Let’s face it, the mother-daughter relationship is complicated. Most women’s relationships with their moms aren’t picture perfect. But don’t use that simple fact as an excuse to tolerate a relationship with a toxic mother that is hurting you.


When the very relationship that should nurture you the most is causing you pain and confusion, the effects run deep. A relationship with a toxic mother is a surefire way to lessen your self-confidence and your trust in others.


Let me be clear: All mothers make mistakes. God knows I’ve made my fair share! But mistakes and character flaws are two very different things. A mother can become toxic to her daughter when her repeated ‘toxic’ behavior has become so deeply ingrained that it becomes part of her identity and she doesn’t even realize it.


Toxic mothers have a way of never assuming responsibility, pointing all the blame on others, and manipulating. And they disguise it by saying, “I’m just trying to be a good mother.” When this happens, the daughters are left terribly confused. They want so much to believe that their mothers are loving and nurturing, but what they get instead is an onslaught of accusations that leave them feeling devastated, but not truly able to pinpoint why.


They know they don’t like to be around their mothers. They know they don’t like the way their mothers make them feel. But they just can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact that their mother may be the problem. They are more likely to feel that they are doing something wrong—something that they don’t ever seem to be able to fix. Sadly much of the toxic behavior is a result of brokenness in the mothers life that is now being taken out on the daughter.


To help relieve some of that confusion, here are five signs that you are a victim of toxic mothering:


  • Your mother is dismissive. A toxic mother will typically ignore her daughter if she’s not behaving in the exact manner the mother wants. Because these mothers often look to their daughters to make themselves look good and feel better about themselves, a daughter who doesn’t do exactly what the mother wants has no value and therefore isn’t worth her time. Or if the daughter is in someway defying the mother’s wishes, a bad mother will often use dismissiveness as a manipulation tactic to bring the daughter back under her control. These acts of defiance are rarely true rebellion, by the way—often it’s just the mother’s perception that the behavior was out of line. To a toxic mother, anything that is not in line with what she wants, expects, or believes is a threat.


  • Your mother is controlling. Toxic mothers have to have things their way at all times. Controlling can be seen in a variety of ways—outright yelling, manipulative comments, and blaming are all common. This is an immature and unhealthy way to handle relationships and is in no way considered good mothering.


  • You mother is critical.  Toxic mothers are never pleased. No matter how good you are, it’s never good enough. She will always find something to criticize. While this is an internal issue, these mothers don’t have the ability to look inward, so all of that criticism falls on the poor unsuspecting daughter who is just looking to please the very woman who has the greatest power to validate her, making the criticism sting even more.


  • Your mother is self-centered. Toxic mothers take the cake when it comes to being selfish. I’m not referring to women who take the time to care for themselves, whether that’s getting to the gym or taking quiet time to refresh. I’m talking about mothers who make every decision based solely on what’s in their best interest. Many will disguise what they do for their children as being a ‘good mother,’ but there’s always a motive. Oftentimes it’s a front to try and prove to others that she is a good mother. This, naturally, leaves the daughter very confused.


  • Your mother is obsessed with presenting a good front to others.  Toxic mothers often look great on the outside and have many fooled. They are usually attractive and charming or put on a great act of pretending to be sweet and caring. Many daughters of bad mothers often hear comments like, “Oh your mom is so great,” while on the inside they are seething with anger over the lie they are living. Even more painfully, they are hurting from the lack of true love.


This list is in no way exhaustive. It’s just a glimpse of the poor behaviors exhibited by ‘toxic’ mothers who disguise themselves as ‘good.’

If you are the victim of a toxic mother, I want you to know that you are not alone. In my coaching and counseling practice, I see so many women every week who grew up with a mother who is toxic because of the brokenness in her life.  As daughters they are still not fully aware of just how poor the mothering they received was and the damage it’s caused. They are in pain and confused, and they are feeling guilty about the feelings they have for their very own mothers.

In the next post of this three-part series, I talk about the effects that toxic mothers have on their daughters.  Until then, you may find my Toxic People Survival Guide a helpful resource.  It’s your FREE Guide to identifying and dealing with difficult people of all types.

Want more help? My new online course “How to Deal with Toxic People” can help you say goodbye to guilt and hello to healthy boundaries. check it out here.


25 replies
  1. Donna Richard Miller
    Donna Richard Miller says:

    Even though my mother was extremely toxic, I am praying for her soul to be saved and that she will be in heaven some day. Jesus has helped me to heal from any damage that was caused and I just want her to be in heaven! ❤

  2. Erin
    Erin says:

    Thank you for sharing this. You just described my mother so well. I am always made out to look like I am rebelling when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

