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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Gaslighting Parents: 5 Signs and Ways to Cope

Gaslighting Parents: 5 Signs and Ways to Cope

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
8 min read 1169 Views 0 Comments
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Parents who gaslight their children can have a massive impact on their children’s mental health. For signs of gaslighting parents and ways to cope, take a look at our article below.

Gaslighting parents

The word gaslighting has been thrown around a lot recently, and you may be wondering what it actually means and how it can relate to parent-child relationships. Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that can easily find its way into a parent-child relationship.

A gaslighting parent may show one or more common signs. In this article, we’re going to explore those signs and offer ways to deal with gaslighting parents to protect your mental health. Take a look below to find out more about gaslighting parents.

5 Signs of Gaslighting Parents

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, and it is important that you are able to spot the signs, as they may help put a stop to the toxic behavior or learn to deal with it. We’ve taken a look at 5 signs of gaslighting parents below to help you out.

#1 Ignoring the child’s experiences

One of the main ways that you can spot gaslighting parents is their denial of a child’s lived experience. Toxic parents may invalidate or deny a child’s feelings and question their experience of certain events. Though the parent or other family members may have experienced it differently, their invalidation of the child’s feelings is notable.

This denial of a child’s feelings can cause the individual to question their reality, making them feel that their emotions are not important or even real. It can affect the child’s self-esteem and increase self-doubt.

#2 Always playing the victim

Victim-playing is incredibly common in gaslighting parents and those with narcissistic personality disorders. In this instance, the parent victimizes themselves and refuses to take accountability for their problematic actions.

Victim-playing is a form of narcissistic abuse and parental gaslighting. People with a victim mentality may act this way because of past emotional or physical abuse, despite it being damaging to their children. A psychotherapist could get to the bottom of this behavior in family therapy.

#3 Controlling every step

Overly controlling parents can cause the child to feel indecisive and doubt their own emotions, wants, and needs. Overbearing control can signify a gaslighting parent as they control everything about the child, from behavior to likes and wants.

#4 Constant blaming and shaming

Blaming and shaming children usually involves making the child feel worse when something has gone wrong or they have made a mistake. Everything from school failures to day-to-day stressors may be blamed on the child, affecting their mental health and making them feel as though they can do nothing right.

#5 Verbal abuse

Verbal abuse is a form of child abuse that usually involves berating, yelling, humiliation, criticism, ridicule, threats, and other condescending behavior. It is also common for a gaslighting parent to verbally abuse their child.

The child may feel as though they cannot speak to the parent and are afraid of what will happen if they do. If you notice these signs, it is important to speak up and help the child feel safe.

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person repeatedly questions another’s version of events, feelings, and emotions. It leads to the gaslighted individual questioning their memories and having their feelings invalidated.

Gaslighting predominantly occurs in romantic relationships but can also be found in families and abusive parent-child relationships. It can lead to people having low self-esteem, doubting themselves, and may increase their dependency on the person gaslighting them.

A gaslighting parent often uses it as a tool for control, ensuring that their child is wholly dependent on them and that they are in a position of absolute power.

The term gaslighting is derived from a British stage play in which a husband almost drives his wife to insanity by convincing her that she imagines the dimming of the gaslight, among other things. The play shows how the husband uses manipulative tactics to maintain control over his wife and is a simplistic analogy of what gaslighting looks like in a relationship.

Examples of Gaslighting From Parents

You may be wondering how gaslighting translates into real-world examples in an abusive parent-child relationship, so below, we have listed a few examples of common gaslighting phrases:

  • “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
  • “Stop making excuses; anybody could do that.”
  • “I’m not shouting; I am discussing.”
  • “You’re making things up again.”
  • “That didn’t happen; you must’ve imagined it.”
  • “It’s nothing. Stop overreacting.”
  • “You’re being too emotional.”

In many instances of gaslighting, a parent will also put words in their child’s mouth, i.e., “You’re cold,” “You’re hungry.” They will also overuse “should” phrases, i.e., “You should have listened to me,” and will try to tell the child who they are, i.e., “You’re a selfish child.”

Why Do Parents Gaslight?

Unfortunately, there is no single reason why a parent may gaslight their child. While we expect our parents to be emotionally supportive, there are many reasons why they are not. These could include being raised in an abusive environment, so they mimic the same behavior with their children.

In instances when the parent was raised by another gaslighting parent, they may not be aware of how damaging their actions are. On the other hand, some parents may gaslight as a way to maintain control over their children and choose to take on an authoritarian role. Parents with narcissistic personality disorders or narcissistic tendencies may also gaslight their children.

