Do you have a critical mum? Mental health experts reveal how it might impact your parenting style and share 3 top tips for ‘breaking the cycle’

Having a 'critical mother' can massively affect both your childhood and adult life

Sad mother and her daughter hugging
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Having a critical mother in childhood can have a lasting impact on children as they grow up and even affect how they parent their own kids - here are some of the signs suggesting you have a critical mum and some expert insight on how to deal with it. 

Tonnes of research has shown that today's millennial parents think they're better at parenting than the past generation and changes in parenting approaches and parenting styles have popularised a vastly different type of parenting than that our own parents used. 

Many parents are throwing out the things they wish their parents had done differently but it's not always as easy as it seems - especially if you grew up with a 'critical mum.' 

'Critical mum' is a term that's growing in popularity in the mental health space and is used to describe a mother who is critical rather than encouraging usually towards their daughter or daughters. 

This goes beyond pointing out genuine mistakes, with critical mums repetitively ignoring a child's success and focusing solely on their shortcomings, so much so that the child can become hyper-fixated on their mistakes instead of their strengths. This can, in turn, have a massive impact on their mental health both in childhood and adulthood.

"Our childhood experiences can indeed profoundly shape our mindsets and behaviours as adults, including our parenting approaches," Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC, a mental health expert and licensed clinical professional counsellor, speaking on behalf of OurPublicRecords, told us at

"When someone grows up with a highly critical mother who constantly points out flaws and shortcomings instead of nurturing their strengths, it can leave deep psychological scars. That child may internalise feelings of never being good enough and develop insecurities that linger long into adulthood."

These internalised feelings can even affect the way a child of a critical mum then goes on to parent their own children when they have them. Johnson revealed, "In my clinical experience, parents who endured that type of harsh, demeaning environment often go one of two ways with their own children.

"Some unconsciously pass that critical, perfectionistic mindset down to the next generation out of familiarity. But many others make the conscious choice to be the nurturing, supportive parent they never had."

For those 'determined to break the cycle,' Johnson says, "It can take consistent work to unlearn those ingrained critical voices in their heads. But, at the end of the day, how we were parented doesn't have to define how we parent. With self-awareness and intentional efforts to raise emotionally intelligent, confident children, the legacy of a critical parent can be rewritten."

8 signs your mum is a 'critical mum'

Writing in PsychCentral, counsellor Marissa Moore lists the eight signs of a critical mother as;

  • She sets unrealistic or high academic expectations for you
  • She criticises your looks or comment on your body
  • She downplays your accomplishments
  • She consistently has negative things to say about you
  • She gives little or no praise
  • She's highly critical of mistakes
  • She stays silent or does not recognise successes
  • She uses name-calling

3 expert tips to 'break the cycle' of critical motherhood

Speaking to us here at, Bayu Prihandito, a certified psychology consultant and founder of coaching service Life Architekture, shared their top tips to help parents 'break the cycle' of critical parenting; 

1. Self-awareness and reflection: "For anyone looking for personal growth, it all begins with recognising their own upbringing and its impact. Reflecting on how their parent’s critical nature has affected them is key to understanding and changing current behaviours."

2. Positive reinforcement: "Parents should focus on praising efforts rather than outcomes to help their children develop healthier self-esteem. This approach encourages parents to be more supportive rather than critical and strengthen their emotional bonds."

3. Mindfulness through journaling: "Practicing mindfulness helps parents manage their reactions and emotions better. In practice, journaling provides a safe, judgment-free space to write down our thoughts and emotions, bringing awareness to our responses. Over time, this will give parents a better understanding of their patterns and triggers, allowing them to choose to respond more thoughtfully rather than reactively."

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.