  3. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    I understand this article. It addresses a serious and real topic. I actually personally appreciate every part of this writing (especially your careful descriptors), except I would boldly suggest that use of another word besides “bad mother,” would allow more readers to feel personally and deeply connected to this content. Many of the describing phrases fit my mother and I. She is happy to talk to my sister everyday on the phone, and all they do is giggle and enjoy their exclusive little club when they are together, and I am doing well to have a cordial, mutual respectful conversation with her once or twice a month. I spent my growing up years, my 20s, and part of my 30s trying to “fix-it.” I spent much of my 30s and most of my 40s trying to see it for what it really was, and adjust my expectations. Then I had to identify how I wanted to deal with the realities and “accept,” it for what it really is. Now in my 50s is a happier time because God has granted more healing. My mother never was BAD. She did many things right and exceptionally well. She did the best that she could. If I had grown up in her shoes, I probably would have done worse than her. Now my guiding motto (with God’s help) is that I just want to love her and honor her. It’s not about what I get, but it’s about how I can love her and honor her. In Heaven, the Lord will make us all better and finished! Praise His holy name. I may not have had what I yearned for with my mother, but I have an amazing relationship with my teen-age daughter, and I have many young women whom I mentor, and I have amazing friends. All glory to the giver of all good gifts. I enjoyed touching on this topic in the comment here, because it is a subject that I will not allow myself to blog on because my mother may read my blogs, and …. .. I want her only to feel honored. She really is OBLIVIOUS to my perspective, even though I spent decades trying desperately to open her eyes. It was a loosing battle, but has shown me a path to peace and thanksgiving.

  4. krisreece
    krisreece says:

    Thank you for sharing Tammy and for your valuable feedback. I’m glad to hear that you have come to a place of peace. I pray that God continues to give you more and more grace and peace as you honor your mother. Blessings!

  5. krisreece
    krisreece says:

    Thanks Erin. I’m looking forward to diving deeper into this painful and all too common topic. Please know that You’re not alone. We’re here for you. 🙂 Peace to you!

  6. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Thank you for reminding me of the source to allot of my pain and confusion. While I have finally taken steps to create distance (physical-mental -emotional and spiritual)

    Yes, is like a free strategy session
    To help me go to the next stage.

  7. Mary Pauline M
    Mary Pauline M says:

    Hi Kris, thank you so much for this post. While I just lost my mom in January, and I love her, she was very controlling. Wish I’d seen it sooner. Things would probably be extremely different in my life now. As you can probably guess, nothing has improved. Has gotten worse actually, as I came very close to attempting to take my life in early February. God stepped in less than 24 hours prior to prevent it. Really wish I could afford to resume our counseling, but financially, this still isn’t possible. Hugs.

  8. krisreece
    krisreece says:

    HI Mary, So glad to hear from you. I’m so sorry for your loss. I am praying for God’s peace to envelope you in this difficult season. Are there any groups you can join for support? much love and many blessings!

  9. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    Mary Pauline, I am sorry for your pain. I invite you to join my women’s support group called TITUS WOMEN’S CLUB (a closed facebook group). There you will find friendship, support, and opportunities for growth in Christ.

  10. Tosha
    Tosha says:

    Hello Kris thank you for your help. My mother has always pulled me down. I found out that I tested positive for Huntington’s disease and since I tested positive she has treated me differently by treating me like dirt, and it’s my fault for testing positive. My mother is just like your blog. I love her, but I can love her and pray for her from a distance.

  11. Kris Reece
    Kris Reece says:

    I’m glad you’re here Tosha and also glad you’re not allowing yourself to be contaminated with hate. sometimes we need to love people from a distance. I pray you allow the Lord to continue to guide you. Blessings!

  12. Caren
    Caren says:

    I am so happy I stumbled upon this while searching for an answer / understanding why my mother is the opposite of what a mother should be. I am almost 44 and a mother myself which made it even worse. I also spend a lot of time thinking “am I crazy or is she truly an awfully person?” A few years ago, I made the decision to not allow her to control my life anymore. It has made her resort to befriending my closest friends and family but she just wants to destroy my character and relationships. She got to my dad’s family that I have very strong relationships with and it has never been the same. I am hurt she did it and even more hurt they believed a woman they haven’t seen in 20 years. That was my breaking point. If we never spoke again, I would be relieved…like I feel when she gives me the silent treatment. 🤷🏻‍♀️
    This story helps me know I made the right decision and I am going to follow this series. Thank you!!

  13. jadwiga
    jadwiga says:

    Thank you for your website and blog, I am the product of a toxic mother and hurt so much. At my age 65, it should be easier, its not.
    Your series is helpful especially during this difficult season of my life and struggle.
    The other ladies sharing their hearts has already given me some relief.
    I have never gone on line for help, certainly the LORD led me here for a place to share, learn and grow and understand.
    Looking forward to your next series.

  14. Kris Reece
    Kris Reece says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I look forward to hearing from you as we continue to journey through how to deal with difficult people – God’s way. Many blessings to you. I pray you find healing and hope in Him.

  15. Tammie
    Tammie says:

    I am currently caring for my mother who will be 81 this year. This series has helped me make sense of so much of my life. My mom has to live in my home for now. I am in need of a counselor in my area who understands this. Can you recommend anyone? Or do you offer online services?

  16. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I completely relate. I’ve grown up with a toxic mother who did everything in her power to tear me apart from my siblings and break each one of us down. The struggle continues and I’m now a married 36 year old woman with two of my own children. We continue to be there for her but her abuse and narcissistic personality is suffocating. Her poison flows onto everyone in our own lives.

  17. uleda slayden
    uleda slayden says:

    I am loving this blog. I felt, I was the only one with a toxic mother.. We will get through this with love and prayer. Who said it would be easy. Thanks to everyone for sharing.

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