8 Common Things Toxic Mothers Say To Their Children

Toxic relationships are unfortunately a normal day-to-day occurrence, this includes toxic parental relationships. There are many reasons why this happens from personality disorders to the toxic parent having been abused themselves. Although there are many studies and information about this out there, the patterns still continue. But, why?

A few of the stronger reasons are because the person who is abused in these toxic relationships does not know that they are in one, they fear what would happen if they reached out for help, they have been brought to a very low state of mind, or because sometimes toxicity is very subtle. 

Toxic relationships thrive on control and manipulation to keep the toxic person on top, and the abused person chained. The worst of these toxic relationships is the parental ones because, as a child, you depend on your parents for everything and don’t have the luxury to either know what’s going on or leave. These toxic relationships also shape and affect your future relationships with other people from work to love to friends. 

Today we are going to talk about these toxic parental relationships, specifically how a toxic mother relates or talks to their child in order to manipulate them. Although fathers also manipulate, women, in particular, tend to be better at doing it and hiding it. To make it easier to identify, we at Psych2Go have compiled a list of 8 things that toxic mothers say to their children and why they do it. 

This article is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat anything. If you find yourself needing help or advice on this subject please contact a therapist, school therapist, a counselor, social worker, or a psychologist near you. 

And now, here are 8 common things toxic mothers say to their children. 

1- “I carried you for 9 months…”

Toxic mothers use this excuse constantly to shame and guilt you into believing that you owe them for giving birth to you. In owing them you have to do everything that they tell you without question and you are a bad child if you don’t, after all, they had to go through with the pregnancy. 

It’s meant to pull you back to them every time they feel like they are losing control of you. But you need to know that you are not a bad child if you think differently or chose to not listen to them. 

First of all, remember that you don’t owe anyone anything, not even your parents especially if they are toxic. You have free will in this world, so you can choose who you give your energy to. Second, they were the ones who chose to be parents so it is their responsibility to provide for you in every way. It is their job and something they are supposed to do. 

You don’t owe anyone anything for something that they chose to do and something that they are supposed to do anyway as parents. 

2 – “You’re too sensitive” (Or any variation of that)

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Do you get told how sensitive you are on a daily basis by your mother? This is usually used by toxic mothers as a way of deflecting and ignoring their child’s feelings. More than that, it is used as a form of gaslighting that eventually leaves the child feeling like they are the ones in the wrong. 

It could be that she does things that go against your beliefs, breaches your boundaries, hurts you deeply, or makes you feel unsafe, which are all valid reasons to get upset, angry, or generally emotional. But because of her constant deflection and turning the blame on you, you start feeling that your reactions and feelings towards that are not valid at all. Making you think that it’s just you or all in your head. 

There are people who are sensitive and need to learn how to not take things personally but if it is something that is happening almost every day and you seem to be the one she is directing this energy towards, it might be possible that she is gaslighting you.

3- “She/He’s clever but an underachiever”

Have you ever been put down by your mother? Putting down someone, also known as belittling, is a way of making someone feel worthless, empty, and dismissed. It is a form of psychological and emotional abuse if it is done constantly. As with many other items on this list, belittling comes from the mother’s insecurities. 

In this case, though, your mother sees you as an extension of herself. And because of that, she will try to put you down to keep you at the same level as her. In her mind, you cannot achieve or obtain anything better or more than she ever did. Since you are her extension you have to be and feel exactly how she is and feels. 

If she sees that you are excelling at things that she did not excel at she will try to convince you that they don’t truly matter, that you aren’t actually good at them, and make you feel like as much as you try you will never succeed. 

4- “Why are you so useless?”

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Did your mother ever insult you? Insults and name-calling are techniques that parents use to try to control their children, unfortunately. But it becomes worse when you have a toxic mother. 

Normal mothers don’t necessarily insult their children, as their maternal instinct lets them know that children’s emotional health is also important. But with toxic mothers that is not the case. When toxic mothers insult they lower the child’s self-esteem. 

