Narcissism is more than just self-absorption or vanity. It is a personality disorder that can have a profound impact on relationships, particularly those within a family. One of the most challenging and potentially damaging of these relationships can be between a narcissistic mother and her children. The following are 25 signs of a narcissistic mother to help you identify if you have one.
A Narcissistic Mother Lacks Empathy
A narcissistic mother’s lack of empathy is one of the most telling signs of her disorder. This trait can manifest in numerous ways, but primarily, it means she does not understand or care about the feelings of her children.
For instance, if a child comes home upset after a tough day at school, a narcissistic mother will dismiss their feelings, saying they’re overreacting, or worse, completely ignore their distress.
She will also fail to celebrate her children’s achievements or dismiss their dreams and aspirations, focusing instead on how these situations affect her.
A Narcissistic Mother is Manipulative
Manipulation is a common tactic used by narcissistic mothers to assert control over their children. This could be emotional manipulation, such as guilt-tripping a child into doing something they don’t want to do, or playing the victim to garner sympathy.
For example, she might accuse her child of not loving her when they start to show independence, forcing them to stay emotionally entangled.
Manipulation can also be about twisting reality, where she rewrites past incidents or lies to serve her narrative, leaving her children confused and doubting their own memories.
A Narcissistic Mother is Controlling
A narcissistic mother’s need for control can permeate every aspect of her children’s lives. She will dictate their choice of friends, hobbies, or career paths, insisting that her choices are for their own good.
She will also try to control their emotions, deciding when they should be happy, sad, or angry based on her own feelings.
For example, if she’s having a bad day, she expects everyone else to mirror her mood. This controlling nature often leaves little room for the child to develop their own identity, as they’re constantly trying to please their mother.
A Narcissistic Mother Craves Admiration
Narcissistic mothers thrive on admiration and validation, seeking constant praise from those around them, especially their children.
This need for admiration can manifest in various ways.
She might constantly talk about her achievements, expecting her children to praise her, or she might fish for compliments by putting herself down.
For example, she might say something like, “I’m such a terrible mother,” expecting her children to jump in and reassure her of how great she is.
This constant need for admiration can be draining for her children, as their mother’s self-esteem becomes their responsibility.
A Narcissistic Mother is a Perfectionist
Perfectionism in a narcissistic mother often translates into unrealistic expectations for her children. She expects them to excel in every aspect of their lives – academically, socially and even physically.
For instance, she might push her child to be the top of their class, the star of their sports team, or the most popular kid in school.
If they fail to meet these high standards, she reacts with disappointment, criticism, or anger. This relentless pursuit of perfection can create a fear of failure in her children and a belief that they’re never good enough.
A Narcissistic Mother is Jealous
A narcissistic mother is often jealous of her children’s accomplishments or relationships. This jealousy is not merely a benign envy of their success, but a deep-seated insecurity that makes her feel threatened by her children’s achievements.
For instance, if her child wins an award at school, she might downplay the achievement or compare it to her own past successes, effectively stealing the spotlight.
Similarly, she could react negatively to her child’s close friendships or romantic relationships, viewing them as competition for her child’s attention and affection.
Her jealousy often results in a toxic environment where the child feels guilty for their accomplishments or relationships.
A Narcissistic Mother is Unable to Accept Criticism
Narcissistic mothers are notoriously unable to accept criticism, even when it’s constructive and well-intentioned. Any form of critique is perceived as a personal attack on her identity and self-worth.
For example, if a child suggests that she could handle certain situations better, she might respond with anger or defensiveness, turning the conversation into a blame game.
She might accuse the child of being ungrateful or disrespectful, deflecting the focus from her behavior to the child’s alleged shortcomings.
This inability to accept criticism can hinder open and honest communication in the relationship.
A Narcissistic Mother is Emotional Unavailable
Emotional unavailability is another characteristic trait of a narcissistic mother. She tends to withhold love and affection as a form of manipulation, using her emotions as a tool to control her children.
For instance, she might refuse to show affection or offer comfort when her child is upset, instead choosing to remain distant until the child conforms to her wishes.
This emotional withholding can also take the form of conditional love, where affection is given only when the child meets her high expectations or caters to her needs.
Such emotional unavailability can leave the child feeling insecure and undeserving of love.
A Narcissistic Mother Uses Gaslighting Tactics
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic commonly used by narcissistic mothers to make their children doubt their own perceptions and memories. By denying or distorting facts, she creates an alternate reality that serves her narrative.
For example, if a child confronts her about a hurtful comment she made, she might deny ever saying it or accuse the child of misremembering, insisting that they’re overly sensitive or imagining things.
This constant gaslighting can lead to confusion, self-doubt, and a lack of trust in their own judgment in her children.
A Narcissistic Mother Lacks Boundaries
A narcissistic mother often fails to respect her children’s personal space or privacy, viewing them as extensions of herself rather than independent individuals.
She might invade their physical space by going through their belongings without permission or demand to know every detail of their personal lives, including their thoughts and feelings.
