Psychologist explains how 'eggshell parenting' is an 'unsafe' strategy leading to lifelong damage to kids - these are the 9 signs to look out for

Do you recognise an eggshell parent?

Eggshell parent crouching over a frightened child
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A psychologist has outlined how the 'unpredictable' and 'unsafe' method of eggshell parenting can push kids into a lifetime of feeling insecure in their relationships.

There are a multitude of parenting styles available to modern parents, and knowing which one will work for you family can be hard. Those who believe gentle parenting is the way forward, might disagree with those who believe tiger parenting will get the best from their kids. Throughout the discussion regarding which strategy to tap into, parents are likely to agree on one thing - raising children is hard.

Dr. Kim Sage is a California-based psychologist who talks extensively on her TikTok channel (@drkimsage) about a controversial parenting strategy. Sage has coined the term 'eggshell parents' for those who offer the safety, security and love children need, in unpredictable measures. Those parenting in this way might be struggling with parenting, not know any different, or not know how to break the cycle of their behaviour. 

The psychologist dedicates most of her content to this topic. She describes it as unpredictable parental outbursts, resulting in a harmful power dynamic between parents and their kids. The term arises from the parenting method causing children to feel like they're 'walking on eggshells,' and a constant hypervigilance that comes with this emotion. Sage believes kids of Eggshell parents can't behave in a child-like way, and are more likely to have damaging relationships as adults. 

9 signs of an Eggshell parent

In a TikTok video, Dr. Sage describes what it means to be an eggshell parent. Here's what to look out for: 


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  1. The parent's mood is like being on a rollercoaster. Dr. Sage said "You never know what to expect, but there's always going to be significant 'high highs' and 'low lows'".
  2. The parent verbally causes a child to feel bad about themselves. Sage added "They might threaten you, they might use punishment to threaten, control and intimidate you.
  3. They shame, blame, and criticise. Sage said about this: "It's not about teaching, it's about intentionally making you feel bad about yourself."
  4. They guilt trip, mock and invalidate. This might not be all the time, with Sage suggesting "They might be at times what feels supportive, but these other things will happen and you must stay on alert for how these are going to feel inside your body."
  5. They make false accusations. Sage suggests this includes accusing children of lying, stealing, and other behaviours they aren't really displaying.
  6. Intentional gaslighting. Sage added "They can make you feel like something didn't happen, and that you're crazy."
  7. The might destroy possessions. As Sage suggests, this can mean buying a child something they really want, then later destroying it. Or destroying a much loved possession as a punishment. This results in children not letting them attach themselves too much to things, in case it's later taken without warning.
  8. They expect children to regulate their emotions. Sage describes this as eggshell parents not being able to separate their own emotional needs from those of their kids. She said "You are expected to regulate their emotions and rotate around them, and act in the role of parent - managing things from the home, to the emotional world of the family."
  9. They might deny connection with others. Sage concluded by saying "It's all about never being consistent, so you never know what to expect and remain on guard."

There was a divide in the comments to the video, between those who have experienced this behaviour from their own parents, and those who recognise it in themselves and wanted to change. One wrote "This is my family. Constantly dancing around my father’s moods and my mother’s coping mechanisms. Neither able to connect with me on any meaningful level."

Another who recognised herself as an eggshell parent said "I tried to break the cycle and 90-95% of the time I did, but sometimes, I would just get overwhelmed and scream. I feel really guilty." Another added "I am this parent and have been worse because of the man that I chose as a partner. How do I fix it so that my 18 year old can heal too?"

Within the comments, Dr. Sage gently said "All parents make mistakes and do and say things we regret- we can repair and start over. Eggshell parenting is a childhood pattern of repeated emotional endangerment." 

If you feel you could be an eggshell parent and would like support with parenting, reach out to Action for Children, who have a number of free online resources for parents in their online advice hub. There is also a live chat option that connects you directly to a qualified parenting coach, and no topic is off limits. 

For more on the difficulties of parenting, an expert has shared how to stop yelling to get your child to listen, and how slow parenting can be a way to improve connection with your kids. Parenting can be made hard by the mental load placed on mothers - here's how to explain it to your partner and start making the changes you need.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.