Skip to content
Signs Of A Toxic Mother

A mother-child bond is exceptional. The emotional attachment you have with your mother is different from that which you have with anyone else. However, feeling that way about someone leaves you vulnerable. It leaves you easily susceptible to emotional damage upon mistreatment and for the traumatizing behavior demonstrated by her, especially if she is a toxic mother.

All families come with baggage. Most of them involve some form of manipulation. And in most cases, these are harmless. Unfortunately, in some cases, they cross a certain line and delve into the toxic category. Purposefully or not, these behaviors can cause immense amounts of emotional damage in a child, the scars of which remain a lifetime and in some cases, the damage was done irredeemably.

The act of manipulation

Manipulation is the act or a series of acts one takes in an attempt to control someone else. It could range from them wanting you to give up your time, resources, personal possessions, power, or anything else. Recognizing manipulation can be difficult, especially when coming from your mother. It might take a long time before you realize or accept the truth. No matter what your age is, you can identify if you are or have been manipulated by your mother.

Related: 10 Signs You Have A Toxic Mother-In-Law and How To Deal

20 Signs Of A Toxic Mother

Signs Toxic Manipulative Mother infographics
20 Signs Of A Toxic Mother

1. Invalidating Your Feelings

We all have a right to share how we feel. We all want to be heard. But if it so happens that your mother often interrupts you, does not give you a fair chance to speak, does not value your concerns, or reprimands you for emoting, and tells you how you ‘should’ feel, then there is a problem. 

Trying to counsel a child to see things differently, in a positive way, is fine. But complete dismissal of negative emotions experienced by him or her may lead to severe depression while growing up and it becomes difficult for them to handle negative situations later in life as an adult.

2. Personal Attacks And Verbal abuse 

Calling you names in public, shaming or mocking you, blaming you when things go wrong, insulting you, or criticizing you harshly to make you feel inferior, threatening, or intimidating you are a regular part of your relationship with her.

A toxic mother might, after saying such things, try to rationalize the abuse by claiming it to be ‘tough love’ or ‘for your own good’. The mockery and the public shaming might come disguised as a friendly ‘jab’ or a ‘joke’.

Manipulative Mother
20 Signs Of A Toxic Mother

3. Self-victimization

Does your mother shut you off every time you stand up to her to let her know about her actions and talks and how they impact you? This is a typical manipulative tactic, and a classic sign of having a toxic mother. If you point so much as your little finger at her, she will immediately burst out and start victimizing herself by saying things like, “Oh God! What did I ever do to deserve this?”

4. Living in Denial

Self-victimization is attuned with the act of denying all allegations against her. She refuses to even reflect on such thoughts and just straight-up denies that any of it is her fault, and you can do yourself a favor and forget about getting an apology from her. Upon confrontation, she will not only call you too sensitive or dramatic, but she will seek support from other people to make her case, and she often succeeds because the others haven’t seen the other side of her.

However, she may find our weak spots and use them to her advantage. This makes it not just wrong, but hypocritical.

Related: 13 Signs Of A Toxic Parent

5. Emotional Blackmail

Your mother might at times deliberately appeal to your feelings to convince you to do what she wants. They’ll make a demand and if you resist or refuse, she’ll pressurize you into giving in by way of flattery or threats designed to engage your emotions or your sense of obligation. And when you agree to her demands, she rewards you with affection and kindness.

6. Guilt-tripping

Guilt-tripping goes hand-in-hand with emotional blackmail. The only difference is that she can make you feel guilty not just when she wants something done, but also in various other situations, like when you confront her about her mistakes or when you try to set healthy boundaries because that is like a slap on her face.

She will immediately jump to her feet and play the victim card to make you feel guilty for being an adult and trying to have your personal space and choices in life.

7. She is a Pathological Liar

Lying comes easily to her. A toxic mother doesn’t discriminate between big things or small things when it comes to lying. It’s a habit, and she is pretty good at it until you start seeing through her. This stems from a need to be in control of the situation by hook or by crook.

And if you dare confront her about it, you are bombarded with decks after decks of victim cards and guilt trips. You regret ever having opened your mouth.

8. Withholding Affection

If your mother offers conditional love or affection to you based on the fact that you only do what she wants, then it’s a form of manipulation. She may give you the silent treatment, tell you that nobody else cares about you, or even threaten other family members with punishment or isolation if they support you or show you affection.

9. Control freak

It is the dream of every loving parent for their kids to grow into capable and independent adults and have a happy and healthy life. But a manipulative mother prefers you to be dependent on her. When you were a kid, she would have paid very close attention to every little move you made and dictated you to do things a certain way. This is also known as helicopter parenting.

The truth is that she does not really want you to be successful or independent. What she wants, even more, is to have control over you and your life, and she will devise ways to keep you under her thumbs, to the extent of sabotaging you.

Related: Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers: Why They Are Never Good Enough

10. Never Satisfied

It doesn’t matter what choices you make or how hard you try to achieve something, it’s never good enough for her. She always finds flaws in your actions and choices and is disappointed with you. As a kid, she never celebrated if you won a trophy at school. In college, she didn’t approve of the stream you chose for your education. As an adult, she wasn’t happy about your career path, nor did she approve of your partner that you chose to marry.

But here’s the thing – she is never really going to be happy with anything you do. There’s always going to be something or the other she thinks you could have done better. So stop trying to please her.

20 Signs Of A Toxic Mother
Toxic mother

11. Putting Her Needs First

She might play the role of a selfless caretaker of the family, but in reality, it’s just about her needs. You might have experienced this as a child. And ironically, she might have experienced this as a child and learned manipulative and deceitful ways to cope with this emotional crisis. 