For example, she might read their private messages, insist on accompanying them everywhere, or demand they share everything with her.
This lack of boundaries can cause the child to feel constantly monitored and controlled, stifling their development of autonomy and personal identity
A Narcissistic Mother is Competitive
A narcissistic mother often views her children not as dependents to be nurtured, but as competitors to be outshone.
This competitiveness can manifest in various ways.
For example, she might try to surpass her child’s achievements, or belittle them to make herself feel superior.
If her child does well in school, she might respond by bragging about her own academic success, or if her child develops a new skill, she might insist she’s better at it.
This competitiveness can create an unhealthy dynamic where the child feels they’re in a constant race with their own mother.
A Narcissistic Mother has Favorites
Favoritism is a common tactic used by narcissistic mothers to manipulate and control their children.
This favoritism can lead to sibling rivalry, as the favored child enjoys privileges and praise, while the other suffers from neglect and criticism.
For instance, she might lavish attention and gifts on one child while ignoring the other’s needs, or constantly compare the two, praising one and belittling the other.
This can cause lasting damage to the sibling relationship and the self-esteem of the less favored child.
Narcissistic Mothers Never Take Personal Responsibility
A narcissistic mother rarely, if ever, takes responsibility for her actions. Instead, she always finds someone else to blame.
If she hurts her child’s feelings, she will blame the child for being too sensitive rather than acknowledging her hurtful words.
If a family event goes wrong, she’ll blame others, never considering her role in the mishap.
This denial of personal responsibility can lead to a lack of accountability and an environment where the children feel they’re always at fault.
A Narcissistic Mother is Indifferent to her Children’s Needs
Narcissistic mothers often display an alarming indifference to their children’s needs, focusing solely on their own.
Whether it’s emotional support, time, or even basic necessities, she puts her needs first.
For example, if her child needs comfort after a bad day, she will dismiss their feelings and instead talk about her own problems.
Or, she might prioritize her social life over spending quality time with her children.
This constant dismissal of their needs can leave children feeling unimportant and neglected.
Narcissistic Mothers are Excessively Critical
Excessive criticism is a hallmark of a narcissistic mother.
She constantly criticizes her children, whether it’s about their appearance, behavior, or choices.
Nothing ever seems to be good enough for her.
For instance, she might criticize her child for getting a B on a test, saying they should have gotten an A, or belittle their friends, saying they are low class and she is ashamed that her child is being seen with them.
This constant criticism can severely damage a child’s self-esteem, making them feel unworthy and inadequate
A Narcissistic Mother Uses Guilt as a Weapon
A narcissistic mother often uses guilt as a weapon to manipulate and control her children’s behavior.
She might make her children feel guilty for their normal needs or emotions, using phrases like “After all I’ve done for you” or “You’re so ungrateful”.
For example, if a child wants to spend time with friends instead of her, she might guilt them into staying home by saying they don’t care about her.
This guilt-tripping can lead to feelings of obligation and fear, forcing the child to act in ways that please their mother at the expense of their own happiness.
Narcissistic Mothers are Extremely Entitled
An inflated sense of entitlement is another common trait among narcissistic mothers.
A narcissistic mother believes she deserves special treatment and expects others, especially her children, to cater to her needs.
For instance, she might expect her children to drop everything to attend to her, regardless of their own obligations or plans.
She might also demand extravagant gifts or gestures as proof of their love.
This sense of entitlement can create a one-sided relationship where the children’s role is to serve their mother’s needs without expecting reciprocation.
A Narcissistic Mother has Unpredictable Mood Swings
A narcissist mother’s moods can drastically change in a matter of seconds, from being loving and pleasant to angry and aggressive.
These sudden mood changes can be triggered by anything that threatens her self-image or control, such as a perceived slight or criticism.
For example, a simple disagreement can turn into a full-blown rage, leaving her children walking on eggshells, never knowing what might set her off.
This unpredictability can cause emotional instability within the home, creating a stressful and anxious environment.
Narcissistic Mothers are Exploitative
Narcissistic mothers are often exploitative, using their children to meet their own needs without considering the impact on them.
This could be emotional exploitation, where she relies on her children for emotional support, or instrumental exploitation, where she uses them to achieve her own goals.
For example, she might confide in her child about adult issues, forcing them into a caregiver role, or she might push her child to pursue a career that fulfills her own unmet ambitions.
This exploitation can lead to the child feeling used and neglected, as their needs and feelings are secondary to their mother’s.
A Narcissistic Mother Never Shows Remorse
A defining trait of a narcissistic mother is her lack of remorse for her hurtful actions or words.
Even when confronted with the pain she’s caused, she might dismiss it, justify it, or blame the victim.
For instance, if her child expresses hurt over a cruel comment she made, she might respond with “I was just joking” or “You’re too sensitive”.
This lack of remorse allows her to continue her harmful behavior without guilt or accountability, leaving her children feeling unheard and invalidated.
