13 Heartbreaking Signs of a Toxic Daughter

Talking about toxic adult children is uncomfortable. 

By the time you've gotten to this article, you've likely faced years of contempt, rage, entitlement, and fights. 

Mothers tend to see their daughters through the lens of unconditional love instead of owning up to the clear signs of a bad mother-daughter relationship. 

Having a toxic daughter isn't about assigning blame. 

It's about building a better relationship with her moving forward by addressing bad behavior and trigger points. 

Understanding a Toxic and Mean Daughter

For every positive trait a mother tries to instill in a daughter, there's an ugly side. A mother who spoils a child could be furiously complaining, “My daughter treats me with contempt!” 

Let's start with the obvious: you are not a bad mom. You did the best you could with what information you had. But where is all that toxicity coming from? 

  • Mental Health Issues: One in five adults lives with a mental illness. 20% of children with ADHD are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all until adulthood. A chemical imbalance in the brain could be a sickness wrongly identified as toxic. 
  • Independence: Mothers struggle to balance raising an independent child and “helicopter parenting” their kids. A daughter who feels she doesn't have the space to grow on her own will resent her mother for getting in the way. 
  • Friendship vs. Parenting: Mothers who try to be their daughter's best friend are bad at establishing boundaries. This sends the daughter into the adult world feeling entitled to whatever she wants.
  • Neglect: A child who doesn't think their needs are being met or their cries for help aren't heard can resent their parents.

13 Heartbreaking Toxic Daughter Signs

Approach this list with an open mind and a place of self-awareness. Some toxic habits could've been learned in your home, while others could be societal influences.

Then there's the generational gap that always fuels a fiery relationship. These are not excuses. These are discussion points. 

1. She's Immature

The 18th birthday only makes you an adult in the eyes of the law. Turning 21 doesn't have a magic transition to a fully independent adult, either. 

The more your teenager relied on you for guidance, finances, and life skills, the more she will depend on that into adulthood. 

If she's coming to you with the expectation you will still do things for her, despite your efforts to teach, she's in toxic trouble that will impact every corner of her life. 

2. She Likes Someone Else's Mom Better

Whether it's her new mother-in-law or the mother of her best friend, toxic daughters can make their own mothers feel like crap when they are constantly praising another mother. 

While you are left with memories of staying awake with her seven nights straight when she had the flu, she wishes you were more stylish “like Jessica's mom.” 

mother listening to her daughter toxic daughter signs

When a daughter is directly or indirectly comparing you to someone else, you really need to figure out the line between your sensitivity and her toxicity. 

3. She's Bossy

We know, we know – calling someone “bossy” isn't politically correct anymore. It feels like such a betrayal when you raised a daughter to have a strong voice, and now she's telling you what to do like you're a hired helper.

As with any pushy, bossy, or dominating personality, you control how much they get away with it. 

When toxic levels of pushiness extend to disrespecting wait staff, parking attendants, or strangers in public, you'll really see how she lacks respect and empathy for other people. 

4. She's Obsessed with Herself

Raise your hand if you've ever said, “I'm so glad social media wasn't around when I was a teenager!” When your daughter is too focused on herself, she won't care who she hurts along the way to the next selfie. 

She can even twist that pushiness and immaturity onto you as she tears down your makeup routine or fashion choices.

Self-obsession can be formed in childhood with constant praise from parents and the social circle that demanded a picture-perfect lifestyle. Extremely toxic egotistical daughters will even tear others down to put themselves higher on their own pedestal. 

5. She Plays You Against Your Husband or Ex

A daughter who uses her manipulative techniques to get her way can play one parent off the other. She might outright call you on the carpet in front of your hubby or secretly tell her dad that you are being mean to her. 

Keep in mind your daughter has built up this practice over the years, and it's not a trait that will go away on its own. 

Toxic goes into overload when she outright tells you she likes her dad or stepdad better than you.

She might even treat you poorly while praising your husband, making you wonder if you did something wrong. 

6. She Doesn't Respond to You

It's been days, and your daughter hasn't called or texted you back. You are torn between being hurt and wondering if this is the start of a Lifetime Movie, “My Daughter Is Missing.” 

She could up the ante by answering the phone when you call with a hefty sigh and demanding you don't respect her busy schedule. 

It's normal for a daughter not to have the same time to spend with you as she transitions to the adult world. It's not normal to act like she doesn't see you in the grocery store.

7. She Got Married and Divorced You

As if your daughter leaving the nest wasn't hard enough, now she's married and busier than ever. It's especially challenging for a mom who spent months planning the wedding with her daughter. 

A daughter who dismisses a mother after getting married likely lacks empathy and is too self-absorbed to know that it hurts. 

A mother can also have a hard time letting go during this transition. Your new son-in-law could also be more controlling than you realized.

She could be separating herself from the reliance on you and your (awesome) advice. 

8. She Makes You Feel Stupid

The power of the eye rolls when parents ask kids about TikTok could fuel New York City for two days. Toxic daughters have no interest in helping parents learn about trending technology.

They seem to forget how it took them six months to tie their dang shoes while you patiently helped.

