When your family is toxic
How to Deal with Toxic Family Members
What is a Toxic family?
If you have ever been intimidated, targeted, or ridiculed by someone in your own family. You are a member of a toxic household. There are some things that you can do that will help. It does not matter who the family member is. They do not have the right to bully you. There is an enormous difference between discipline and outright bullying.
My father did not understand the difference. If you look in the dictionary under the term Toxic Family. You will see my family portrait. Whenever he got mad, I usually ended up getting beaten with a belt to the point that I had trouble standing up. That is why this subject is so personal for me.
When You belong to a Toxic Family?
It does not matter which family member it is. They do not have the right to bully you. It could be a father or a mother or a brother or sister. It could even be a grandparent. Regardless of who it is. The effect on you is still the same. They may not be angry at you. They may act out as a response to something that is going on in their life, and you are a convenient target. That does not change the effect it has on you though.
Here is a list of seven steps that you can take that should help.
1. Plan Ahead
Try to plan ahead what your actions will be. Do not make the mistake of waiting until it happens and then depending upon yourself to react appropriately. This almost never works out in your favor. This is not a good strategy. This is also where True Self-Confidence would be helpful. Bully’s dislike anyone that they cannot intimidate. It takes all the fun out of it for them.
Try not to focus on what the bully is doing or saying. Try to think of yourself. There are several ways that you can defend yourself that do not include violence. You can find these in my book “My Do’s and Don’ts for Bully-Proofing Your Child.” Try to think of “I” instead of “You”. This will also help to reduce your level of anxiety.
2. Stand Up for Yourself
Stand up to them without coming across as hostile. This would just inflame the situation. The worst thing you can do is to meet hostility with hostility. Toxic family members are always looking for a confrontation. This could cause the situation to deteriorate into a physical confrontation.
You might ask them, “What did you say?” or even say “Excuse me?” in a questioning tone. When they say something like “Weren’t you listening?” Just reply by saying, “I just wanted to make sure I understood what you were asking so I could give you a correct answer.” This accomplishes two things. 1) It lets the bully know that you are listening to what they were saying to you. 2) It does not escalate the situation.
3. Walk Away!
Remove yourself from the situation if at all possible. But if you are depending upon this person to help you out. You might have to bite your tongue temporarily. Remember, it is not your responsibility to stand there and take the abuse if you have any other choice. You have the right to turn around and walk away if you can do so safely. Sometimes this can be extremely awkward. You are not required to stand there and take the abuse if you don’t have to.
4. Toxic Family’s Need Ground Rules.
Try to figure out how much you can tolerate from this person and set your ground rules accordingly. If you can avoid this person, then you might want to do so. If you see or hear this person becoming upset. Even if it is not at you. Then try to get away from them before they have the chance to take it out on you.
People as a general rule dislike change. Members of a toxic family are even less likely to be willing to change. You will need to be firm about your ground rules. Do not give in. This will tell them that if they push your buttons long enough or hard enough, they will get a rise out of you. That is exactly what they are trying to do. They seem to get a perverse sense of enjoyment out of upsetting you or getting you to react.
5. Someone You Can Trust
If there is someone that you can trust to talk to that will try to understand without judging you, then by all means talk to them. This is normally not a person in the same family. They might try to help by saying something to the bully, but this could only make things worse. If you ever feel you are in danger. Then by all means call 911. If the bully is your parent, this can be difficult to do.
As I got older, I had to do this several times when my father was out of control. Just remember, take care of yourself. Protecting yourself and your future mental health is paramount. Just remember that being bullied can have some pretty serious long term negative effects on you.
6. Don’t get emotional
Remain calm. I realize how hard this might be to do. Just because they are toxic does not mean that you have to play their game. You cannot afford to become emotional. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the bully wants you to do. This could also make the situation worse in a hurry. When you become emotional, you stop thinking rationally. You cannot use your head to think about how to diffuse the situation without it becoming violent if you are not calm. 9 times out of 10 when it becomes physically violent someone usually gets hurt or worse. To remain as calm as you can.
7. Remain Confident
Having “True” self-confidence is something that you need to be working on from a very early age. Two years old is not too young. But this is when your parents need to take an active role in helping you to develop this. “True” self-confidence is a learned behavior. Remember when you learned how to ride a bicycle how good it felt.
The same thing happened when you learned how to drive a car or even when you graduated from high school. A “Truly” self-confident child is the one thing that a bully does not want to have to face. They cannot exert their power over you, and that is exactly what they are trying to do. So, stay calm. “True” self-confidence will help you to tolerate your family if they are toxic.