Psychologists and relationship experts provide insights into the telltale behaviors revealing a narcissistic mother.
A narcissistic mother often feels entitled, manipulates and belittles others, and lacks empathy. You might experience abuse and volatile behavior from her. And feel like you must give her the attention she wants as a narcissist.
A mother like this can’t give their child the attention and validation that leads to emotional security. Her children often won’t feel loved, affecting their mental health, behaviors, mindset, and development. It interferes with the family dynamic and triggers issues between other people in the home.
If you have a problematic relationship with your mother, it’s worth learning about the actions of a narcissist to discover if it’s the issue. Recognizing the behaviors of narcissists can help you identify the situation and find ways to overcome the effects. It’ll help you understand that the experience is unreasonable and you’re worth more than how she treats you.
NOTE: We recognize that a father could also be a narcissist. Because males display somewhat differing behaviors (with some overlap), we cover them separately.
Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
While children should be able to look to their parents to meet their emotional and physical needs, not everyone can. Those with a parent with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) don’t typically have the chance.
NPD is a personality or mental health disorder that manifests in personal relationships in many ways, involving harmful behaviors and symptoms.
Some of the NPD symptoms to watch for include the following:
- feeling entitled and thinking she should get special treatment
- exploiting her children for personal gain
- making every conversation about her
- controlling in private but acting kind in public
- criticizing or belittling others
- frequent guilt tripping
- bragging about your achievements without acknowledging you
- believing she is more important than others
- talking about how much she does for you
- negatively reacting to criticism
- blaming others
- lacking empathy
To receive an NPD diagnosis, a person must meet five diagnostic criteria. This criteria includes these behaviors:
- grandiosity or entitlement
- exploiting others for personal gain
- lacking empathy
- arrogant behavior
- thinking others are jealous of them or being overly envious in return
- exaggerating accomplishments or status
- fantasizing about power, success, or wealth
- needing constant attention or admiration
Lack of Empathy
A narcissistic mother tends to lean toward emotional neglect in her parenting. She may favor invalidating feelings, leading to many consequences for children. Some of the effects of this involve not meeting a child’s needs or considering their feelings. She won’t acknowledge or try to understand her child’s emotions, instead only thinking of herself.
You might also notice self-centeredness that impacts the overall family dynamics. It can cause a lack of loyalty, supporting, and understanding in your home. This situation also interferes with developing healthy bonds.
Overemphasis on Status and Appearance
A narcissistic mother wants to appear perfect and overemphasizes status and appearance. She’ll be image-conscious and status-oriented, doing whatever it takes to look better to those outside the home. A woman like this also focuses on materialism because she thinks it’s one of the best ways to show her status.
She’ll rave about her parenting skills and children’s accomplishments while leaving out disappointments or shortcomings. Typically, the narcissist won’t care how things go at home, but she wants others to think she’s doing a great job.
Image-conscious behavior negatively impacts children, including not learning how to be their authentic selves. These children may also believe they can only get valued for what they can give others or how they look.
Manipulation and Control
Manipulative behavior can indicate narcissism, and it often involves control tactics. A mother like this might control your hobbies, activities, and who you spend time with. Plus, she’ll want you to dress, behave, and speak a certain way.
She’ll use fear to fuel her psychological manipulation of you and undermine your opportunities if she doesn’t like them. Some examples of manipulative behavior to watch for include:
- giving the silent treatment
- blaming others
A Narcissistic Mother Loves Playing the Victim
A narcissistic mother often has a victim mentality and engages in guilt-tripping and blaming others. She’ll manipulate situations to get sympathy and attention from others, making them feel bad for her. You might notice that she enjoys the drama and complications stemming from adverse events.
Mothers who do this often think they can gain something from making people feel bad for them. She’ll portray herself as a victim to gain attention and other benefits from those around them.
Children who grow up with a mother that often plays the victim tend to feel inadequate. They tend to struggle with maintaining and implementing boundaries. If you grew up in this situation, you might have trouble voicing your needs as an adult.
