Toxic father: how to sever ties?

Whether it is the dad or the mom, a loving parent can truly be the wind beneath their child’s wings. However, when a parent is toxic, the child’s development can be halted and severely damaged.

Terry Pomerantz presents basic information that can help identify if a father is considered toxic.

Terry hopes that this information will help concerned families to identify the signs of a toxic parent and to get the necessary help and tools that will allow them to offer the best of themselves to their children.

What are the telltale signs of a toxic father?

A toxic father or toxic parent presents with one or several of the following 4 characteristics:

  • A toxic father criticizes his child. He does not celebrate his child, but rather always finds a way to criticize, devaluing the child. For example, he might say: “That’s good, but you could’ve done better.” The toxic parent will not hesitate to poke fun at his child in front of other people, with “no ill intention”, of course…
  • A toxic father makes his child feel guilty with comments that causes the child to take on responsibilities that are way beyond his/her years. The toxic father (or the toxic mother) will tell his child things like “didn’t I tell you not to do that?”, “you got in trouble because you deserved it…”, or “I work so hard to pay for your studies in a good school… “. The result? The child feels guilty and sad not to be able to please his/her father (or parent) more. They feel like they will never be able to satisfy their toxic parent’s expectations.
  • A toxic father imposes his tastes and preferences on his child. He rarely listens to what his child needs. If that child finally dares to manifest an intention that is contrary to the parents’ taste, the parent will criticize the child’s intention. A toxic father does not trust in his child’s choices or opinions.
  • A toxic father downplays his child’s emotions. A child does not always clearly express his or her emotions. For example, if the child falls while playing and scratches their knee, they may be feeling several emotions like pain, fear and insecurity. They need to be gently comforted and reassured by one of their parents. If they run to their father and he is a toxic parent, he will probably “comfort” them by saying: “it’s just a small booboo. Go back to play with your friends”. “So, imagine what will be the father’s answer when that same child will try to confide in him that they are being intimidated at school, for example”, adds Terry Pomerantz.
Father and son arguing

The main repercussions a toxic father has on his children

The child feels abandoned, misunderstood and unsure of themselves. The child will have too many responsibilities on their small shoulders. They will feel devalued all on their own. Their self-confidence will melt like snow in the sun and they will learn not to trust their own instinct. So, they will either become depressed or rebellious. One way or another they will isolate themselves and become marginalized.

How to escape the influence of a toxic father?

  • With forgiveness. The person must cease to believe that they are responsible for their toxic father’s behavior. Children who are victims of a toxic father will have a tendency to feel guilty about not meeting their father’s expectations. In order to alleviate the pressure and weight brought on by a toxic parent, the person must forgive themselves for the guilt they have built over the years and learn to forgive their father for his toxic behaviors. This is the only way to sever ties with the past.
  • By speaking up. The person must speak up and allow for their own personality to shine out, speaking their mind, choices, opinions and taste even when faced with their father. They are no longer defenceless. They can stand in their own truth without having to justify these choices or opinions.
  • By creating space. When the person decides to create more space between themselves and the toxic parent, they will be able to have hindsight, live more independently and with much more freedom.
Selective focus of the victim showing a stop sign isolated on a white background

Resources and help

  • Call or chat online with the LigneParent (1-800-361-5085), a hotline service that brings support to parents. The professional counselors at LigneParent will help you better understand the most appropriate resources or solutions for the problems you are faced with, or help with what your child is going through. This service is free, confidential and accessible 24/7.
  • 811 Info-Santé/Info-Social. This free phone consultation service allows you to contact a nurse or a professional in the field of psychosocial intervention.
  • School. Some schools give you access to professionals (social workers, psychologists, psychoeducators and others).

Terry Pomerantz is the leader of the Pomerantz Foundation. Throughout the years, this family foundation has given over 5 million dollars to more than 30 organizations that help children in need, as well as special needs children and their families.

Entrepreneur and prominent figure in Montreal's real estate and manufacturing sectors, Terry Pomerantz approaches every aspect of life with heart and character. At the helm of Domfoam and T.R.A.M.S Property Management, he carries on his late father's legacy while dedicating his philanthropic commitment to the Pomerantz Foundation, which has been actively supporting children's causes since 1991.