A good mother is a positive teacher in every aspect of their daughter’s developmental growth – social, emotional, physical, cognitive and independence. Sadly, narcissistic mothers are very good at manipulating their daughters into believing that they are good mothers. They do so in such a convincing manner that it often takes daughters of narcissistic mothers years to realize that their mother is abusive. 

Narcissistic mothers are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent with their daughters. Their abusive, naive, and manipulative behavior cause their daughters to have an emotionally incompetent childhood, an unrealistic self-perception, and a corrupted perception of the world.

This article is a thorough exploration of a Finnish research study1 among 13 women who have narcissistic mothers. We are going to unpack the narcissistic behaviors that they reported to give you a comprehensive understanding of the different ways that narcissistic mothers treat their daughters.

A Short Video About the Different Roles That Narcissistic Mothers Give Their Daughters

Narcissistic Mothers Give Their Child an Emotionally Incompetent Childhood

Narcissistic mothers are incapable of being emotionally available, responsive, and consistent for their daughters. They are incapable of mirroring their daughters’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. The emotional incompetence that originates from a childhood upbringing with a narcissistic mother causes the daughters to have an unhealthy cognitive development and struggle to develop a realistic sense of self.

They Nullify Their Daughters

The definition of nullification is “the act of nullifying or the state of being nullified.” Nullify is “to cause something to have no value or effect.” 

In a relationship between a narcissistic mother and her daughters in an incompetent childhood, nullification manifests in the form of the narcissistic mother refusing to be appreciative of her daughters, very rarely expressing gratitude towards her daughters, and being incapable or unwilling to support or encourage her daughters.

The narcissistic mother will be deeply invalidating towards her daughters. There will be a lot of projection, a defense mechanism where the mother takes parts of her identity that she finds unacceptable and places them onto her daughters (e.g. the narcissistic mother refuses to take any responsibility when she does something wrong by constantly blaming her daughters for her own shortcomings, mistakes, etc.)

a narcissistic mother blaming her daughter for a car accident

The daughters’ identities (e.g. activities they take part in, core values, beliefs, goals, perception of the world around them, etc.) will constantly be invalidated by their narcissistic mother by being labeled as irrational, unachievable, stupid, a waste of time, and/or nonproductive. 

The narcissistic mother’s behavior taught her daughters that nothing they did was ever good enough. It manipulated her daughters into feeling like extensions of their narcissistic mother and this led to them forgoing their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations in pursuit of their mother’s approval. 

Quotes From the Participants In the Study

  • “Nothing was enough. Nothing I ever did was good enough.”
  • “I tried to deserve my existence by being useful.”
  • “I told my mom and dad that I wanted to be a singer when I was an adult. My mom told me that I shouldn’t even consider that kind of lousy job. I remember that I was crying for many days and decided that I would never sing again.”
  • “She would always create arguments that she could win.”
  • “Once I made a mistake by telling her my first salary as an entrepreneur. She responded by telling me that I must have hoaxed people. With these words she nullified all of my work.”

They Exercise Power, Cruelty, and Humiliation Over Their Daughters

In a relationship between a narcissistic mother and her daughters in an incompetent childhood, an exercise of power, cruelty, and humiliation refers to a narcissistic mother’s determination to dominate and control her daughters’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations.

These types of narcissistic mothers are able to remain in power and control of their daughters by consistently invalidating, devaluing, humiliating, degrading, and dehumanizing their existence. They send a very clear message to their daughters that nothing they ever do will be the “correct” thing to do.

Narcissistic mothers who exercise power, cruelty, and humiliation have very strong malignant personality traits. Meaning that they are exploitative, cruel, pathological liars, they disregard the safety of others, they are drawn to addictive/compulsive behaviors, and they’re both psychologically and physically aggressive. 

a narcissistic mom taking her daughters money

These types of mothers have disturbingly erratic behavior, they are unreliable, they have very poor boundaries with their daughters (e.g. a mother who holds unrealistic expectations for her daughters, is inconsistent, etc.) they refuse to protect their daughters’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs (e.g. a mother who constantly humiliates her daughters in front of others) and they make their daughters feel helpless, hopeless, and unsafe. 

Quotes From the Participants In This Study

  • “She showed me in every way how disappointed she was in me and how I ruined her life.”
  • “I could never feel relaxed at home because I never knew what would make my mother angry.”
  • “I remember crying in the shower with my sister and discussing if it would just be better to committed suicide. My mother overheard us and laughed at us.”
  • “When I put on clothes I had to take them off because my mother said they are of an ugly color.”
  • “All the things that I wouldn’t have liked (e.g. reading) had to be put aside. Only fulfilling the set duties was allowed.”

They Shame Their Daughters

In a relationship between a narcissistic mother and her daughters, shame is the byproduct of nullification and exercises of power, cruelty, and humiliation.

What this often looks like is daughters of narcissistic mothers are ashamed because they’ve been manipulated into believing that they can’t do anything right and their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs have no value. 

a daughter of a narcissist feeling lost

They construct their identity based on their negative perception of themselves (e.g. they see themselves as worthless, inadequate, inferior, weak, flawed. This is because the worth of the daughters’ existence was constantly being questioned and/or doubted by their narcissistic mother and themselves.)

