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Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life
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Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,219 Ratings  ·  245 Reviews
Are you the child of toxic parents?

When you were a child...

• Did your parents tell you you were bad or worthless?
• Did your parents use physical pain to discipline you?
• Did you have to take care of your parents because of their problems?
• Were you often frightened of your parents?
• Did your parents do anything to you that had to be kept secret?

Now that you’re an adult...

Paperback, 308 pages
Published January 2nd 2002 by Bantam (first published 1989)
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May 29, 2011 Brandice rated it really liked it
I wish I had read this book months or even years ago, rather than after I've finally made the decision to end a toxic relationship with my mother.

Reading descriptions of other experiences of adult children who have experienced the type of things that I have might have strengthened me to the point of making healthier decisions sooner, but at least it provides validation and a sense that, despite the recent shunning of my entire family, I am not alone in my experiences.

One new thing that I *did*
D. Jennifer
Sep 06, 2010 D. Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-development
Honestly, someone bought this for me because they thought I 'needed' to read it. I was so ticked off - the nerve of that person! that I filed it away for about a year. Actually, until I recently unpacked from a move, I thought I'd pitched it while packing, out of sheer anger and disgust.

But I didn't throw it out and it is actually full of helpful insight and suggestions. There's chapter called, "No one in this family is an alcoholic" (or close to that) and it caught my eye while thumbing through
Sep 22, 2014 Willow rated it really liked it
About three weeks ago, my beloved mother died.

In my overwhelming grief and distress, I reached out to my father, whom I’ve been avoiding for several years now. In the span of a week, I ended up sending him money to move, which he used to buy alcohol. I called the police because he was threatening to kill himself, and he ended up in the psyche ward for a week. I drove over to his trash infested house to pick up his medication. *shudder* His place was just like the show Hoarders, crap and filth ev
Mar 06, 2012 Lucas rated it it was amazing
This is a great book about how parents can really screw up their children.

The author breaks up abusive parents into 6 categories: inadequate, controlling, alcoholics (or addicts), verbal abusers, physical abusers, and sexual abusers. Between my parents, step-parents, and an adult relative I was often left with, I had the fun of experiencing five of the six types. Fortunately, none of them wanted to poke around in my swimsuit area.

The first chapter brings up a point that really explained a lot fo
Jun 20, 2011 Leeanne rated it it was amazing
This book pulls no punches. Reading it is an important step for anyone that had toxic parents in their lives. The exercises are insightful and the 'advice' is excellent. It doesn't focus on general abuse, but digs deep down into the different kinds of abusive parents (neglectful, alcoholic, sexual, physical, etc), so reading the entire book from cover to cover may not be 100% necessary. You can fine tailor your reading to the situations that most closely apply to you.

This book also helps with th
Dec 30, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it
It took me far to long to recognize the emotional manipulation and humiliation I grew up with. Once I did, a friend of mine recommended this book to me and I read it 2 years ago. I liked it a lot and it's helped me gain the courage to expect respect from my family. Just spent 10 days with them and I actually had the courage to speak up against the sexist, racist, and otherwise offensive comments and degradation. Unfortunately, I don't think I can do that for long. I need to re-read this and re-t ...more
Apr 21, 2010 Nikki rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, health
I had my first counselling session today, and mostly she just wanted me to read books, once she'd got some idea of how I'm feeling and why. This was one of them. I've always recognised that my parents were not the best possible parents they could be. While much of this book didn't apply to me, much of it could help me. While it does seem to set out a bit of an only-one-way attitude to it, which I don't think is true, it can definitely be helpful. It includes case studies as examples, some of whi ...more
Bebe Booth
Feb 26, 2013 Bebe Booth rated it it was amazing
Very insightful and confirming of suspicions you may have had/ still have but refused to believe.
Ever felt any of these feelings below in the back of your mind growing up in a family that gave the impression of perfect happiness? But never understood why or couldn't bare to think that your 'loving' family would try to cause you (mental/emotional/ and or physical) pain intentionally?
Like you were:
Being manipulated
Being spited by a parent ( said things knowing it would hurt your feelings)
Being cri
May 26, 2009 Michele rated it really liked it
wow! this book really did help me to recognize how certain things affect/affected me throughout my childhood, and to the present. and i really like the first rule "you do not have to forgive." if you truly have not recovered from a parents toxic ways, you do not have to forgive them, cuz forgiving the toxic parent w/o addressing how they harmed/ affect(ed) you is like just sweeping the issue under the rug.. so not healthy. i highly recommend this book to anyone who had or has to deal with toxic ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Gretel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody

