Toxic mother: how to recognize and how to defend yourself

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Louise Barnett
Louise Barnett
I'm Louise Barnett, the editor at, where my days are filled with the exploration of myriad subjects that pique my curiosity and feed my ever-growing appetite for knowledge. From the latest in laser cutting technology to the timeless wisdom of yoga and meditation, my work allows me to dive deep into topics that not only fascinate me but also have the potential to improve our daily lives. I have a particular interest in how ancient practices meet modern life, leading me to explore everything from Ayurveda to minimalism and beyond. My journey has taught me the importance of balance—between innovation and tradition, action and reflection, and between the digital and the natural world. Each article I publish is a step towards understanding this balance better, hoping to inspire others along the way.

Relationships with mothers can be a source of support and love, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Sometimes mothers, instead of being a bedrock, become a source of suffering. Learn about the characteristics of a toxic mother and how to deal with such a situation.

Who is a toxic mother?

A toxic mother is a person who, instead of supporting her child, often criticizes, manipulates and uses her for her own purposes. Her behavior may be the result of her own unresolved emotional problems, childhood traumas or lack of parenting skills. But what exactly does it mean to be a “toxic mother”?

In many cases, a toxic mother is unaware of the damage she is doing to her child. Her actions may be the result of her own childhood experiences, where she was treated in a similar way by her parents. Therefore, she often believes that her behavior is normal and acceptable.

A characteristic feature of a toxic mother is excessive control over the child’s life. Regardless of the child’s age, a toxic mother will try to decide for the child, interfere in the child’s affairs and impose her opinion. She also often does not respect her child’s privacy, entering his room without knocking or reading his messages.

In a relationship with a toxic mother, a child often feels trapped. Any attempt to express his opinion or set boundaries ends in criticism, manipulation or even aggression from the mother. The child may feel guilty for not meeting the mother’s expectations, leading to low self-esteem and relationship problems in adulthood.

It is important to understand that toxicity in the mother-child relationship is not always the result of the mother’s ill will. Often there is pain, fear and her own unresolved traumas behind it. But regardless of the causes, the effects of such a relationship on the child can be very serious and require the support and intervention of professionals.

Characteristics of a toxic mother

Toxic mother traits can manifest in many ways. She is often apodictic, domineering and controlling. Her needs are always more important than those of the child. She may be overly critical, ridicule her child or compare her child to others. In extreme cases, she may use physical or emotional violence.

Among the most common characteristics of a toxic mother are:

  • Jealousy – a toxic mother may be jealous of her child’s achievements, relationships or even appearance. Instead of enjoying his successes, she may belittle or attribute them to herself.
  • Need for attention – such mothers often expect their children to constantly adore them, praise them and put them first, even at the expense of their own needs.
  • Humiliation and criticism – every failure, even the smallest, of a child is an opportunity for a toxic mother to criticize. Instead of support, the child receives constant reminders of her mistakes.
  • Posing as a victim – a toxic mother often portrays herself as a victim in order to manipulate her child’s feelings and force her to act according to her expectations.
  • Overprotectiveness – although it may appear that such a mother simply cares for her child, in reality her overprotectiveness is a form of control. The child has no space to develop independently and make his own decisions.

It is worth noting that a mother’s toxic behavior is not always conscious. Often behind it are the mother’s own traumas, unresolved conflicts and inability to manage her emotions. However, regardless of the reasons, the consequences of such behavior for the child are always destructive.

Relationships with adult children

A toxicmother adult daughter and a toxic mother adult son are two different scenarios, but they have much in common. In both cases, adult children feel dominated by a mother who constantly tries to control their lives, make decisions for them and criticize their choices.

In the case of a toxic mother-adult daughter relationship, rivalry between mother and daughter is often observed. The mother may be jealous of her daughter’s achievements, her appearance or her relationships with other people. Instead of rejoicing in her daughter’s successes, the mother may belittle, attribute or even sabotage them. A daughter in such a relationship often feels inadequate, no matter how much she has achieved in life.

In a toxic mother-adult son relationship, the mother often treats the son as an “eternal child.” Even if the son is already an adult, the mother still tries to control his life, make decisions for him and protect him from reality. In extreme cases, the mother may even compete with her son’s partner for his attention and love.

