What Is Codependent Parenting?

Last Updated on June 25, 2021 by Michele Tripple

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Codependent Parenting has high attachment levels to their kids, to the point of relying on them heavily. Learn the ups and downs of this type of relationship and how to recognize it in yourself and others!

Codependent Parents

Codependence can exist in almost any relationship. I remember a time when I experienced it in my own marriage. It was difficult for me to make decisions on my own – even something as simple as what was for dinner because I was worried that I was going to disappoint everyone with what I chose. 

Codependence can sometimes be difficult to overcome, but it is not impossible. I soon learned to figure out what to make for dinner and many other decision-making struggles and was able to overcome my codependent tendencies. 

What is Codependent Parenting?

Codependency can look different depending on the relationship. You may have a dad who struggles with codependency and expects his kids to care for his physical needs. Or you may have a mom who needs her kids to keep her mentally stable and meet her emotional needs.

In its simplest form, codependency is broadly used to describe someone who heavily relies on someone else to meet their needs. Being codependent is not a healthy option for any relationship, but it can be extra damaging to a parent-child relationship when the parent is codependent of their child.

What does codependency look like in parenting? 

The same principles that applied in my marriage apply in situations with a codependent parent. Depending on the parenting style used, it can look different for everyone. Generally, codependent parents have an unhealthy attachment to their kids. Because of this attachment, they may rely heavily on their kids to meet certain emotional needs.

Most parents want to have a strong relationship with their kids. The development of codependency can be a parenting mistake that can come because of this desire.

Check out these Other Parenting Styles

Characteristics of Codependent Parents

Codependency isn’t always easy to recognize, but there are some characteristics to be aware of that can help you recognize if you are a codependent parent.

  • A codependent parent’s sense of self depends on the relationship that they have with their kid. For this reason, codependent parents may find themselves overly involved in their kid’s life. Much like the helicopter parent, this can include doing tasks for their kids that they are capable of doing on their own.
  • Another characteristic of codependent parents is that they may put the parent-child relationship above all others. Relationships with friends, relatives, and even their own partner are likely to suffer from their need to place their kid as the number one priority.
  • Emotional manipulation is another sign of a codependent parent. They may implement guilt trips, passive-aggressive behavior, or projecting their own negative emotions as a means to rid themselves of guilt. This often looks like using the kid as a scapegoat for any negative feelings the parent may experience.
  • Codependent parents tend to have the belief that they are always right. When their kid questions their behavior or expectations, a codependent parent may become defensive and hostile.
  • Usually, codependent parents won’t take responsibility for their actions. They may paint themselves as a victim whenever possible.
  • When a kid is unhappy or struggling, codependent parents take it as a personal attack. Their self-esteem is so closely tied to their kids that when one is having a hard time, they think that it means something about them as a parent. They may further put themselves into a victim role as a means of coping.
  • Boundaries are difficult to enforce for the codependent parent. Because these parents rely so heavily on the support of their kids, they may struggle with discipline because they are afraid of being rejected by their kids.

Why Codependent Parenting Is A Problem

Codependent parenting is not something to be taken lightly. There are some very real and very damaging effects of codependent relationships between a parent and their child.

  • Because codependent parents tend to be overbearing, their kids may lack self-identity. This can be challenging in the adolescent years when they are faced with challenges and temptations. Teenagers may retain their parent’s identity without ever truly forming their own beliefs.
  • Codependent parenting can easily turn into emotional abuse if you are not careful. Because codependent parents often wish to control their kids, they do not treat the kid’s needs as important as their own – and that includes their emotional needs.
  • Kids of a codependent parent are more likely to develop codependence themselves. They may find themselves relying on a friend, significant other, or even their own kids someday. This continues the pattern of codependence which can easily turn to emotional abuse.

How To Get Past Codependency As A Parent

If you feel that you may be a codependent parent, there is always hope! There are things you can begin to implement right away to move past your codependency and create a stronger relationship with your kids.

  • Take care of your own needs. Learn to meet your own needs, instead of relying on your kids to do that. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways: seeking professional help from a counselor or therapist, reading self-help books or listening to podcasts, or learning how to build your own emotional intelligence.
  • Recognize your kids’ abilities and capabilities and give them opportunities to solve problems that are age-appropriate. Resist the urge to rescue them from every failure.
  • Listen to your children and learn what they want. If you have placed your needs ahead of theirs for a while, it is likely that you do not understand all of their wants and needs. Listen intently with the purpose to learn from them.

Have you ever experienced codependent parenting? Tell us about it in the comments below!

For more parenting ideas, check these out!

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