This causes the child to find it hard to create and keep relationships outside of the home. They see themselves having to go back home to the mother for what they couldn’t create or find outside. By cutting down their self-esteem, and their ability to create other relationships the toxic mother keeps their child under their clutch doing and believing everything they say because there is no outside input to interfere. 

5- “You’re my child and I have the right to…..”

We’ve all had our mothers searching or cleaning our bedrooms before without our permission. While it is a breach of privacy, unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of mothers clean or find out more about their child if they feel that the child is keeping a secret. 

Toxic mothers do this to get something they can criticize you for, something they can hold over your head, or something they are jealous of that they want to disappear. They will often use the excuse of being your mother and having a right to do whatever she wants because you are her child and this is her house. 

More than just going into your room, it’s probable that she will use this excuse for other things like forcing or coercing you to do things, taking your rights away, humiliating you in public places, etc. 

6- “Why aren’t you like this or that? Look at what so and so is doing, you should be doing it too”

Image Credit/ RODNAE Productions

Has your mother ever compared you to other people? Mothers usually want the best for us, and it’s normal for her to sometimes compare you to others because she hopes it will fuel you to be better. Toxic mothers on the other hand do it to break you down and keep you under control. 

By constantly comparing you to others she is trying to make you feel less than others and unworthy. In that state, you will look for something or someone to anchor on emotionally. The toxic mother will make sure to be there for that so that you anchor onto her and depend on her completely. 

It is also a way to make herself feel superior as her own insecurities and unprocessed traumas always have her feeling insecure in herself. So she looks for anything outside of herself that she can get or control that will push her up again. 

7- “You’re going to go out like that?”

In normal circumstances, and although a bit harsh, this question serves to let you know that what you’re wearing may be inappropriate to where you are going or that you would look like a better version of yourself with something else. Clothes are an expression of you, your inner self, even your moods. Whatever you choose to wear or adorn yourself with will reflect part of the person you want to emulate that day.

When toxic mothers make this or similar questions what they are doing is trying to undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem. This question also serves to make you feel inadequate being yourself, that you’re not good enough. If your clothing piece is not good enough for one of the people you care about the most, then it’s not good enough for the outside world. And since you’re the one who chose it then it must be that that part of yourself is not good enough. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth when you realize that people always have something to criticize or complain about. You’re not for everyone and not everyone is for you but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find people with who you relate and can create a beautiful relationship. 

8 – I don’t know why I even bother with you (shaming)

According to VeryWell Mind shame can be described as a feeling of embarrassment or humiliation that arises in relation to the perception of having done something dishonorable, immoral, or improper.

Parents, especially mothers, tend to use shame to control or modify their child’s behavior if they are behaving badly. Although it is not a good form of punishment or technique, parents do this in order to teach kids. For toxic mothers, though, it is used as a tool to mold their child into someone they can dominate. 

It is used as a subtle form of abuse that is hard to spot because it is done by other parents as well. But making the child think that they have done something improper when in reality they haven’t had, has its consequences. They make the child believe that they are bad at the core negatively impacting their sense of self. 

The child comes to think that since they are bad at the core nobody will want to be with them, except their toxic mother who occasionally shows some sort of affection. This keeps the children in the place the toxic mother wants them to be, within their grasp. 

But all of these abusive phrases and what they create in the child can lead to the child acting out, attempting on their lives, or severing the connection between them and their mother later on. If you believe you or someone else is in a toxic relationship please reach out to your nearest mental health professional for advice and help. 

Let us know in the comments below what you think about this article and if you relate to it. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more things about psychology and relationships. 

Image Credit/ Karolina Grabowska


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Wolf, J., & Snyder, C. (2022, January 12). How Shaming Kids Can Damage Relationships. Verywell Family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/why-you-shouldnt-shame-your-children-4089277

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