Narcissistic Mothers Project Their Negative Traits
One of the ways a narcissistic mother manipulates her children is by projecting her own negative traits onto them. This means she blames them for the characteristics or behaviors that she dislikes about herself.
For example, if she is lazy, she might constantly accuse her child of being lazy.
Or if she has issues with anger management, she might label her child as hostile or aggressive.
This projection not only allows her to deny and externalize her flaws but also confuses and belittles the child, who may start believing they possess these negative traits.
A Narcissistic Mother is Neglectful
Neglect is another harmful behavior exhibited by a narcissistic mother.
She often neglects her children’s emotional or physical needs, focusing instead on her own desires and well-being.
She might fail to provide for their basic physical needs, like nutritious food or adequate clothing, especially if it interferes with her personal interests or lifestyle.
This neglect can leave the child feeling unimportant and uncared for, with long-term effects on their self-esteem and well-being.
Narcissistic Mothers are Unable to Show Genuine Love
A narcissistic mother is not capable of unconditional love.
Her expressions of love come with conditions or ulterior motives.
For example, she might shower her child with affection when they excel at something, using their success to boost her own image.
But this affection quickly disappears when the child fails or disappoints her.
Similarly, she might use gifts or favors as a way to manipulate her child into behaving a certain way or meeting her unrealistic expectations.
This conditional love can create an unstable emotional environment where the child feels they must earn their mother’s love and approval.
A Narcissistic Mother is Domineering
A narcissistic mother tends to dominate every conversation, consistently steering the focus towards her own experiences and feelings.
For instance, if her child tries to share their day at school, she might interrupt them to talk about her day or past achievements.
Or if the child expresses a worry or concern, she might dismiss it and start discussing her own worries, making the child feel unheard and insignificant.
This domineering behavior can hinder open communication and prevent the child from sharing their thoughts and feelings openly.
Narcissistic Mothers Terrorize Their Children
Using fear as a control tactic is common among narcissistic mothers.
She creates an atmosphere where her children are afraid to cross her or express their true feelings.
For example, she might react explosively to minor mistakes, causing her children to live in constant fear of upsetting her.
Or she might threaten them with severe punishments or withdrawal of love if they don’t comply with her demands.
This fear-inducing behavior can suppress the child’s individuality and freedom of expression, leading to anxiety and low self-confidence.
While the behaviors described above, such as the projection of negative traits, neglect, inability to show genuine love, domineering nature, and induction of fear are not exhaustive, they provide a clear picture of what it’s like to live in the shadow of a narcissistic mother.
Children of narcissistic mothers grow up feeling unheard, unimportant, and unloved. They also struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, and difficulties in forming healthy relationships.
This is why it is so important to recognize the signs of narcissism in your mother, since this paves the way for healing and recovery.
While having a narcissistic mother is undoubtedly challenging, it doesn’t define who you are or what you’re capable of. It’s possible to break free from the cycle of narcissistic abuse and build a fulfilling life on your terms.
Remember, it’s not the child’s responsibility to meet the unrealistic expectations of a narcissistic parent. Every child deserves unconditional love, respect, and the freedom to be themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions about a Narcissist Mother
What is a narcissistic mother?
A narcissistic mother is a parent suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by an excessive preoccupation with herself, and a powerful obsession with her own needs, emotions, and wishes. This often comes at the cost of neglecting her child’s needs.
What are the signs of a narcissistic mother?
Signs may include: lack of empathy, constant need for admiration, sense of entitlement, manipulative or controlling behavior, intense jealousy or competitiveness, and emotional volatility.
How does a narcissistic mother affect her children?
Children of narcissistic mothers may struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, difficulties in relationships, fear of failure or rejection, and a host of other emotional and mental health issues.
Can a narcissistic mother change?
While change is possible, it often requires the narcissistic mother to recognize her behaviors and seek professional help. This can be challenging as many individuals with narcissistic personality disorder do not believe they have a problem.
How can I cope with a narcissistic mother?
Coping strategies may include setting boundaries, seeking therapy, practicing self-care, limiting contact when necessary, and joining support groups for others who have experienced similar situations.
What is the ‘golden child’ in a narcissistic family?
In a narcissistic family, the ‘golden child’ is the child who is seen as perfect and can do no wrong in the eyes of the narcissistic parent. This child is often used by the narcissistic parent to validate their own self-worth.
What is ‘gaslighting’ and how does a narcissistic mother use it?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person makes someone question their own reality, memory or perceptions. Narcissistic mothers may use gaslighting to control and manipulate their children.
How can I heal from the impact of a narcissistic mother?
Healing often involves therapy or counseling, self-care practices, setting boundaries, building healthy relationships, and seeking support from those who understand your experience.
Is it okay to cut off contact with a narcissistic mother?
In some cases, limiting or cutting off contact may be necessary for your mental and emotional health. It’s important to consult with a mental health professional when making this decision.
Can a narcissistic mother love her child?
While a narcissistic mother may show signs of affection, their love often comes with conditions and is primarily based on how the child reflects back on them as a parent.