In both of these relationships, the toxic mother often uses manipulation, guilt and emotional blackmail to maintain control over her adult child. The child, even as an adult, may feel attached to the mother, fear her disapproval and avoid conflict. As a result, such relationships are full of tension, frustration and misunderstanding.

It is important for the adult children of toxic mothers to realize that they have the right to their own lives, their own decisions and boundaries. The help of a professional, such as a psychotherapist, can be invaluable in the process of healing such a relationship and building a healthy sense of self-worth.

Toxic mother adult daughter
Relationships with adult children / canva

How to deal with a toxic mother?

Understanding that you are dealing with a toxic mother is the first step to freeing yourself from her influence. The key is to set boundaries and defend against manipulation. It is also important to seek support in the form of therapy or support groups. Remember that you are not alone and you can always how to win against a toxic mother.

In dealing with a toxic mother, it is also important to:

  • Setting boundaries – don’t let your mother impose her opinions or decisions on you. Learn to say “no” and stand up for your rights.
  • Avoiding conflicts – if you know that certain topics lead to arguments, try to avoid them. Don’t let yourself be provoked into an argument.
  • Seek support – talk about your problems with friends, siblings or specialists. A community of people who are going through similar problems can be an invaluable source of support.
  • Work on yourself – therapy or coaching can help you understand yourself, your needs and feelings. This will help you cope better with difficult situations.

The impact of a toxic mother on a child’s psyche

Relationships with a toxic mother can lead to many emotional and mental problems. Children raised by a toxic mother often feel insecure, have low self-esteem and difficulties in establishing relationships with other people. They often feel like I’m 17 again when they have to face their mother.

The impact of a toxic mother on a child’s psyche can manifest itself in various ways:

  • Anxieties and phobias – children may be afraid of new situations, people or places because they have not learned to cope with difficulties.
  • Depression – Feelings of inadequacy, lack of acceptance from the mother or constant criticism can lead to lowered mood and a sense of hopelessness.
  • Relationship difficulties – children who have not learned a healthy relationship with their mother may have problems building relationships with other people in adulthood.
  • Low self-esteem – constant criticism, comparison to others or ridicule can cause a child to have low self-esteem and self-worth.

It is important for people who have experienced being raised by a toxic mother to realize that they may need support in healing their psyche. Therapy or group support can be invaluable

Toxic mother test

Answer the following questions to find out if your mother may be exhibiting toxic behavior.

  1. Does your mother often criticize your decisions and choices?

  2. Do you feel controlled by her in your personal life?

  3. Does your mother compare you to other people in a negative way?

  4. Does your mother often pressure you to do what she wants you to do?

  5. Does your mother often use manipulation to achieve her goals for you?

  6. Do you feel that your mother is jealous of your achievements or successes?

  7. Does your mother often impose guilt on you for things that are not your fault?

  8. Does your mother often belittle your feelings or emotions?

  9. Do you feel that your mother is overprotective and does not allow you to be independent?

  10. Does your mother often remind you of past mistakes?

Summary: A toxic mother in the life of an adult child

Relationships with a toxic mother can be difficult and painful, but understanding the problem and seeking support can help you overcome them. It is important to remember your own needs and take care of yourself, no matter how difficult your situation is.

Toxic mother – frequently asked questions

How does a toxic mother behave?

A toxic mother often criticizes, manipulates and controls her child, putting her own needs above those of her child.

What does it mean to be a toxic mother?

Being a toxic mother means exhibiting harmful behaviors toward her child, such as over-criticizing, manipulating or ignoring her child’s needs.

How to win against a toxic mother?

To win against a toxic mother, it is important to set boundaries, seek support and defend against manipulation.

How do toxic mothers affect their children’s lives?

Toxic mothers can lead to emotional and psychological problems in their children, such as low self-esteem, anxiety or difficulty in forming relationships.

How do you know toxic parents?

Toxic parents can be recognized by their manipulative, controlling and critical behavior toward their children and their lack of support and understanding of their children’s needs.

How do you know toxic parents?

Toxic parents often impose their expectations, belittle their child’s feelings and fail to create a healthy, supportive parenting environment.

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