20 Indicators You Were Raised By a Toxic Mother

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Our relationships with our parents as children can shape our lives as adults. From the way we treat others to the way we treat ourselves, challenging dynamics with parents have a lasting impact. Recognizing the way you were raised can be the first step to healing and repairing the damage done in your childhood by a toxic mother to mitigate its impact on your life now. We have compiled 20 signals that might indicate you were raised by a toxic mother. If you identify with any or all of these, acceptance is the core foundation with which to break the cycle going forward.

Over Criticism

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A healthy amount of criticism is important for children to keep them on the right path and teach them how to work hard and treat people with respect. However, where this tips into over-criticism, it can damage a child's self-esteem to the extent it impacts their future. If you find yourself overly criticizing others, it might be because of your experiences as a child.

Self Deprecation

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Falling victim to over-criticism in adolescence might lead you to be very self-deprecating. Holding yourself to an excessively high standard can be a response to facing constant criticism when growing up, which has led you to put yourself down as an adult.

Lack of Respect for Boundaries

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As a parent, respecting boundaries is important for the well-being of your child. Even minors are entitled to some level of privacy and to make clear what they do and don't want to do. Perhaps your mother didn't respect this growing up, and you are echoing this behavior with your own loved ones or children now.

Excessively High Expectations

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Expecting too much from your loved ones can be a reflection of your mother's own behavior towards you in childhood. Never being able to do enough for her, or feeling like you can't meet her demands no matter how hard you try, can leave you to subconsciously put the same on your loved ones.


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Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which someone convinces you that what you're feeling or experiencing is wrong or not real. It creates self-doubt that can become crippling over time, and is a common behavior in toxic mothers. If you've ever felt like your mother has tried to make you out to be ‘crazy' for feeling your authentic emotions, it's likely you have fallen victim to gaslighting.

Over Attachment

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Some toxic mothers can be over-attached or completely co-dependent on their children. By living vicariously through their children, they are able to place their own goals and ambitions on their children, leading to immense pressure and a lack of boundaries. If your mother exhibited these traits, it's likely you have felt stifled by her at times, as she gleans life's enjoyment exclusively through you.

Emotional Unavailability

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Even the clingiest of mothers can actually be emotionally unavailable. Pushing you academically and holding you to high standards is one thing, but neglecting the all-important emotional support that a child needs is a sign of toxic mothering. By remaining emotionally closed off, children can feel very vulnerable, which can lead to problems connecting with others emotionally as an adult.

Need for Control

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Many toxic mothers have a powerful need for control over their children. If your mother dictated who you could be friends with, what hobbies you could take part in, or what subjects to do at school, it's likely her controlling nature impacted your upbringing significantly. Without being able to choose your own path based on your interests, it can lead to a whole career path you never desired or that doesn't fulfill you.

Victim Blaming

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Did your mother always blame you for problems in the family? After losing her temper at you, did she claim it was all your fault for riling her up? This is a sign of toxic parenting, where the parent deflects their part in a conflict onto the child, who, in reality, has less emotional maturity and experience and, therefore, ought to be guided by their guardians.

Playing Favorites

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Some toxic mothers overtly favor one of their children over another. This can have lasting consequences on the relationships between siblings, where resentment festers through no fault of their own. To display such favoritism can cause great insecurity in children that endures into adulthood, sometimes manifesting in their own toxic behaviors.


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Another toxic dynamic between siblings that can be caused by toxic mothering is a sense of competitiveness. Rather than creating a culture of boosting one another and supporting each other's interests, some mothers choose to pit their children against each other by comparing their achievements and suggesting that one is smarter or more successful than the other.


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Children look to their parents as a template for proper emotional regulation and how to treat others. If they are very temperamental in displaying their emotions, that can significantly rub off on their child and lead to their own difficulties in managing temper, anger, sadness, and happiness in the future.

Lack of Reassurance

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Mothers have an important role in reassuring their children, whether about the validity of their feelings, their intelligence, or their ability to make friends. Without this, children can become insecure and depressed, seeking validation elsewhere. Perhaps you still feel the impact of this as an adult, expecting partners or friends to reassure you where it was lacking in your childhood.

High Standards

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Setting excessively high standards for children can cause a lot of shame and doubt. Whether it be academically, socially, or physically, for a mother to expect too much from their child is toxic as it sets goals that cannot be attained, leading to guilt and disappointment. Breaking this cycle of expecting too much and feeling like you've let your mother down takes a lot of work as an adult.

Fear of Rejection

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A fear of rejection can work both ways in a mother-child relationship. When a mother constantly seeks the validation of their child, it can cause undue pressure. Equally, if a child feels emotionally neglected, it can cause them to grow up in a state of fear of being rejected by their mother or experiencing a damaging lack of love.

Difficulty Bonding

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Having a toxic mother growing up can cause detrimental effects when trying to develop meaningful relationships as an adult. The bond with your mother is formative, and so if that has always been difficult, creating bonds in the future is challenging. A lack of trust or intimacy and insecurity in relationships can be tracked back to an experience of toxic motherhood as a child.

Growing Up Too Fast

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If you were emotionally or physically neglected as a child, to a greater or lesser extent, it can mean having to grow up far too quickly in order to provide for your own needs. While your peers were still relying on their mother for support, perhaps you were having to find that within yourself. A level of independence is good for children, but when taken to the extreme, it can lead to a loss of other formative childhood experiences. The struggles of adult life should only come when you are old enough to handle them.

Difficulty Taking Responsibility

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Parents do make mistakes, and when they do, it is important to show their children that they can own up to it. Not only does this set a good example for their child, but it also fosters a relationship of trust, as their child knows their mother is not infallible and respects their feelings. It is toxic to do the opposite, refusing to take responsibility and leaving the child to feel always at fault.


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Even children need alone time. If your mother was constantly over your shoulder, it's likely you missed out on the privacy that many children need to learn to process their own emotions and work through the issues we all have growing up. It also demonstrates a lack of faith in trusting you to be able to spend time alone.

Emotional Manipulation

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Toxic mothers often manipulate their children's emotions into getting what they want from them, using their youth and lack of emotional maturity as a tool to fool them into certain behaviors. Of course, some element of manipulation is necessary for toddlers or babies, who can't regulate or understand their feelings, but as a child ages, this can quickly tip into malicious intentions and outcomes.

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