6 Ways The Right Kind Of 'Mean Mom' Shows Her Daughter Love

Regardless of intention, some types of parenting will cause distance between a mom and daughter — while the right type can create a lifetime bond.

Black mother with natural hair smiles, her daughter with hair pulled into a bun looks serious Yonikamoto / shutterstock

Have you ever been called “mean” by your daughter? I can still remember my daughter once blurting out “I hate you!” Ouch.

It’s with our daughters where the experience of “mean” seems to show up. As moms, our mother bear instinct leads us to become nurturers, protectors, and rule-makers that can view us as the “mean” mom. Dads are often considered protective or over-protective.

Before we do anything else, let’s define “mean” — because it can mean different things in this inevitably painful and beautifully breathtaking experience of what it is to be a mother. Then we can move on to a list of six ways a mom can be "mean" while still growing the bond between herself and her daughter (and any of her children, really). 


There’s a wide spectrum here with lots of exceptions, but any mother who has ever been told she was mean may indeed be wondering “Am I really a mean mother?” Hopefully the information below, as well as the list, will help you answer that question. 

RELATED: 10 Biggest Challenges You'll Face In The First Year Of Motherhood

RELATED: Motherhood Should Never Mean Martyrdom


Sometimes parents are mean, but mostly they're teaching lessons

There certainly are “mean” moms out there. These are moms who don't realize that regardless of their intent, the impact of their parenting is not creating kind of love they want with their daughter or building a healthy mother-daughter connection.

Being “mean” can move from natural “maternal instincts” of care and concern and move over the line to what is actually toxic worry, so parents need to be aware of this line. Knowing the difference helps avoid becoming “mean” in ways that will create anxiety for both mom and daughter trying to forge a loving relationship that will feel suffocating. 

RELATED: What Motherhood Revealed About My Own Mother

The fine line between 'controlling' and 'loving'

Whatever is coming from a fearful controlling place will likely have a destructive impact on moms trying to show their daughter love. 


As a teenager I remember feeling like my own mother's strict rules felt unreasonable and unfair. I didn’t understand her intention. 

My mother didn’t have the time or know-how from her generation to explain or share with her 6 children born in 9 years, while my father worked long hours as a surgeon.

I’d be envious of the neighborhood children whenever I’d see them with brightly colored artificial flavored popsicles while we suffered with popsicles made of fruit juice or evaporated milk made by my “mean” mom.

When other girls got to stay overnight for sleepovers, I could only attend the party portion thanks to my “mean” mom. There was no TV during the week because our “mean mom” made us do our homework, and chores, practice piano, or read a book. 


I later appreciated my mother being “mean,” understanding her concern for my safety, well-being, and the values she passed down included kindness, hard work and the importance of education.

RELATED: For Every New Mom Who Feels Like She's Completely Lost Herself

The evolution of the word 'mean'

It wasn’t until I became a mom to a son and twin girls that I discovered the fine line between being the "right" type of mean vs. the controlling "my way or the highway" approach doesn't land well with most children, especially our daughter.

As a child, I didn’t see emotions expressed, as many people in my generation also experienced. As a result, I would barely recognize my emotional state of anger and frustration with my daughter, who was prone to temper tantrums at 2 years old.


I'd hear the “terrible twos” are normal, but what wasn’t normal was how I was reacting. I didn’t understand my concerned “mean” had turned into me becoming controlling, yelling, and basically losing my cool. 

RELATED: I Wasn't "Terrible" At Motherhood — I Had Undiagnosed ADHD

Don't let 'concerned' transform into 'mean'

I can definitely admit there were moments I was mean with my daughter, and it wasn’t coming from my healthy maternal instinct! It was how I felt reactive in a tone that was condemning. How I spoke and handled some situations leads to the dreaded “mommy guilt."

I learned to ask myself “What part was I playing and how could I have handled that better?"


Most moms have a really tough time no matter how old they are recognizing when they have become controlling with their daughter that becomes “mean” in a way that separates them.

The one thing we all need from our moms and what our daughters need from us is the sense of freedom to be our true selves at any age.

RELATED: When Your Own Child Fails Spectacularly At Motherhood

Here are six ways healthy 'mean' moms show their daughters love

1. They put themselves in her shoes

No matter what difficult rules must be followed, “Mean” moms remember that they were once a little girl and all the ways they wanted to be treated.  In a world filled with too many rules requires space to allow more and forbid less.  Reminding yourself that the world you grew up is very different than the world she has been growing up in so you will inevitably see things from different pages. 


Do you see, hear and understand your daughter? Until I slowed down to really listen in her shoes, and say something like “I see you are really upset, could you share why you are feeling that way? I don’t understand.” Often our young daughters have difficulty articulating their feelings and just need us to remain calm so they have a safe space to be heard.

2. They recognize when controlling energy has been unleashed

The most challenging energy “mean” moms face is recognizing when they’ve moved over from their instinct to nurture and protect into “needing to control” from their own sense of insecurities or fears that have been justified.  The way you know is the defensiveness you’ll receive on the other side. 