Quote From the Participants In this Study

  • “I felt ashamed of just existing.” 
  • “I tried to be nonexistent and obedient.”
  • “She was always bothered by my appearance.”
  • “I felt ugly and ashamed of myself in every way.”

Narcissistic Mothers Isolate Their Daughters Throughout Their Childhood

The egotistical and superficial nature of a narcissistic mother is intoxicating. It spreads like a plague throughout the daughters’ identities and causes them to be isolated from peers, family members, and trusted adults that can help them escape their narcissistic mother.

The Mother Tries to Make Her Daughters Dependent on Her

The overarching meaning of dependability, when speaking about a narcissistic mother’s behavior towards her daughters in an isolated childhood is that the narcissistic mother is constantly searching for ways to remain connected to her daughters. 

This need for connection is not healthy or safe. It is driven by the narcissistic mother’s sense of entitlement to having their own needs met at all times. To do this, the narcissistic mother will isolate her daughters from people that she viewed as threats. Not a threat to her daughters’ safety, but a threat to her own agenda and need for power, control, validation, admiration, and reassurance. 

The narcissistic mother views her daughters’ friends, romantic partners, adult role models, and even their own father as competition or someone who was preventing them from getting the power, control, validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need.

To discard the “competition” from their daughters’ lives, the narcissistic mother will use a lot of triangulation, attention-seeking behaviors, and scapegoating. 

a narcissistic mother triangulating her daughter against the father

Triangulation is when someone makes one-on-one situations into two-on-one situations so that they can remain in power and control of the relationship (e.g. a narcissistic mother showering her daughters’ with gifts while simultaneously speaking badly about their father to try to manipulate them into turning against him.)

Attention seeking behavior is when someone says or does something with the goal of getting the attention of a person or a group of people (e.g. a narcissistic mother pretending to be extremely lonely to manipulate her daughters into spending all of their time with her.)

Scapegoating is when someone uses another person as a repository for all of their negative emotions. It is a form of projection, a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and places them onto others (e.g. a narcissistic mother is really self-conscious because she is aging poorly but instead of acknowledging her feelings, she ridicules her daughters for their appearances.) 

The scapegoat is ridiculed, blamed, and punished for the shortcomings of the abuser on a daily basis. Over time, this allows the abuser to take full control of their scapegoat’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, and perception of themselves. Narcissistic mothers use scapegoating to convince their daughters that they’ll never be able to find someone who loves them as much as their narcissistic mother does.

These techniques and behaviors help the narcissistic mother manipulate their daughters into believing that they don’t need a life outside of the relationship that they have with their mother (e.g. friends, romantic partners, a career, personal space, etc.)

For the narcissistic mother, her daughters are just tools that they can use to get the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that their fragile sense of self desperately needs.

Quotes From the Participants In This Study

  • “I was never allowed to invite my best friends to my birthday parties.”
  • “My mother manipulated us into hating our dad by telling us on a daily basis how repulsive he was.”
  • “My mother broke all of my friendships, called my friends and boyfriends and their parents, isolated me from my friends and made me stay at our cabin as her company until I was 20.”
  • “My mother never had anything positive to say about other people.”
  • “We were not allowed to tell outsiders about how things were going at home.”
a victim of narcissistic abuse telling her story

They Blame Their Daughters for Everything 

The blame  dynamic between a narcissistic mother and her daughters in an isolated childhood is pretty straight forward. It is when the narcissistic mother blames her daughters for anything and everything. 

This behavior is a form of projection that allows the narcissistic mother to maintain a “perfect” perception of themselves (e.g. a narcissistic mother blaming her daughter for her divorce/a narcissistic mother blaming her daughter for the way that her body has changed after pregnancy). 

Quotes From the Participants In This Study

  • “My mother was a master of finding someone to blame. Even showers of rain were my dad’s fault at times. She herself had no flaws.”
  • “She would develop an argument about anything and twist it to her benefit by blaming others for what she had said or done.”
  • “I still don’t know when she is telling the truth.”
  • “My mother was blaming me for everything.”

They Use Their Daughters to Maintain a “Perfect” Public Persona

In the study, this section was brilliantly labeled as “From Weaseling, Envy, Self Centeredness to Shiny Facade” and it is referring to the superficiality and selfish nature of a narcissistic mother. The term “weaseling” means to achieve something by use of cunning or deceit and a “facade” is the front of a building. 

In the context of a relationship between a narcissistic mother and her daughter, the combination of weaseling and a shiny facade is referring to a narcissistic mother’s ability to hide the abuse that they are subjecting their daughters to behind a charming, charismatic, innocent, and desirable public persona.

Behind closed doors, a narcissistic mother will control her daughters’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs (e.g. the daughters are only allowed to be happy when it reflects positively on the narcissistic mother), they will constantly degrade and devalue other people to bolster their own grandiose sense of self, and they brainwash their daughters into believing that they have sacrificed their life to be the best mom that they can be. 

