenting’ for the past six years. (Courtesy of Albert Gunawan) (Courtesy of Albert Gunawan/Personal collection) “I don’t think my mother was angry or vengeful,” Albert said. “She just wanted to make sure those two girls were taken care of. They had no fault in this. They didn’t deserve to be abandoned by my father, too.”
Now 50 years old with three children of his own, Albert looks back on his family background with a hard-earned acceptance. But the human resources consultant has had to fight for his current peace of mind. He acknowledged a lifetime of “living the wrong way”, getting married for perhaps flimsy reasons and losing his own path as a father. Putting things right required a lot of soul-searching – something he fears not many are willing to do.
Legacy of ruin
Putri admits from the start that her parents forged ahead with marriage under less-than-auspicious circumstances.
“They didn’t marry for […]