If this is the case with you as well, please try to break the chain and not fall into the same manipulative pattern. It’s not too late. It’s NEVER too late.

12. She Never Backs Down

You can never win with her, period. Even when you try your best to do everything she asks for to avoid any kind of confrontation, instead of getting thanks from her, you’ll only encounter more criticism. She always has, does, and will find something wrong no matter how hard you try to set things right.

13. Taking You For Granted

She expects you to understand and anticipate her needs without her having to state anything explicitly and if you don’t cater to that, she acts disappointed. This is also another form of manipulation through guilt-tripping. On the contrary, she takes you for granted and does not appreciate or value when you put some effort into doing something to please her.

Related: 5 Signs You Are The Child Of A Toxic Parent

14. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person makes you question your sanity, perception of reality, or even your memories. This leads to confusion, anxiety, and an acute loss of confidence in oneself. 

A toxic mother may specifically use this technique to make you doubt your memories. If you confront her about something she said or did, she will try to make you believe that you misheard her or misunderstood the situation, or even remember things wrong. She will even say that you’re for making things up.

15. She has Flying Monkeys

Flying monkeys is a term used in psychology in the context of narcissistic abuse. It basically describes people who willingly or unwillingly end up doing what the manipulator wants them to do, like the winged monkeys of the Wicked Witch of the West. So not everyone in the family will identify your toxic mother for who she really is and will support her against you. In short, they will be her ‘flying monkeys’. 

To take an example, if you’ve had an argument with your mother which was her fault, some family members might come and tell you that your behavior hurt her feelings and you need to apologize to her or do what she asks and set things right. And chances are your toxic mother put them up to this.

Want to know more about having a toxic mother? Check this video out below!

Toxic mother

16. Threats, Threats, and More Threats

Disobey her, and within seconds come the threats from her to stop talking to you, or cut you out of her life, or even her will. Mostly, these are empty threats, just to intimidate you to get you back in line. 

She doesn’t really want to cut you out; she needs you in her life to continue manipulating. So maybe for once, accept her offer and stop talking to her. See if that makes her realize anything.

17. Ruins Holidays and Special Occasions

A toxic mother is narcissistic and hence tends to draw a lot of attention. And no better opportunity to get so much attention like an eventful holiday even full of guests. Chances are that she will create drama, make a fuss and then stand back and watch the chaos unleash. 

She derives satisfaction from it because apart from the attention that she gets, being unhappy herself, it’s difficult for her to enjoy others’ happiness.

18. A Veteran at Passive-Aggressive Warfare

She’s an expert at getting under your skin, but ever so smoothly. Her insults and abuses are in very innocent language and a tone so that she gets away with it, but hits the spot just fine. You won’t be able to hold her liable for emotionally triggering you so strongly, as there is not much evidence to prove your point.

Related: When Parents Offer Gaslighting Instead of Love: Surviving Your Own Mother and Father

19. Enforcing Her Unattained Dreams Onto You

Triggering guilt is perhaps the most effective tool for manipulation, which she applies without any hesitation to smother you with her expectations. She sobs and cries in front of you tell you stories of how much she wanted to get into that college to study so and so which didn’t happen for some reason, and the only reason she’s pulling on in life is to one day see you where she couldn’t get to. She completely ignores your dreams or your aspirations in life.

20. Gains Your Trust To Stab You In The Back

If you have a toxic mother who is a pathological liar, chances are that she has a tendency to sweeten up to you to gain your trust, then use the acquired information to go behind your back and do what she thinks is right and needs to be done. When you find out and confront her, all you get is an expression of shock and grief that you would ever put such terrible blame on her. And the drama and guilt trip continues.

How To Deal With A Toxic Mother

As painful it is to have your mother of all people be emotionally abusive towards you, you have no other option but to deal with it. And always remember – it’s not your fault. You are fine the way you are. There is nothing wrong with you.

It’s not something you say or do that makes her act that way. She just is the way she is, and there is nothing much you can do about that. However, what you can do is work on yourself to have some degree of control over your own thoughts and actions. 

You can try things like :

  • Practice mindfulness and meditation to be aware of your thoughts and have better control over your reaction upon interaction with your toxic mother. It will also help you be aware of any manipulative tendencies you might have acquired.
  • Limit or avoid contact with your toxic mother. No matter how responsible you feel for her and no matter how painful it may be, sometimes cutting toxic people off is the best thing for you and your mental and overall health.
  • If stopping or limiting contact is not an option then make sure you have some healthy and strict boundaries maintained with her. Also, work on devising ways to communicate with her to limit the escalation of situations in the wrong direction.
  • Never isolate yourself. Never feel like you’re alone. There are so many people out there dealing with the same or similar issues. Your next-door neighbor or that shy boy in school might be dealing with similar issues, you never know. Find such people and connect to them. Share your experiences. Talk about your feelings. Let it out. It won’t make it all go away nor will it reform your toxic mother, but it’ll feel slightly better knowing that there are people who understand what you’re going through.
  • If you’re facing difficulties coping with the stress that all this has caused you and maybe even continues to build on it, please don’t hesitate to see a therapist for help. Please don’t wait for things to really start going south and go to your nearest therapist if you feel like it’s getting a bit too much to take.

Related: 10 Simple Steps to Stop Toxic Parenting

So, these are all the signs of a toxic mother. If you notice all or most of these signs in your mother, then you need to remember these above-mentioned pointers to deal with effectively.


Signs Toxic Manipulative Mother pin
20 Signs Of A Toxic Mother
Signs Of A Toxic Mother pin
20 Signs Of A Toxic Mother