Some parents become too enmeshed with their children, seeking to shield them from difficult emotions and treating them like friends, which can confuse the child and lead to gaslighting. In addition, a parent who suffers from anxiety or depression could project past experiences and feelings onto their child.

5 Ways to Deal With Gaslighting Parents

Whether you have grown up in an environment with gaslighting parents or know someone who has, you may seek ways to deal with gaslighting parents and embark on a healing journey.

Below, we’ve explored 5 ways that you can deal with constant gaslighting and move away from these negative feelings. Take a look to find out more.

#1 Recognize such behavior

The first step to dealing with manipulative tactics like gaslighting is recognizing the behavior. We’ve summarized a few key signs of gaslighting in this article to help you look out for it, but you need to recognize it before you can do anything about it.

Recognizing a manipulative tactic means that you can separate your feelings from it. Rather than responding in the way the manipulator wants you to, i.e., becoming dependent on them or questioning yourself, you can instead respond in a healthier way.

Recognition of gaslighting is a form of armor against gaslighting and will help you address negative beliefs about yourself that you have developed because of the previous manipulation and abuse.

#2 Make your mental health a priority

Living with a gaslighting parent can leave you feeling off balance. The manipulative behavior is designed to make victims think and sound crazy, question their experience, and may leave them with a distorted reality. For this reason, you need to make your mental health the number one priority.

This could include seeking the help of a licensed therapist, cutting the communication with your abuser, and setting healthy boundaries. You should also look for other coping mechanisms, such as using your support network to vent and resolve issues.

You may also want to assess the reality of the situation. There may have been other witnesses and victims of this abuse, like siblings, who can verify the experiences and help you see that you’re not making false accusations, nor are you crazy.

Learning that your feelings are valid is an important step in boosting your mental health. Other ways to boost general mental health include eating well, getting out in nature and perhaps going for a daily walk, getting enough sleep, and trying mindfulness practices.

#3 Journal the abuse

Journaling is an excellent method of improving your mood and helping you think straight, so making a log of the abuse and your feelings surrounding it can help you see things more clearly. Journaling has been proven to positively affect mental health, particularly for those in mental distress.

It also allows users to journal and track their daily moods. Tracking how you feel can help you identify triggers and eventually learn to cope with them. Various mental health apps have a journaling section where you can write your thoughts down.

#4 Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is absolutely integral to good mental well-being, especially if you’re dealing with a gaslighting parent. If you set clear boundaries with the abuser, you can protect your emotional energy and avoid the negative feelings you experience when being around them.

Setting boundaries could be as simple as only seeing your parents on the holidays to limit communication and allow them less time to gaslight you. You may also want to set boundaries to give you the space to find independence without a controlling figure looming beside you.

Choosing to set boundaries may cause problems, as gaslighting parents may not want to respect them. If you find your parents consistently crossing your boundaries, you may need to reiterate them or even set consequences when they are crossed.

Remember that your mental well-being matters, which means your boundaries need to be respected by everyone.

#5 Do not be afraid to ask for help

Having a gaslighting parent puts you in a difficult situation. The people who are supposed to be your support system are actually causing you harm, and, as such, you may need professional help to move on from this abuse.

There is absolutely no shame in seeking therapy after dealing with gaslighting parents. Gaslighting constitutes a form of abuse, and a therapist can work with you to move past the trauma. In addition, they will give you ways to cope and help you to set healthy boundaries with your parents.

A Word From a Psychologist

Many parents get things wrong, and there is no right way to parent, but when a parent is gaslighting you, it can verge on an abusive relationship, leading to lasting repercussions for the child.

Gaslighting leaves children feeling dependent on their parents, invalidates their feelings, and can impact their success in life by affecting their self-esteem. This kind of abuse needs addressing, and there are many ways to spot it.

If you have been a victim of a gaslighting parent, it is important that you practice self-care and look for ways to improve your mental well-being. You may choose to see a therapist to work through the trauma and set boundaries with your parents to avoid further gaslighting.

Other ways to take care of your mental well-being include getting enough sleep, learning your triggers, practicing mindfulness, and adding physical activity to your day. You could try getting out in nature by going for a daily run to get your heart rate pumping.


Gaslighting parents can cause many problems for their children, but there are ways you can deal with them to protect your psychological health. Your mental well-being is important, and your feelings are valid. Remember this when dealing with gaslighting.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
8 min read 1169 Views 0 Comments

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