100+ Toxic Behaviors That People Thought Were Normal in a Dysfunctional Family

Growing up in a dysfunctional household, you might not have realized how many toxic behaviors were normalized.
I asked the cycle breakers in our Brown Girl Trauma community to share toxic behaviors they thought were normal until they saw the other side. Keep reading to see if you can relate.

toxic behaviors

You might have realized that the toxic behaviors normalized in a dysfunctional family were not healthy or typical but rather damaging. Extend yourself some self-compassion as you go through this journey, as many unhealthy behaviors were considered normal for a long time, so it makes sense you did not question them until now.

When you understand that you are not alone, you can start breaking the silence around some behaviors to build healthier dynamics.

100+ Toxic Behaviors That People Thought Were Normal In A Dysfunctional Family

  1. Women being treated poorly.
  2. Allowing parents to withhold money as a form of control. 
  3. Beating kids as a form of punishment.
  4. Allowing distant relatives to come over and mock your kids.
  5. Instead of doing something about it, you are being told you should respect your elders.
  6. Saying yes when you want to say no.
  7. Parents not talking to their children (silent treatment).
  8. Coexisting without any emotional attachments.
  9. Never apologizing for anything.
  10. Yelling or shouting all the time.
  11. Thinking chaos and constant noise were normal.
  12. Not being hugged by your parents.
  13. Oldest siblings playing the role of a caregiver. 
  14. Being treated poorly by your parents, but accepting and living with it because our culture  teaches us that whatever your parents do to you, they are still your parents, and you have to respect them despite them not respecting you.
  15. Husbands giving wives 'curfews' for how late they can be at her parents' house.
  16. Not setting boundaries for yourself.
  17. Parents that are divorced painting the other parent in a negative light.
  18. Parents get their emotional support mostly from their children.
  19. Constantly saying 'you will know when I die', 'nobody loves me', 'you are so selfish,' and 'how could you put your happiness before the family' as a form of guilt tripping.
  20. Thought having an emotionally abusive parent wasn't toxic unless they were physically abusive.
  21. Commenting on weight gain/weight loss as a form of mockery.
  22. Men are always right, no matter what. 
  23. Constantly worrying about what other people will think. 
  24. Prioritizing the reactions of other elders at the painful expense of the children. 
  25. No form of physical or verbal affection in the house. 
  26. Having to do household chores or work to feel noticed or valued. 
  27. Parents are always right. 
  28. Parents are always right.
  29. Love is conditional.
  30. Sharing how you feel is a sign of weakness. 
  31. Being told you would be loved more if you had better grades, were thin, and/or presentable. 
  32. Parents never taking the blame.
  33. Domestic violence is normal. 
  34. Withholding praise. 
  35. Feeling guilty for having a good time with your friends. 
  36. Alcoholism. 
  37. Asking permission to do anything even in your 20s. 
  38. Feeling shame whenever you gain weight, hating your body, and depriving it of what it needs to feel better. 
  39. Physical abuse is not toxic.
  40. Your academic achievements decide your value. 
  41. Men ate before the women at a family gathering, even though the women were the ones working in the kitchen all day. 
  42. You are wrong or ungrateful for having opinions or wanting different things. 
  43. Not letting your children have a social life. 
  44. Being a completely different person at home from the person you are outside the house.
  45. Taking your anger out on your loved ones is a normal way of venting.
  46. How you are seen by your community/family is more important than building a genuine connection with your children.
  47. Daughters need to follow several strict and unforgiving rules that do not apply to the boys.
  48. Not inviting friends over to your house.
  49. Violence is an everyday occurrence.
  50.  Shame, fear, guilt, and gaslighting used to parent.
  51. One person is responsible for the overall mood of the household.
  52. Thinking your brown skin is a problem.
  53. Constantly bickering, yelling about minor things, and blaming others for this behavior when called out.
  54. Beating children in the name of corrective behavior.
  55. Your career choices and salary directly relates to your parents self-worth.
  56. Hiding how you are feeling from your friends because your family asked you not to talk about the problems inside the house.
  57. Being available 24/7.
  58. Children play the role of conflict mediator in their parents' arguments, getting dragged into resolving their issues and determining right/wrong when they don't want to take sides.
  59. Controlling every move of your children.
  60. Thinking nights were supposed to be chaotic and full of fighting.
  61. Being disrespectful.
  62. Not trusting people outside of the family unit because that was what was instilled in you.
  63. Explaining yourself when you want to say no to something.
  64. Thinking it was normal for parents to constantly compare you to other kids as a way to motivate.
  65. Dimming your light to make others feel comfortable.
  66. Staying silent despite elders being disrespectful.
  67. Made to believe that marriage is the ultimate goal.
  68. Being an adult and making your own decisions is not a thing until you are married.
  69. Women are meant to be in the kitchen.
  70. Suppressing what you want because that is not what we do in our family and culture.
  71. Constantly hearing things like, 'as a woman, you need to make sacrifices.'
  72. Forced to hug relatives when you do not want to.
  73. Parents tracking their children.
  74. Thinking that brown dads are cold and distant.
  75. Strictly monitoring your communication electronically and interrogating you about in-person conversations.
  76. When you love someone, you can lay your hands on them.
  77. Never having an opposing view.
  78. Arguing to the point of verbally abusing one another, but then acting like it never happened. 
  79. Emotional abuse is not toxic.
  80. Saying yes and immediately doing as you were told without asking any questions.
  81. Yelling is the only form of communication. 
  82. Your life choices are directly related to your parents'/family's health.
  83. Shame base parenting. 
  84. Parents going through their kids' stuff without permission. 
  85. Parents gossip about other adults/family members but care about their thoughts.
  86. Unsolicited advice/comments about others' bodies. 
  87. Constantly pressuring children that it is their duty to care for their parents. 
  88. Saying rude and hurtful comments with the justification of 'only your family will tell you the real truth.'
  89. Self-care is selfish. 
  90. Therapy is self-indulgent. 
  91. Your worth is largely based on your occupation/income/education.
  92. Having no rules at all. 
  93. Only doing what your family wants because that is what is 'good' children do. 
  94. Staying in an abusive marriage to save face. 
  95. Allowing the family to make career choices for you. 
  96. Feeling afraid of your parents and walking on egg shells around them is normal.  
  97. Being made fun of or restricting your experiences for being dark-skinned. 
  98. Men not doing household chores.
  99. Women give up educational/work opportunities to get married. 
  100. Not talking about your mental health. 
  101. Parents always know what is best for their children. 
  102. Outgrowing your comfort zone is wrong. 
  103. Finding joy outside of your family is prohibited. 
  104. Normalizing marriage despite being unhappy. 
  105. Moving out and away from your family. 
  106. You can never be happy in a marriage that your family didn't decide. 
  107. Loading your children with unrealistic expectations. 
  108. No form of privacy. 
  109. Agreeing to everything without a reason because that is just how that is. 
  110. Opening your mail. 
  111. Men don't cry. 
  112. Putting the happiness of the community/family members before your happiness.
  113. You are responsible for how your family members feel.
  114. Staying in a loveless marriage for the sake of the children. 
  115. Perfectionism, burnout, people-pleasing, self-imposed disrespect, and staying in dysfunctional environments. 
  116. Love means your ability to tolerate. 
  117. Your value is determined by the sacrifices you make. 

I hope you can see that you are not alone in your experiences and that these toxic behaviors are certainly not normal or healthy. The more awareness we have about this and can have open conversations, the better we can do at breaking the cycle.

What toxic behaviors did you see being normalized? 

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