In public, the narcissistic mother trains their daughters to be “perfect” to protect the shiny facade of a happy and healthy family. They use their daughters’ good behavior to accumulate validation, admiration, and reassurance from others.

A narcissistic mother trying to take credit for her daughter work

This is a very common pattern of behavior to see among narcissistic mothers with communal personality traits. A communal narcissist gets their narcissistic supply by doing “good” things for other people. 

It’s really confusing because they will do amazing things, but only when there is someone to witness their actions. In public, they look amazing. They always have the perfect family photos, they are involved with their community, they seem to have a great relationship with their family, but behind closed doors they are nothing more than an abuser. 

For daughters of narcissistic mothers who display these types of behaviors, it is really hard to determine whether or not they are being abused by their mother because they are constantly being told from people on the outside of the relationship, those who only see the public persona, that their mother is a really good person and that the world is lucky to have her.

Quotes From the Participants In This Study

  • “When I was 13-14 years old, I went to the school nurse about my mother. The school nurse called my mom and my mom yelled at me for ruining her reputation. “
  • “My mom always talked about our childhood with pride. We did not make a mess or leave our toys all around the house. She was proud that SHE raised us to be like that. “
  • “Plenty of relatives visited us on the holidays. While the guests were at the house, my mother was radiant. But once they left, she started arguments with my father. Christmas was the worst.”
  • “I could never tell my mother about the good things in my life because she would just call me the next day crying about how she has been awake all night because she does not have anything nice or fun.”
  • “My parents were respected and trusted in their work. Therefore, nobody could imagine what kind of nightmare my life was as their only daughter.”

Narcissistic Mothers Deny Their Daughters’ Childhoods With Physical and Emotional Abuse

Narcissists are extremely abusive. Asserting their dominance over others and causing others harm is one of their only forms of emotional regulation. They don’t view people as people, they view them as tools that they can use to get validation, admiration, and reassurance.

a abusive mother talking to her daughter

Sadly, their view on people isn’t any different when it comes to their children. It is very common for narcissistic mothers to deny their daughters a “normal” childhood with high levels of abuse. 

Physical Abuse and Violence

In relationships between a narcissistic mother and her daughters, physical abuse and violence is used to punish the daughters. The triggers for the narcissistic mother’s physical abuse and violence are insignificant and when they would be physically abusive and violent, it can be described as an unjust and uncontrollable rage. 

Quotes From Participants In This Study

  • “When I was in high school she would put me on the floor and start kicking me.”
  • “The bigger we grew, the harder the punishment methods were.”
  • “My mother hit us with a stick and her hand for no reason.”
  • “She got angry over the smallest things.”
  • “In her opinion, I was a wh*re before I even knew what that meant.”

The Mother Uses Scaring and Threatening Behavior to Remain In Power and Control

In relationships between narcissistic mothers and their daughters, scaring and threatening is used to describe the fear that narcissistic daughters have of making their mother angry. The daughters quickly learned that if they wanted to avoid their mother’s rage, they had to be careful about what they say and do. 

a daughter trying to figure out how to keep her narcissistic mother happy

The fear that daughters have for their narcissistic mother prevents them from seeking guidance from trusted peers or adults. They are forced to deal with the physical abuse and violence alone. This isolates the daughters from those who can help them escape the abusive environment that they are in. 

Quotes From the Participants In This Study

  • “Everyone was afraid of my mother.”
  • “My friends and classmates would not come visit.”
  • “I was alert all of the time.” 
  • “I never knew what was going to happen next.”
  • “I always had to prove to her how irreplaceable of a mother and spouse she was by constantly assuring her about her perfection.”

Spurning

The term “spurning” is rejection with disdain or contempt. In relationships between narcissistic mothers and their daughters, spurning is when a narcissistic mother refuses to protect the daughter and sometimes lets others mistreat the daughters (e.g. sexual abuse from friends and family members of the narcissistic mother). This forces the daughter to worry about the mother and the other people that will try to hurt her because of her mother’s neglect.

Quotes From Participants In This Study

  • “I was always afraid.”
  • “I experienced things that no child should hear or see.”
  • “I had to sit next to a boy in class who asked me why I did not wash my teeth. I was not guided on how to keep myself clean or to take care of myself, I guess I was quite often dirty.”
  • “All of my toys were taken away because I was told that I was too old to play with toys at the age of nine.”
  • “My mother did not care for me and I had to sleep wherever.” 
A woman talking about her narcissistic mother

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissistic mothers are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent with their daughters. With that being said, it is important that you know how much ground the phrase “emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent” covers. 

It could mean that the narcissistic mothers are physically and emotionally abusive (e.g. hitting, shaming, invalidating, etc.) or it could mean that the narcissistic mother’s availability, responsiveness, and consistency is very unhealthy (e.g. a mother who doesn’t set boundaries, pampers her child too much, etc.)


All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

[1] 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. doi:10.1080/03004430.2018.1513924

Love, Sidney, and Yonata Feldman. “The disguised cry for help: Narcissistic mothers and their children.” Psychoanalytic Review 48.2 (1961): 52-67