Our community threw this question at us: “How do narcissistic mothers treat their daughters?” I spent some time looking into it, and here’s what I found.

A narcissistic mother will compete with her daughters, manipulate their emotions, undermine their confidence, give them conditional love and affection, invalidate their experiences, set unrealistic expectations, or put them in a role such as a scapegoat or golden child to ensure their own selfish needs are met.

In this article, I will explain each of these behaviors to help you understand the abusive and manipulative way narcissistic mothers often treat their daughters.

1.) They Compete with Their Daughters

A narcissistic mother might see her daughter not just as a child but as a rival, competing with her for attention, praise, and even relationships.1

For example, if you’re getting ready for a school dance and you’ve put a lot of effort into looking nice, your narcissistic mother might criticize your appearance or compare it negatively to her own at your age. 

She might say something like, “When I was your age, I had so many boys chasing after me. You should try harder to make yourself look nice.” 

A narcissistic mother competing with her daughter.

This behavior is not about offering constructive advice; it’s about undermining your confidence to keep you feeling less-than in comparison. 

This “competition” can extend to achievements as well, with a narcissistic mother downplaying your successes or insisting that her achievements were more significant or challenging, making it hard for you to feel proud and secure in your accomplishments.

2.) They Manipulate Their Daughters’ Emotions

Narcissistic mothers often manipulate their daughters’ emotions to maintain control and ensure their own needs are met.2 

This manipulation can take many forms, from guilt-tripping to gaslighting.3

For instance, if you decide to spend the weekend with friends or on a school project instead of helping your mother with her preferred tasks, she might respond with extreme guilt-tripping, saying things like, “After all I do for you, you can’t even spend a little time with me. You’re so selfish.” 

This manipulation makes you question your decisions and feel guilty for pursuing your own interests, leading to a cycle where your actions are driven more by a desire to avoid guilt and please your mother than by your own needs or goals.

Over time, this can erode your ability to trust your feelings and make independent choices, as you’re constantly second-guessing yourself and prioritizing your mother’s emotional state over your own.

3.) They Undermine Their Daughters’ Independence

Narcissistic mothers often try to undermine their daughters’ attempts at independence and autonomy.4

They do this because they see their daughter’s independence as a threat to their control and influence.5 

For example, if you’re excited about going to college or starting a new job, your narcissistic mother might sow seeds of doubt about your ability to handle these new challenges. 

She might say, “Are you sure you’re ready for this? It seems like you could use another year to mature,” or “I don’t think that job is right for you; you’re not very good under pressure.” 

A narcissistic mother undermining her daughter's confidence.

These comments are not about genuine concern but are intended to make you doubt your capabilities and decisions, encouraging a reliance on her judgment and approval over your own. 

This behavior can make it challenging for you to trust your abilities and pursue your goals confidently, often leading to a cycle of dependency that serves the narcissistic mother’s need for control.

4.) They Give Their Daughters Conditional Love and Affection

A narcissistic mother might use love and affection as tools, offering them conditionally as rewards for behavior that serves her needs or reflects well on her while withdrawing them as punishment.6

For instance, if you achieve something that can be seen as a reflection of her quote-on-quote “good parenting,” like winning an award or getting into a prestigious school, she might shower you with affection and praise. 

However, if you make a choice she disapproves of, even if it’s a healthy decision for you, like choosing a career path she doesn’t find prestigious, she might become cold and distant, withholding her approval and affection. 

She might say, “I don’t know why you would throw away your potential like that. I guess you don’t care about making me proud.” 

This conditional approach to love and affection teaches you that your value in her eyes is directly tied to how well your actions align with her desires and expectations. 

This affects your sense of self-worth and your ability to make choices based on your own desires and interests.

5.) They Invalidate Their Daughters’ Feelings and Experiences

Narcissistic mothers often invalidate their daughters’ feelings and experiences, either by dismissing them outright or by belittling their significance. 

This invalidation can make daughters feel as though their emotions are not valid or important, leading to a deep sense of being misunderstood and alone. 

For instance, if you come to your mother excited about a personal achievement or upset about a problem at school, she might respond with indifference or by shifting the focus to herself, saying something like, “That’s nothing. I had much bigger accomplishments/problems when I was your age.” 

A narcissistic mother invaliding her daughter's feelings.

This response dismisses your feelings and experiences, signaling that they are not worth attention unless they directly relate to or surpass her own. 

This behavior can stifle your ability to express yourself and seek support, impacting your emotional development and self-esteem.

6.) They Set Unrealistic Expectations for Their Daughters

A narcissistic mother might set exceedingly high and often unrealistic expectations for her daughter, only to harshly criticize any failure to meet these standards. 

This can apply to academic performance, physical appearance, social behavior, or any other area she deems important. 

For example, she might pressure you to be the top student in your class, the thinnest, or the most popular, and then react with disappointment or criticism when you fall short of these unrealistic goals, saying, “I don’t understand why you can’t be more like [someone else]. You’re just not trying hard enough.” 

This constant pressure and criticism can lead to a fear of failure and a sense of never being good enough, no matter how hard you try.7

The unrealistic expectations set by the narcissistic mother are less about encouraging personal growth and more about maintaining an image or status that reflects positively on her.

7.) They Put Their Daughters in the Scapegoat or Golden Child Role

In families with more than one child, a narcissistic mother may assign roles to her children, designating one as the “golden child” and another as the “scapegoat.” 

The daughter who is the scapegoat often bears the brunt of the mother’s criticisms and is blamed for things going wrong, while the golden child can do no wrong in the mother’s eyes. 

For instance, if something breaks in the house or there’s an argument between siblings, the scapegoat daughter is automatically at fault, regardless of the circumstances. 

Your mother might say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister? She never causes any trouble.” 

This division creates a rift between siblings and affects their ability to form healthy relationships outside the narcissistic family dynamic enormously.

For more helpful information like this, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


That’s all I had to say for this article.

Thank you so much for reading! I really do appreciate it.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment below; I’d love to connect with you!

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Nicole Arzt. (2023. May, 9). Narcissistic Mothers: 14 Signs & How to Deal With One. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissistic-mother/ ↩︎
  2. Määttä, M., & Uusiautti, S. (2018). “My life felt like a cage without an exit” – narratives of childhood under the abuse of a narcissistic mother. Early Child Development and Care, 1–15. ↩︎
  3. Perpetua Neo. (2023. June, 6). 12 Signs Of A Narcissistic Mother & What To Do For True Peace & Freedom. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/narcissistic-mother ↩︎
  4. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 23). Narcissistic Mother Traits: 13 Signs. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/narcissistic-mother-traits-13-signs.html ↩︎
  5. Love, Sidney, and Yonata Feldman. “The disguised cry for help: Narcissistic mothers and their children.” Psychoanalytic Review 48.2 (1961): 52-67 ↩︎
  6. Morgan Mandriota. (2021. October, 21). How a Mother’s Narcissistic Behavior May Affect Their Daughters Long Term. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder/narcissistic-mothers-the-long-term-effects-on-their-daughters ↩︎
  7. Kaida Hollister. (2024. February, 17). 12 Worrying Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. Marriage.com. https://www.marriage.com/advice/mental-health/daughters-of-narcissistic-mothers/ ↩︎

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