6 Ways Your Mother Is Verbally Abusive

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A mother is verbally abusive when she uses her words, tone of voice, and non-verbal communication to manipulate, intimidate, and even humiliate. What is underlying most of it is a desire to exert power and control over you as her child. This can happen when you were young and continue even when you are an adult.

Experiencing this type of abuse as an adult can make you question your own sanity or even who you are as a person. Leaving you feeling worthless, with low self-esteem to the extent of causing other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Very often we don’t recognise that some of the behaviours are that your mother is verbally abusive as they are often difficult to spot. We understand name-calling, shouting and swearing as abuse but verbal abuse can come in many forms.

In this article, I will explain 7 ways your mother is verbally abusive to you as her adult child and end by explaining how her verbal abuse can impact you.

Ways how your Mother is Verbally Abusive

1. Silent treatment 

Verbal abuse is very much about what you say as with what you don’t and nothing represents this more than if your mother is giving you the silent treatment.

The silent treatment could take the form of not talking to you, ignoring you, not acknowledging your presence, and deliberately keeping a distance. Or if they are talking to you, they may not be as talkative or as friendly as she sometimes could be. So you, especially if you don’t know why she is behaving like that, may start to question yourself and what you may or may not have done.

The Silent Treatment is very passive-aggressive and between a mother and adult child, is often used to punish and exert power and control.


2. Making Threats 

Making threats is a form of verbal abuse. 

There isn’t a type of threat that isn’t a form of verbal abuse as generally speaking, if your mom threatens you, her aim is to control and manipulate you and show how they are going to do it. The aim here is to make you afraid of the consequences so that you would submit to their demands.

For example, your mom could threaten to take you out of her will if you don’t live your life how she wants you to.

Or if she has a mental health issue, she may make threats to take her life and clearly state to you that she wants to die. Even in this situation, her threats to kill herself are not directed at you because of anything you have done. This situation is extremely difficult to deal with, especially if your mom refuses to get the help she needs and depends on you emotionally.

There is also a difference between setting boundaries and making a threat because threats usually accompany some other form of verbal or emotional abuse. 


3. Backhanded Compliments

You may have found that your mother makes backhanded compliments that are actually insulting in disguise and not as complimentary as they may sound at first.  Sometimes you don’t realise that your mom actually insulted you till hours later when the ramification of it hits you. 

Backhanded compliments from your mother can range from being rude to actual forms of manipulation and microaggressions. 

Either way, here in many ways you would prefer the truth as it can leave you trusting her word less especially if she does it time and time again.


4. Gaslighting

Gaslighting refers to behaviors and actions a form of psychological manipulation where your mother sews self-doubt and confusion in your mind. She would clearly use her words to distort your reality thus forcing you to question your own judgment and feelings. 

An example could be when she could insist that some of your childhood experiences never happened and that you got it wrong. Yes, we do have different perceptions of things when they happen but when you could be gaslighted where YOU are always in the wrong and she is right. 

Or if she admits that something happens, she constantly minimises or justifies her behavior.

5. Tone of Voice

It is not what has been said, very often it is how things have been said and the tone of voice used has an effect. Rage and disgust in your mother’s voice can make you feel worse, and not accepted, even as an adult.

Her tone of voice is the vehicle by which emotions are delivered according to Pete Walker. A parent’s tone of voice can make the child feel that he is essentially bad and unlovable. 

Her tone of voice can make what she says abusive. Your toxic mother can often add emotional abuse to verbal abuse with her body language and facial expressions. By scowling at you, slamming doors, and arguing with herself in another room. They all hurt.

6. Teasing and Sarcasm

Some children grow up with moms who use sarcasm to control and punish them. Regrettably, they learn that insults and putdowns are normal and acceptable behaviour. Worst still, they don’t understand how to set those boundaries. 


7. Criticism

Where you constantly get harsh and hurtful comments that are intended on making you feel bad about yourself. These comments are not necessarily helpful in any way but they hurt all the same. You may receive these comments in public or private but the main issue is they are not constructive.

Other signs your mother is verbally abusive

  • You are afraid of your mother
  • You feel that you need to be extra careful what you say around her
  • You notice that she doesn’t say certain things when certain things are around
  • You feel that she doesn’t or won’t listen to you when you try to explain how you feel
  • You may even gaslight you even more
  • She lets you know that you are being over-sensitive or you don’t have a sense of humor
  • She treats your other siblings differently 
  • You feel embarrassed about how they behave at times

How would this all affect you?

Verbal abuse will not only affect how you feel about yourself but it will, even if you are not fully aware of it, affect your relationship with your mother.

In most circumstances, you won’t be as emotionally close to your mother as you could be. You also on a subconscious level won’t trust her and would hold back from letting her in on many aspects of your life.

As for you, most of all, verbal abuse will affect your self-esteem as by the time you are an adult, your mother’s continual verbal abuse would have now become your internal dialogue and you may find that you are the one mostly abusing yourself.


Verbal abuse is a lot different from constructive criticism which a parent that is there to guide and support you will do. Constructive criticism isn’t loaded with disgust or rage, she would be calm but firm and what she requires would be clear.

Though sometimes silence and time out is better than saying something you may regret. You would be clear about why she is doing it and what she is feeling. Plus this won’t be carried for a long time and used time and time again.

You would know that she is upset and why instead of wondering what you did. You would also know that this situation will end soon when she is ready, then you would have the chance to talk about it.

It is not about having the perfect mom as that’s not possible, it is also not necessary. When these behaviours are used repeatedly, it will not only affect your relationship, it will affect how you feel about yourself.

What to do next

Feel free to share with someone else that you believe needs therapy. You never know that this may help them to make their minds up!

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Do you have a Toxic, Emotionally Immature, Narcissist, Co-dependent, or Parent with an Addiction? Have you struggled with their behavior for most of your life? Maybe your Childhood wasn’t the best but you want to make sense of why it still affects you now.

You may find yourself struggling in so many ways.

I am an experienced and qualified Online-Therapist based in the United Kingdom helping you on your road to healing from your Toxic Parents. 

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