It’s a big blind spot here, but when I stopped justifying how my daughter should behave and asked “Am I showing up in a way that is allowing for real conversation here?” We all want our daughters to share their hearts, but being vulnerable is not possible if our daughter is anticipating you’ll make her wrong with your words and behavior.

If you notice your daughter feels like she’s walking on eggshells around you, avoids telling you things or if the conversation seems to stay on the surface — these are signs you’ve been in control mode. 


To create a safe space for open discussion and be able to see and hear your daughter’s true feelings — take 100 percent responsibility for how you are showing up first. Notice your own energy and whether it's tight or open.  

If your thoughts are all about what you think should happen, know that she has her equal side of what she believes should happen.  We each have our own reality. 

Drop the “shoulds” by allowing each side to speak from your heartstrings to discover your different WHYS. What’s under here can reveal a lot of what’s been hiding to get to the other side closer together.

What feels controlling for a daughter will sound like this in a mom’s thoughts: “She needs to understand” or “I can’t believe she hasn’t called me after all I’ve done for her” or “This is my house and she has to follow my rules!” 


We all have the best of intentions, but we also know that “Hell” can be paved with good intentions. The trick is to ensure that our intentions do not stem from fear.

“Mean” moms have learned to guide without needing control to show their love.

RELATED: How To Be A Good Mom: 10 Habits Of Great Moms Who Embrace Perfection

3. They stay flexible with rules and avoid punishment

Most of us forget that every rule out there of “how you should be a mom” is something someone made up. “Mean” moms show love by being flexible. You know you best and your daughter to create the rules that work for you both.

Trusting yourself is key here. It seems like there are unwritten rules about punishment being necessary to teach a lesson.  Does being grounded or taking away the phone work for your daughter to value what you want or just create more struggle and challenge? 


Check-in if punishment from your own childhood made you value the right things. 

Punishment was one of the rules of parenting I threw out from the very beginning. It is based on coming from fear not patience and understanding. I was much more interested in why something happened that went wrong and how we could work together to make it right next time. 

Being flexible, including not following everyone else’s rules, gives your daughter a deeper sense of your presence and trust in your special mother-daughter bond. 

4. They give freedom with guidance

The first way “mean" moms show love to their daughters is by giving them the freedom to follow the beat of their own drum with a lot of space for guidance and encouragement.  


Music is the language of the soul, and something I really wanted for my children was to discover the utter joy music can bring.  I encouraged my children to practice piano, but I wasn’t willing to get into the battles of enforcing set times and how long.  I simply shared that the more practice you do, the better you’ll be. 

My son loved playing the Wii Drums early on so learning how to play drums was something he wanted. My daughter was inspired to see her cousin play the ukelele so she asked for guitar lessons. Both still enjoy playing because there was freedom for them to enjoy music their way without pressure. 

Following some structure was necessary that could feel “mean," but with the freedom for them to choose the music and proper guidance, their own love of music drove the learning.  

RELATED: 10 Things Only Kids Who Grew Up With Strict Parents Will Understand


5. They let go of expectations

Something challenging happens because moms are in the role of doing a lot for their children. Because of all that doing, there’s a part of us that can easily get trapped into having expectations and becoming attached to needing something back. 

It’s a feeling like you are owed somehow, which is clearly not an energy we want with our daughter. What we want is for our daughter to want to talk, share and engage with us.

The dance we do as mothers and daughters is so often filled with misunderstandings coming from what we expect and who we need our daughters to be according to our ‘right way’. 

When we let go of needing to be right, “mean” moms give their daughters space to breathe by releasing their need for your approval. It’s the space needed to create their own joy, meaning, and purpose in the world.  


6. They know their daughter is not the cause of their pain

One of the biggest understandings came when I realized that if I was feeling frustrated and angry with something my daughter was saying or doing, it was not my daughter “making me angry”.  

I was choosing how I reacted (defensiveness, lack of patience, criticism, etc.) based on my own values, needs, and expectations. I couldn’t see what was really happening with my daughter’s values, needs, or expectations because I was too busy reacting to mine.

Many times, I had to gently remind myself “My daughter is the innocent child looking to me for guidance in how I speak and how I act —  I am the parent." If there’s a battle brewing, ask “What am I not seeing?” 

When we’re being honest, we’ve all had the experience of knowing that our children mirror back to us what we have some hand in creating. When we recognize what we don’t like is really in ourselves, it’s our signal to pause and notice what part we have in creating this situation.


“Mean” moms don’t take their anger out on their daughters, but take ownership of their difficult emotions and even apologize if necessary. 

They model taking responsibility to show that love doesn’t judge.

What we want most of all is a fabulous, authentic, fun-loving mother-daughter connection where we bring out the best in each other which often includes being a “mean” mom saying a firm no when required and establishing reasonable guidelines for growth.  

RELATED: Teen Explains Her Parents' Rules She Thought Were Normal Growing Up But Now Thinks Are 'Toxic' — Viewers Disagree

Carolyn Hidalgo is a soul coach who helps clients awaken their souls, and work from the inside out to create their ideal life in all areas.