Tips for Dealing With Mother’s Guilt Trips

By Val Boyko • January 11th, 2012

pointing fingerIt isn’t easy to step back and be mindful when you feel criticized, triggered and guilty, especially when it comes from your mother. Understanding what is going on inside of her and what’s behind the guilt trip can help daughters shift gears and regain their thoughtful adult self!

According to Denise McGregor in her book Mama Drama, there are 4 key motivators behind mother’s guilt and criticism. These motivators come down to the unmet needs of the judging person.

Here are some tips to handle each situation:

1. Competition. She doesn’t feel good about herself compared with how she perceives you. She wants to pull you down a peg or two so she feels better about herself. Daughters of narcissist mothers can certainly relate to this. Daughters of mothers who feel they have missed out on a good life, can also relate. In this case she wants you to feel as badly as she does.

The need behind her judging is to feel better about herself, to feel reassured that she is “enough”. Tell her it isn’t a competition and that she is fine just the way she is.

2. Over Protective. She wants you to be safe and perhaps not have the painful experiences she has had or has been avoiding in her life. She is afraid that you will get into trouble, hurt yourself or not fit in. She is still treating you like a child.

Tell her its time to cut the apron strings while reassuring her that you love her … and that you are in charge of your life.

3. Unmet emotional needs. Her own needs are not being met in her relationships and/or life. She may feel insecure, unappreciated, lonely, or no longer useful.

Stick with the facts. For example you have an other engagement and can’t stay for dinner. You have your own life and yes, you love her too. Encourage her to have her own life too. You can be a role model for her as well as a support.

4. Control. She feels out of control, feeling fearful or anxious about her self. Using guilt makes makes her feel more in control.

Dealing with someone who needs to feel in control can be tough. Rather than reacting to being controlled, step back, switch gears to think about what she really needs. She doesn’t need to control you in order to feel assured that you are safe. Reassure her by telling her that you feel good about your life and whats happening. Stick with the facts and tell her you love her. If needs be, set boundaries so she knows not to step over the same line next time.


Val’s comment: It really comes down to being with our feelings as they come up rather than reacting to them with anger or trying to escape them. This takes practice! If you want to talk about what’s going on in your mother relationship and how to break free of guilt, then please reach out and lets talk. You are not alone and I am here to help.



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