A narcissistic mother doesn’t respect boundaries and often engages in privacy invasion. It shows a lack of respect because it indicates that her need for control trumps your limits. This behavior also shows that she cares more about what she wants than what makes you uncomfortable.
She might ask inappropriate questions or make uncomfortable comments. When you state your boundaries, she might get angry about it and push back. Despite her boundary crossing, continue setting and implementing them to protect yourself and your well-being.
Favoritism and Scapegoating
Your mother might be narcissistic if she creates family roles, including the golden child and scapegoat. The golden child is the favorite and gets more attention and praise than others in the family. On the other hand, the scapegoat gets blamed for everything and often experiences emotional rejection.
Favoritism and scapegoating can cause tension between siblings. It can trigger physical and emotional abuse and create a toxic environment. Other effects may include:
- diminished self-esteem
- unhealthy relationships
- emotional trauma
A Narcissistic Mother Engages in Emotional Exploitation
Narcissistic mothers engage in emotional exploitation that causes long-term effects on a child’s well-being. She might make you feel unsafe or on edge because you don’t know when she’ll get angry or break boundaries.
Gaslighting is a common tactic for a narcissist, and it involves making you question your reality. It’s a form of psychological or emotional abuse that can make a child feel crazy for having thoughts and feelings. One example is saying something mean or hurtful and, when called out, claiming it was a joke or saying they never said it.
Other examples of gaslighting include:
- giving the silent treatment
- trying to shift your memories
- blaming other people or situations
- denying things that happened
- dismissing other people’s need
- making sarcastic comments
If you have a narcissistic mother, she’ll also likely engage in emotional abuse through criticizing and belittling her children. Sometimes, she’ll fixate on what she thinks are failures and flaws, continually bringing them up. She may degrade and devalue you in the presence of others or publicly.
A mother like this also might engage in emotional blackmail, especially for her adult children. She’ll do this to maintain control and uses pressure, threats, sulking, and withholding to get her way.
Children who experience this from their mothers deal with long-term effects on their well-being, self-esteem, and behavior. It often makes you feel like your feelings are inaccurate or dramatic, and you might even think you’re imagining things. This situation leads to self-doubt and a sense of inferiority.
Emotional exploitation can also lead to unhealthy enmeshment or blurred lines between your and your mother’s identity. It’s an emotional rollercoaster revolving around control and manipulation.
Seeking Professional Help if You Grew up With a Narcissistic Mother
Growing up with a narcissistic mother can cause long-lasting issues for kids, including:
- insecure attachment with their mom
- lacking emotional intelligence
- sacrificing their needs to keep others happy
- undeserved self-blame
- struggling to set and maintain boundaries
Dealing with this experience is hard, but it can make a difference in your life as it improves your well-being. While you can’t control your mother, you can care for yourself and get help. Seeking professional help from counseling, family therapy, and support groups can help you overcome and reverse the problems.
A professional can help you learn to replace the negative thoughts left by your mother with positivity that allows you to move forward. Some of the other things they can help you with that help you deal with the situation include:
- learning about narcissism and the subtypes
- finding social support
- stopping self-blame
- improving self-esteem
- staying calm when provoked
- implementing boundaries
- prioritizing yourself
- minimizing communication with your mother when necessary
Final Thoughts on the Behaviors of a Narcissistic Mother
Recognizing the behaviors of a narcissistic mother can help you protect yourself and heal from the effects. Seek support and prioritize your mental health so you can live a fulfilling life, free of the fallout narcissists caused in your life.
Moving past growing up with a narcissistic mother is freeing and helps you make sense of things. You can reflect on your past and see situations for what they were rather than how your mother manipulated them.
Growing up this way isn’t your fault, and you deserve to live a happy, fulfilling life. Getting help will allow you to recognize your worth, protect yourself, and heal from the past harms of the narcissist.