What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Mother?

The negative consequence of having a narcissistic parent guide you through life are unfathomably severe. If left neglected, the trauma that a narcissistic parent gives their child will condemn the child to a life of abuse. It’s for this reason that being able to accurately identify a narcissistic parent is so important so we’re going to start with the eight signs of a narcissistic mother.

Narcissistic mothers compete with their children, they’re unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent, they make their children feel like a burden, they don’t protect their children, they’re manipulative and controlling, their love for their children is conditional, they have poor parental boundaries, and only advocate for their children when it suits them.

For this article we’ve interviewed 13 survivors of a narcissistic abuse from their mother to create a list of signs that give readers a comprehensive grasp of everyday life with a narcissistic mother. With that being said, there are dozens of narcissistic behavior patterns that we haven’t included in this list as they aren’t specific to the relationship between a narcissistic mother and her child.

To accurately identify a narcissistic mother we strongly suggest that you seek the guidance of a qualified professional to unpack all of the emotions of narcissistic abuse and that you familiarize yourself with our library of information about the narcissistic behavior patterns that haven’t been included here.

a victim of narcissistic abuse learning about narcissism

There are two reasons why you should diversify your research and consult with a qualified professional.

First, there’s a significant overlap among the behaviors of narcissistic parents and maternal antagonistic parenting, parental behaviors that inspire children’s negative feelings (e.g., negative verbal comments, controlling others through guilt).

Second, the behavior of a narcissistic parent is heavily dependent on their narcissistic personality, how many children they have, and other underlying issues. Narcissistic abuse from a parent could manifest in a variety of ways so you should always consult with a qualified professional before acting on our information.

Narcissistic Mothers Compete With Their Children

One of the most interesting aspects of a narcissist, particularly the excessive need for admiration they possess, is their tendency to get worse with age. The reason for this is that as a narcissist gets older they begin to lose core elements of their identity that they once used to accumulate the validation, admiration, and reassurance of others. 

The most common element of their identity that fades away with time is their appearance. As we get older we get more wrinkles, lose our mobility, and it is harder to stay in shape, all of which makes narcissists extremely insecure and vulnerable. 

Suggested Reading: Do Narcissists Get Worse With Age?

It’s for this reason that it is very common to see narcissistic mothers have a very insecure, vulnerable, and desperate need for competition with their children, but particularly with their daughters. 

My dad and I always had a really good relationship. He made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world every chance that he got. I didn’t realize it at the time but looking back, our relationship made my mother furious. I remember multiple times where my father complimented me in front of my mother and it turned into a huge argument about how he has been neglecting her needs or she would turn on me and point out my acne, stretch marks, inexperience with beauty products, hairy legs, etc. – Kathy, a Survivor of 21 Years of Narcissistic Abuse From Her Mother

Narcissistic Mothers Are Unavailable, Unresponsive, and Inconsistent 

The lack of empathy and grandiose sense of self-importance that all narcissists possess often causes narcissistic mothers to be emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, inconsistent, and incompetent. 

a unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent narcissistic mother

When the child of a narcissistic mother approaches them with a problem it is very common for the narcissistic mother to quickly find a way to invalidate, minimize, and dismiss the child’s emotions, thoughts, feelings, and needs. 

Getting support from my mother was always hard for my sister and I. I remember in my sophomore year in high school I was rejected by a guy that I had a huge crush on because he was interested in one of the cheerleaders. I was devastated and tried to confide in my mother but somehow the conversation ended up with her talking about how giving birth to my sister and I destroyed her chances of finding love. I just remember feeling really stupid and guilty for bringing up the problem in the first place because of how hard my mother’s life was. – Sarah, a Survivor of 32 Years of Narcissistic Abuse From Her Mother

Narcissistic Mothers Make Their Children Feel Like a Burden

One of the overarching messages that narcissistic mothers send to their children is that they will never be good enough. You see, narcissists feel entitled to having power and control over their victims for as long as they see fit. 

Narcissists desperately need the validation, admiration, and reassurance that comes with having power and control over others. This is problematic when it comes to children because children naturally get less and less dependent on their parents as they get older. 

But because narcissists require a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance, they want to remain in power and control of their children as long as they see fit. 

a controlling narcissistic mother manipulating her daughter

One of the most common ways narcissists are able to do this is by manipulating their children into feeling like they aren’t good enough and developing a tremendous amount of guilt and shame about who they are as a person. 

It’s very common to see narcissistic mothers create a narrative in which they’ve made a tremendous sacrifice by having their children. They want to be admired, validated, and reassured for this “sacrifice” that they’ve made. 

It’s an extremely effective technique to remain in power and control of the children because it makes them feel like there is a debt that can never be repaid. Without the guidance of a qualified professional, they could spend their entire lives catering to their narcissistic mother’s every need. 

Narcissistic Mothers Fail to Protect Their Children From Harm

One of the most malicious signs of a narcissistic mother is a failure to protect their children from harmful individuals and environments. With that being said, this is a very broad concept. 

It could manifest in the form of the mother refusing to set firm boundaries around prioritizing the child’s education or monitoring their internet access or it could manifest in the form of the mother keeping partners around who were emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive towards the children.  

This failure to protect their children from harmful individuals or environments could originate from their grandiose sense of self-importance or lack of empathy but it is also important to note that some narcissists have sadistic elements of their identity. 

Someone who is sadistic derives pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others. With narcissistic mothers who are sadistic it is very probable that they willingly place their child in harm’s way because in some twisted sense they feel like they deserve it. 

