11 Ways to Deal With a Critical Mother

My mother doesn't respect me and I try so hard

Posted Jun 28, 2016

Dear Dr. G,

I found you while searching the internet to try to figure out my relationship
with my mother. I am sure that she loves me, but I just don't understand why
she doesn't show it in other ways that I see my friend's moms. I always
pushed it out of my mind, but it has gotten to the point where she is the
only person in my life that can make me cry so hard and make me feel as
worthless as I do.

Growing up, I was never one of the kind of kids that told their mom
everything. I was always so jealous when my friends said they told their moms
everything, even about boys. Whenever I did try to talk to her, she would
counter me and not comfort me but tear me down. I just never understood
because I didn't think she was trying to. Additionally, it always bothered me
that I would cry and sob in front of her and she would just ask me angrily
why I was crying and why I can't stop.

She never really trusted me, and let me go out with friends but not if she
didn't know every detail. I have never drank or done drugs (I'm 16). I have
no intention of getting high or drunk as a high schooler, and my grades are
great. I have all As and A-s, and she will tell me "good job!" and sometimes
"I'm proud of you. Keep it up." And almost always ask how my friends did. And
that was IT. But when I got a bad grade, she would be SO disappointed and
rant forever. I felt (and feel) worthless even though I try my hardest. But
then OCCASIONALLY she would only be slightly upset if she knew I tried my
best. But never ever said "It's okay" or "I'm still proud of you for trying."
Multiple times, she has told me I need to work out more. Once, it made me so
insecure because she told me my thighs were getting too big. I have a very
low self esteem already, and struggle with anxiety. I am active, I work out
and play sports.  I'm 5'2 and 110 pounds, and I would say I'm skinnier than
many people I know.

She yells at me probably every other day for something. For little things
I've never heard other people's parents get mad about. For not putting my
shampoo back in the right spot in the bathtub. For not washing my dish (after
eating. a SINGLE dish.) For not recycling a container. I've never heard her
say "Thanks for doing the dishes" or even "You remembered to do the dishes
good job."

Over the years, I've put up with this. Accepted that I'm luckier than most
people. Been grateful that my dad loves me and treats me with respect, and is
always proud of me and always wants to talk to me. I love my mother, and I
think she loves me but at the same time doesn't care to show it.
Now, what drove me to sobbing uncontrollably for the first time in a few
months was today. She basically told me she didn't think I had morals or was
a good person (I think I'm a moral person. I always apologize first, thank
people for the little things, and try to make others smile). Then she told me
MY attitude needs to be fixed. I cried in front of her for the first time in
months, hating myself for it. I apologized and said I respect her. She didn't
believe me. She accused me of lying, saying there's no point if I have that
attitude. I don't even know that you'll read this, much less reply. But I
don't know how to deal with this. I can't confront her. Every time I try I
end up heartbroken and my self esteem lower. My dad never knows who to side
with, and my brother is never home (college). I just can't understand if she
really loves me and if she does why she can't respect me but expects me to
respect her.

Thank you,

A Sad Teen

Dear Teen,

I am so very sorry that you are going through this. Your situation sounds very upsetting and you, like everyone else, deserve to have a mother who is the leader of your fan club. Unfortunately, what happens instead is that your mother criticizes and tears you down leading you to question yourself and in turn to poor self-esteem. This happens because we tend to internalize our mother's views of us;true? If your mother says it then it may be true;also true?

We all internalize what our parents say to and about us but I want you to know that there is another way to think about things here.  Your mother is a critical and perhaps angry woman and appears to lack the skills to be warm,supportive and soothing. Consider that  your mother may have a lot of unresolved issues. Perhaps she was raised like this. That is unfortunate. Nonetheless, understanding your mother doesn't necessarily make you feel better.

I have a number of suggestions for you and I hope that you find at least 1 or 2 of them helpful.

1. Please try to focus on the respect and support that you get from your father.

2. Be aware that at 110 and 5'2" you do NOT have a weight issue. I would hate to see you develop an eating disorder because of your mother's inappropriate weight-related comments.

3. Keep in mind always that your mother clearly has issues of her own. This does NOT mean that she doesn't love you. It may mean, instead, that she doesn't know how to express love.

4. When your mother criticizes you try very hard to remind yourself that this says more about her than about you. Perhaps, she dislikes herself.

5. It is unlikely that your mother will change and begin to appreciate you. Keep this in mind when you are hoping for recognition and acceptance.

6. Begin to learn to appreciate yourself. Make a list of your strengths and positive qualities. Also, give yourself permission to make mistakes. This is part of the human experience. We all need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and get back into the game of life. Disappointment is okay but tearing yourself down is not.

7. Begin to practice tuning out your mother's harsh critiques without letting her know that you are doing this. Develop a mantra that you repeat in your head like "My mother is way too critical." Perhaps after you have done this for a bit you will not get as upset when she criticizes you.

8. Remind yourself that you will leave the house at some point to live on your own/go to college and that you will no longer have to hear your mother's criticisms so frequently.

9. Perhaps you can borrow your friend's mothers or other female role models. Clearly, it would be helpful to have other supportive women in your life. Also, set up a social support network around yourself which can include friends, teachers, etc.

10. Promise yourself that you will not become critical toward others the way your mother has been toward you. Work on being compassionate and supportive toward others. This will not only make you and those around you feel good but what goes around comes around. You may begin to experience the same sort of compassion from others. Keep an eye on your anxiety and mood. If you ever feel overwhelmed


11. Keep an eye on your anxiety and mood. If you ever feel overwhelmed by depression and self-hatred please seek therapy. Therapy can be very helpful.

Good luck and please get back to me.

Dr. G.

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