A toxic daughter will make no qualms about embarrassing a mother at every opportunity, mostly to make herself look better. If she keeps doing it even when you've been honest about how you feel, she's toxic times two. 

9. She's Always the Victim

Your daughter comes crying to you that she got fired for “only” being late to work five times in the past month. She might even blame you for not teaching her how to change a flat tire and “she almost died” when her car broke down late at night. 

A mother's nature is to calm and coddle an upset daughter, but you could just be feeding the beast. She gets extra toxic points if you become the enemy when you disagree with her latest victim volume of social posts. 

10. She's a Liar

As an adult, your daughter is far beyond claiming her eyes are red because of allergies and not the joint she smoked at a party.

Toxic daughters lie for many reasons – to get their way, to gain an advantage, to play to your sense of guilt, and to avoid talking about a topic. 

Toxic daughters who lie will only keep doing it if it benefits them. By confronting her, you do run the risk of her giving you the silent treatment. 

11. She's Overly Emotional 

You've been given the silent treatment before, so you're likely not too upset about that. Suppose your daughter's emotions are always toxic, and every discussion ends with her yelling, crying, or slamming your cabinets.

In that case, she's definitely lacking respect for you and dealing with some mental health issues. 

You should also examine how often her emotional outbursts get her to manipulate you. You can't control her reaction, but you can control your response. 

12. She Has an Addictive Personality

Overachieving daughters likely have a knack for becoming obsessed or addicted to the chemical rush of something positive.

That tenacity was great when she was studying for the LSAT, but her addictive behaviors can also lead to eating disorders, substance abuse, and loss of reality. 

Especially if her addictive personality pairs with an overly emotional mindset, you could experience her wrath when you ask simple questions about sudden weight loss or slurred speech. 

13. She Never Apologizes

You've likely made some motherhood mistakes that you've beaten yourself up over for years.

Mothers are quick to apologize, even if it's not their direct fault. Toxic daughters feed into this by assuming mom is always to blame and escape any fight without owning up to their role.

Even if your daughter will make up with you after a fight, ensure you get the apology before you part ways. If she refuses to apologize, her toxic trait could be as permanent as that tattoo you don't know about. 


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Why Do Daughters Turn Against Their Mothers?

You can't cut off the maternal instincts even when you have an adult daughter who seems responsible and self-sufficient. The more successful a daughter is without your guidance, the more likely she is to make you suffer her toxic traits.

Daughters turn against their mothers mostly based on deep-seated traits and behaviors they picked up in childhood.

Let's patch together how some of these traits lead to disastrous behaviors for an adult daughter. 

  • Overly Critical: Being overly critical of a child (or pushing your child to succeed) can lead to feelings of not feeling good enough. When a child grows up, they can toxically seek your approval endlessly or avoid you for fear of being criticized. 
  • Spoiled: There's a reason they call it “spoiled rotten.” A child who got an elaborate Christmas might expect the same into adulthood while you're learning to live on a fixed income after retirement. A daughter who got everything she ever wanted can become an entitled adult with outrageous demands. 
  • Attachment: Every child develops an attachment style. If you were always yelling, she might be anxious or avoidant. She might now rely on you for everything if you were overly affectionate.

How to Deal with a Toxic Daughter

When your little princess has turned into a witch, it's time to draw some boundaries. You can make smart, concerted attempts to salvage the relationship. 

1. Make Boundaries

Whether you want to be closer or get more space between you two, set boundaries and stick to them. Make this a two-way conversation about how often you'll communicate, appropriate tones, and financial limits. 

You want to let them know you are there for them in their current adult role, not lengthening the care needed for a child or teenager.

2. Release the Self-Blame

You can't take a toxic daughter personally. She didn't come with a manual, and she certainly isn't what you envisioned when you boasted, “IT'S A GIRL!”

As hurtful as a toxic daughter can be, you need to accept it's an issue within her causing the problems. You cannot fix it with all the love in your heart. 

3. Admit When You're Wrong

Daughters have taken quite a beating in this article, but it's okay for you to tell her that your overprotective nature led to the current problem. 

It's wonderful when you can share what you learned about parenting as your daughter is getting ready to start her own family. Show her the grace and compassion that comes with motherhood. 

4. Make a Deal with Father Figures

Whether it's a stepdad, ex-husband, or longtime hubby, you and the father figure can battle behind closed doors to address your daughter's toxicity. 

Always have a united front, whether it's in the living room or living across the world. 

5. Be Sure You're Supportive

Your daughter isn't going to have it all figured out in adulthood, just like you didn't when you moved out of your parent's home. 

Let her explore the world on her own terms, even if you disagree with them. 

6. Make Peace with It

You can't set yourself on fire to keep her warm, and if every attempt to salvage the relationship has failed, you need to stop trying. 

Let her work out her issues and be available, but not coddling, if/when she returns. Then you can start with the boundaries all over again. 

Final Thoughts

The hardest part is admitting your daughter is toxic. You did your job; now it's her turn to experience life. You can stand on the sidelines, but you can't get in the game to help her.

Treat her like an adult, and she might start acting more like one.