I forgot to mention one thing. This book is of course aimed at children of toxic parents, showing the different forms of abuse and manipulation, teaching how to handle the horribleness and find somewhat closure or rather start a healing process.
Even though it's meant for victims, I HIGHLY recommend this book to everybody!
Someone who has not experienced toxic parents first hand might not really understand the severity of mental and physical destruction. By dismantling and analyzing every for
Halo Peshdary
Jun 14, 2015 Halo Peshdary rated it really liked it
The topics discussed in this book were what constituted pretty much everything I found myself reading in late December to early February (what ended up becoming a bible of sorts out these readings was Alice Miller’s “The Drama of the Gifted Child,” which I strongly recommend), and as such, the book had significantly less efficacy than if I were a newcomer to the subject. I say this because my review may downplay just how important I believe this book is for anyone who has had a rougher upbringin ...more
May 12, 2014 Davonne rated it really liked it
I wasn't going to make my completion of this book public. I thought it would be an insult to my parents if I did. Then I realized that it would be an injustice to others who may need to read this book, but dont know it exists, if I didn't. Not to mention doing things to please or placate my parents is one of the many reasons why I needed to read it in the first place soooo....fuck it! lol

The book is exactly what the title implies. A book to help those end the vicious cycle of self-loathing, low
S_Liz Kim
Sep 29, 2011 S_Liz Kim rated it really liked it
This book was given to me about 8 years ago, maybe more. Reading the cover, I thought - what a ridiculous sounding book; I had always scorned the concept anyway... the idea that I would "excuse" my life/ self-image/ relationship issues due to my "difficult" upbringing and by placing the "blame" on my ongoing relationship with my parents. And then I read the book.

The author's layout of the book, her easy-to-read style, and her not too harsh tone earned my trust. It's a sensitive subject and she h
Jun 26, 2015 Brenda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-own, non-fiction
Wow. Unbelievable.

This book explains you.
It opens your eyes.
It teaches you.
It helps you.

I almost cried after reading some painful experiences in the book.
It's so sad to see how a bad parent can damage his/her daughter/son.

I totally recommend this book to anyone. Even if you didn't have a toxic parent.

Susan, you're my hero.
Eliza Leone
Sep 23, 2011 Eliza Leone rated it it was amazing
This a very difficult book to read. I was prompted by two different people in my life to read this book and listen to what it had to say and I found that after reading it I was much more aware of problems I had that I was not aware of. The way this was written was very positive and helpful, nothing making me feel like it was my fault I grew up the way I did, but also not telling me that I was completely without blame, because be honest. If I do not stand up for myself and try to change my life, ...more
Michael Cable
Nov 02, 2009 Michael Cable rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-my-library
Never has a self-help book been more self-helpful and poignant. Once I picked this up, at the suggestion of my therapist, I was swept away. I saw myself and my life in ever page and the book helped me to recognize why many of the things that have gone wrong in my life have happened. Through the stories of the case studies, one begins to feel a developing sense of compassion and understanding for these injured people that eventually helped me to feel the same for myself. Ms. Forward's logic is so ...more
Shirley Cooper
Jan 08, 2009 Shirley Cooper rated it it was amazing
I read this book around 15 years ago. Since then I've re-read it many times and bought copies for others. I have a yahoo group with the same title and I set questions on the book every week or so. I grew up in numerous toxic families. In the 90's I decided to pull off the onion skins and get to the heart because I kept having itises and I learnt that a sore throat is unshed tears. So although it was very painful to look deply ito my childhood I persevered, started changing my life, wrote my book ...more
Kes Swanson
This was a quick read but really didn't offer any useful, or real world, advice on how to overcome toxic parenting and reclaim your life. The book mostly focused on realizing and confronting the toxic parents. I would have given this book 2.5 stars if I could.
Dec 02, 2015 Sequoia rated it it was amazing
DISCLAIMER: If you did not enjoy this book, it is because of:
1) You did not have toxic parents, nor any experience of toxic parents by association
2) You are not open to what the book contains. For example, while I am open to information and aim to improve, I know my brother would either scoff at the book, or agree with the contents but say the book would help others (and not realize the impact our parents had on him). This is the reaction of someone who is not open to change, nor realize they
Aug 01, 2013 Tracy rated it it was amazing
Borrowed this from the library. Whether or not you think you had toxic parents growing up, I would suggest reading this book. This book makes it easy to pinpoint your parent(s)' toxicity.

There are several patients followed in this book, all with different kinds of bad parents. Whether it's one of both parents, you get real advice (not substitute for going to therapy yourself), and all the stories resolve, in some form or another, by the end of the book. The book also gives you guidelines and sug
Dora María
Mar 28, 2013 Dora María rated it it was amazing
Muy bueno, excelente, te abre los ojos hacia los errores de tus padres, todas las personas deberían de leerlo, porque hasta las que menos piensan tienen padres tóxicos en diferentes grados, pero no dejan de serlo.
( Y si no los tienes, tal vez tu esposa, tu esposo, tu mejor amigo, tu novia, etc, si los tiene)

Servirá para poner limites sanos con la relación con tus padres y extraer el veneno que enferma la relación con ellos.

