Relationships between mothers and children can be loving, emotional, frustrating, fraught, and so many other things. It's not always as simple or clear-cut as it might seem from the outside looking in, nor is it always as perfect as it can sometimes appear on TV or in books and movies. Relationships with toxic moms can be especially difficult to navigate, particularly if you're not yet at a place where you want to break off communication. There are some arguments that only toxic moms have with their kids that just really aren't part of most other mother-child relationships. If your mom is a toxic mom or your relationship with her is toxic, these sorts of arguments will likely sound quite familiar.
It's important to note, however, that just because you sometimes have difficulties with your mom doesn't necessarily mean that your mom (or your relationship) is toxic. "Being a mom is totally hard, and making mistakes is a given," Erin C. Parisi, LMHC, CAP, a licensed mental health counselor, tells Romper by email. "Every kid ends up with some kind of scars from childhood, it’s inevitable. Really, it’s about being the best parent you can be, along with being the best person you can be, so you’re raising the best tiny humans you can. It’s also important to keep in mind that the brain doesn’t finish developing until the mid- to late-twenties. The child’s brain (even the adult child’s brain!) can’t process information the same way the parent can. Oftentimes, the parent’s approach has to be adjusted depending on where the child is developmentally; an approach or explanation that works with one kid may not work the same for another kid."
That being said, some arguments are very much a part of a relationship with a toxic mom. If you recognize that these sorts of arguments are characteristic of your relationship with your own mom, it might help to do what you can to set boundaries with her, end the conversation, or work with a therapist. These arguments aren't uncommon and can be very difficult to handle, but you don't have to just let it go or deal with it all on your own.
1. You Somehow Fell Short Of Her Expectations
Falling short of your mom's expectations for you can be really difficult. You might feel guilty that you let her down, you might feel hurt that she isn't proud of what you did, in fact, accomplish, and you might be confused about how to move forward. Dr. Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, a clinical social worker, tells Romper by email that this is one of the most common arguments that toxic moms have with their children. "As a child with a toxic parent, the best thing you can do is to not internalize what is said to you and to not add fuel to the fire by arguing," she adds.
2. She Tries To Control You
Controlling behaviors aren't OK when you're an adult. It's a little bit more complicated when you're a child, when she might have to make decisions for you that she thinks are best (though there's certainly the possibility of going too far), but once you've grown up, you shouldn't feel like you're being controlled by your mother any longer. In a post that she wrote for Psychology Today, Peg Streep, the author of Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, said that a mom might say that she's doing these things for your own good, but that ultimately sends a message to the child that your mom thinks you're incapable of managing your own life.
3. You Somehow Made Her Look Bad
Making your mom somehow look bad because of how you behaved or a choice that you made is another common argument between kids and toxic moms, Powell says. You should be able to make your own life decisions without feeling the pressure that everything will reflect on her.
4. She Hasn't Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is so important in just about any relationship, but if there aren't many boundaries in your relationship with your mother, that can result in a number of different arguments. "It’s the parent’s job to set and maintain appropriate boundaries, which change as the child ages," Parisi says. "It’s not appropriate to have a minor child acting as an emotional support system when going through a hard time. Using information not appropriate for your children to know in an argument is not appropriate. Even the best, smartest, emotionally intelligent children, who want to help you (because they do) shouldn’t be your primary source of support."
5. You Don't Look Good Enough
If your toxic mom is regularly and consistently going after your appearance, body type, habits, or anything else, that can certainly take a toll after awhile and can absolutely cause a lot of arguing and heartache. "These arguments are specific to toxic mothers because they still have a lot of self work to do," Powell says. "They are insecure from things that have occurred in their lives and they project it onto their children." Taking care of yourself when you're dealing with something like this is very important.
6. She Lies To Further Her Points
Moms who lie in arguments to further their points can cause additional and difficult conversations and stress because it can make figuring out interpersonal relationships with other people more difficult for kids (or even teens and adult children) as well. "I knew a mom who told her teenage daughter that getting the piercing she wanted would cause cancer," Parisi says. "Not only is that untrue, a lie like this undermines the trust in the relationship and makes building trust with anyone more difficult. 'If my mom will lie to me to win an argument, wouldn’t everyone else?'"
7. She Blames You For Everything, Instead Of Owning Up To Her Part In It
"The most toxic parents chronically place blame on their children, starting when they were young," Parisi says. "Having feelings is normal, but telling your children that they’re the reason you’re mad/sad/anxious/depressed/sick/abusive teaches them that there’s something wrong with them. Healthy parents have outlets for managing their emotions, and can talk to their children about feelings in a way that focuses on behaviors ('you did this bad thing so you’re getting this consequence') instead of them as a person ('you’re disgusting, go to your room, get out of my sight')." If your mom puts all the blame for everything on you, that can certainly cause some seriously difficult arguments. It's hard to hear these things over and over again and particularly difficult to listen to it without trying to defend yourself or fight back at some point. Unfortunately, you likely won't get through to her that way.
"Keep in mind they had power when you did not," Parisi says. "As an adult child of a toxic parent, you have much more power than as a dependent. You can get your own help and support, you can put physical and emotional distance between yourself and your toxic parent, and you can decide for yourself how much they’re in your life. Ask for help!" Reaching out to a therapist can be really helpful. It doesn't mean for sure that you'll be able to repair your relationship with your mom, but hopefully it will allow you to take better care of yourself and move forward.