My brother and I had so many abusive adults in our lives. We had an extremely rough upbringing that neither one of us has fully recovered from yet. I remember on my 30th birthday my brother and I started talking about our childhood and how far we had come. One thing led to another and we were talking about how abusive our mother was. It ate away at me for the next few days until finally I snapped, called my mother on the phone, and asked her for an explanation. There was a lot of narcissistic word salad that she basically told me that because her mother treated her so poorly, she was entitled to treating us the same way. This was 15 years ago and I haven’t spoken to her since. – John, a Survivor of 33 Years of Narcissistic Abuse From His Mother

Narcissistic Mothers Are Manipulative and Controlling

Narcissists are well known for displaying interpersonally exploitative behavior, it is one of the nine personality traits outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

With narcissistic mothers this often manifests in the form of using negative emotions like guilt, shame, or disappointment to control and manipulate their children while simultaneously reinforcing the overarching message of the child not being good enough that their abuse sends. 

What this means is that the narcissistic mother will react to certain situations in a way that makes the child feel guilty, ashamed, or like a disappointment, but the mother’s reaction isn’t authentic. They don’t actually feel let down by the child, they’re just exploring different forms of control and manipulation. 

When I was twelve my recreational soccer team made it to the community finals for a summer tournament that was held every single year. The game ended in a tie so we had to go to penalty kicks and I missed mine horribly. We ended up losing and I felt really bad. My coaches and teammates were super supportive but the second I got in the car my mother went on a long rant about how disappointed she was and how it was embarrassing for her to see all of the other kids make their penalty except for me. It made me feel awful and anxious when doing any athletic activity in front of her. – Ethan, a Survivor of Narcissistic Abuse From His Mother

The Love a Narcissistic Mother Has for Her Children Is Conditional

One of the most commonly seen roles that children of narcissists embody is called the golden child. The narcissist treats the golden child as an extension of themselves which means that the golden child often excels at something the narcissist values, but isn’t threatened by.

The narcissist will use the golden child’s talent, skills, and positive attributes to position themselves in the limelight of validation, admiration and reassurance that they bring. In other words, the child’s goals are supported, successes validated, and existence acknowledged as long as they reflect positively on the narcissistic mother.

a narcissistic mother soaking up narcissistic supply

The important thing to remember here is that narcissists use their children as a repository for their suppressed negative emotions. Granted, this can manifest in a variety of ways but as a general rule the relationship that a narcissist has with their child is just as superficial, manipulative, and abusive as the relationships they have with others.

What this means is that the “love” that they have for the child is conditional love, which isn’t really love at all because the moment that the golden child loses whatever makes them special in the narcissist’s eyes they become nothing but an obstacle in the narcissist’s eyes for the foreseeable future.

Narcissistic Mothers Have Extremely Poor Parental Boundaries

Narcissists are notorious for disrespecting healthy boundaries because they contradict their falsified identity and impedes their insecure pursuit of power, control, and narcissistic supply. 

A narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-importance and sense of entitlement means that they feel entitled to having the world revolve around them. So the concept of healthy boundaries is both offensive and a foreign concept to them. 

When it comes to narcissistic mothers, it is very common for them to violate parental boundaries. For example, reading their child’s diary, responding to text messages from friends on behalf of the child, putting the child down in front of others, and refusing to allow the child to have any type of privacy. 

With that being said, there’s a time and a place for most of those things but narcissistic parents violate parental boundaries for the thrill of having information or “dirt” on others, not because they’re concerned or trying to be a good parent. 

From here it is very common to see the narcissistic mother use the vulnerabilities, insecurities, and secrets that they’ve learned from invading the child’s privacy to manipulate/coerce the child into doing what they want, when they want it.

My parents were loose cannons. They would have parties at our house 2-3 nights out of the week throughout the year. I remember one night a drunk woman stumbled into the room that my sister and I were sleeping in and woke us up. I went to go find my mom and found her with her friends reading the diary I had on my laptop and laughing about the stuff I was saying. To this day I never told her how badly that hurt me. When my sister and I were both adults we went no contact and never looked back. – Heather, a Survivor of 23 Years of Narcissistic Abuse From Her Mother

Narcissistic Mothers Only Defend Their Children When It Suits Them

As we mentioned before, the relationship a narcissist has with their child is just as superficial, manipulative, and abusive as the relationships they have with others. 

Therefore it is not uncommon to see a narcissistic mother be extremely selective when it comes to choosing the battles she fights for her children. What this means is that the mother will stand up for her children but only when it suits her self-centered needs. 

This is a dangerous form of neglect to be exposed to as a child because the child will likely develop a distorted view of what it means to advocate for someone else which will most likely cause a significant amount of issues in their adult relationships. 

a narcissistic husband

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

An upbringing with a narcissistic mother is catastrophic to one’s well-being. It leaves children terrified of being vulnerable in front of their narcissistic mother, they often internalize a lot of shame and anger, they’re constantly doubting themselves, they tend to have feelings of incompetence and be incredibly hypersensitive, and they have difficulties setting boundaries.

We can’t tell you this enough but we strongly recommend that you seek the guidance of a qualified professional to unpack all of the trauma and confusion that comes with narcissistic abuse. The consequences of dealing with it on your own or just completely neglecting it is going to trap you within a narcissistic abuse cycle for years to come.

Suggested Reading: What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Father


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE. 

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