Very good, Excellent, open your eyes to your parents mistakes, everyone
Rhonda Rae Baker
Jun 04, 2009 Rhonda Rae Baker rated it really liked it
I read this book some time ago but have thought of picking it up again and reviewing. There are so many details and insights to consider...I learned a ton of things that helped me with my history as well as support of what had happened with my own children. It's hard to deal with things sometimes that are from the past but when they start to invade your dreams and waking moments then it's time to look at them again. Maybe do some journeling, artwork, or talking to someone that understands what y ...more
Huma Rashid
Sep 08, 2015 Huma Rashid rated it it was amazing
Susan Forward has done such tremendous good in writing this book.

I'd advise all my Desi kid friends to read this. Our parents are classic "Controllers." And we are all fucked up because of it, tbh. But Forward helps set forth the work we have to do to be better.
Sep 26, 2010 Kendahl rated it it was amazing
As I read this for a second time (my first go around being three years ago), I was reminded why I liked it so much to begin with. I sat down with the intent to not only read the entire book again, but to commit myself to doing all the exercises in the book. There is letter-writing, role-playing and rehearsing for a confrontation. I feel ready for the challenge of completing all these assignments. I will update when I finish them.
Oct 22, 2011 Angel rated it it was amazing
This book has been incredibly helpful to me. Surprise,'s my SECOND copy because my TOXIC PARENTS found the first copy, got pissed and threw it out! (With about $200 other self-help books that I owned to help me deal with their lunacy!!...ironic, sad and a little funny if you think about it!)

Very helpful when used in conjunction with other books dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder! (Randi Kreger is the best!)
Jaymi Boswell
Mar 23, 2008 Jaymi Boswell rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone working with children, therapists, or people dealing with abuse.
Recommended to Jaymi by: Joy Pickard, LMHP
This book was so painful for me I had to stop reading it. I picked it back up a few more times with breaks in between. You have to be ready to handle a book that makes you look at these very difficult issues. I do believe it's essential to read if you are going to work with children and or come from a background of abuse of ANY KIND.
Charlotte Aves
Apr 02, 2011 Charlotte Aves rated it it was amazing
this book really helped me a lot!!!as in a lot!!! when I found this book and read it, my whole perspective changed..
I knew there was something wrong, i knew I was right and that my parents were cruel
Thank you Susan Forward for publishing this book
and somehow healed this broken soul of mine
thank you
Jun 28, 2011 Dalyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really great book that helped me break the cycle of abuse. Opened my eyes. Thank you Susan.
Jan 14, 2016 Paul rated it it was amazing
The title of this book is provocative and may strike some as harshly negative, more fuel to the fires of nastiness that already smolder and flare in families. Others my feel it to be a perfect description of their situation. I'm sure it helped garner attention for the book. My early enthusiasm for its content provoked jarring reactions on facebook and nudged me to more thoughtful consideration, which I will share in this review.

When a person without a cognitive disability has trouble becoming a
Jun 07, 2015 Kazza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In my opinion, the single best book written on the subject of childhood abuse. I read this book originally fifteen+ years ago and it is still as powerful and as relevant today. The modern methodology for dealing with those who have been abused is much different than it was in days gone past, and Susan Forward makes a clear, concise and compelling point throughout about the strong feelings of guilt, of blame, and associated behaviours. How to deal with it, and how to reclaim your life.

This is a
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Gordon 1 2 Dec 21, 2015 11:05PM  
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One of the nation’s leading therapists, as well as a best selling author, dynamic lecturer and frequent talk-show guest. In addition to her private practice, she has served as a therapist, instructor and consultant for many Southern California psychiatric and medical facilities. She is the author of the #1 New York Times best sellers Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them and Toxic Parents ...more
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“Children who are not encouraged to do, to try, to explore, to master, and to risk failure, often feel helpless and inadequate. Over-controlled by anxious, fearful parents, these children often become anxious and fearful themselves. This makes it difficult for them to mature. Many never outgrow the need for ongoing parental guidance and control. As a result, their parents continue to invade, manipulate, and frequently dominate their lives.” 44 likes
“Most adult children of toxic parents grow up feeling tremendous confusion about what love means and how it’s supposed to feel. Their parents did extremely unloving things to them in the name of love. They came to understand love as something chaotic, dramatic, confusing, and often painful—something they had to give up their own dreams and desires for. Obviously, that’s not what love is all about. Loving behaviour doesn’t grind you down, keep you off balance, or create feelings of self-hatred. Love doesn’t hurt, it feels good. Loving behaviour nourishes your emotional well-being. When someone is being loving to you, you feel accepted, cared for, valued, and respected. Genuine love creates feelings of warmth, pleasure, safety, stability, and inner peace.” 24 likes
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