Seven Signs of a Narcissistic Mother

narcissistic mother

My heart always nosedives when I meet the victim of a narcissistic mother. They are usually some of the nicest people you will ever meet, though it may be difficult to get to know them. When they come for prayer ministry, it isn’t the presence of bad memories making it difficult for them to heal. While bad memories are plentiful, the lack of good memories is actually more of a barrier. And while abusive fathers are bad enough, a narcissistic mother in some ways is far worse.

Mothers are crucial to the development of the internal self of a baby. A child whose mother is incapable of meeting basic emotional needs is thwarted from the very beginning. A narcissistic mother strips the agency from a child, leaving them without a defined sense of self in many cases. Put another way, a mother’s care and affection are deposits into the developing identity of a child. If denied this tenderness, a young child lacks a sense of what is ‘me’ and what is ‘not me’. This leads to an adulthood that lacks joy and makes decision-making a nightmare.

So how can you tell if your mother is narcissistic? Look for these signs:

  1. Her children are extensions of herself.

A narcissistic mother believes that her worth as a parent will be judged by the achievements of her children. In order to create a supporting cast worthy of her sense of grandiosity, she becomes a tyrant at home. A narcissistic mother micro-manages everything from clothing to achievements at school. A child is not a person, merely a puppet to be manipulated into making mommy look like a star mommy.

Because their personal boundaries are so often invaded, their children often grow up to be doormats. They literally have no practice making decisions and often rely on others to make them. Sometimes I think the Tiger mom method of raising children strays into this arena. The goal of child-rearing is not nurturing accomplishment. The aim is to nurture a person.

  1. She chooses favorites.

The reason for choosing favorites is not due to feeling closer to one child than another. The actual motivation is pretty diabolical. If she can cause division among the ranks of her kids, then they can’t gang up on her. A divided army can’t throw off the chains of tyranny.

narcissistic motherOne common way to nurture this rancor between siblings is to show outrageous favor to one while over-punishing the others. This guarantees that one child will have her back against the others. Because the worldview of a narcissist is always us against them, she reenacts this scenario at home over and over.

  1. She competes with her children.

If you compliment the child of a narcissistic mother, she will turn it around as praise to herself. I remember commenting on how bright one student was. Her mother immediately said I know she is bright because I am even brighter! I looked at her in astonishment and tried again by noting her daughter’s accomplishments. She responded She would never have accomplished any of it without me pushing her. Those accomplishments are really mine.

I felt slimed and very sorry for that young woman. A narcissistic mother must always be in the limelight. A real mother wants her children to shine all on their own.

  1. A narcissistic mother is incapable of empathy.

Typically, a child raised by a narcissistic parent of either sex feels no closeness with that parent. This is a giant void in the life of a child. What makes the lack of empathy by a mother so virulently harmful is that it is a mother’s love that a child must first encounter. The love of a mother is crucial to the emotional development of a person.

The results of this lack of nurture leave a person unable to bond deeply and yet with a need that no person can fill. As adults, we give out of the well of love that we have received. If our well is dry, giving and receiving love, even just experiencing being loved, can be very difficult. That lack of good things harms our love receptors. People may love the adult child of a narcissist, but they will have difficulty recognizing and internalizing it.

  1. The child is to blame for everything.

The ingrained belief of a narcissistic mother is that everything that goes wrong can be laid at the door of her child. Every bad mood or conflict is the fault of the child. She nurses grudges against her children and view any failure in their lives as an attack on her. Even her memories of family events are a litany of what everyone did wrong.

This is not just being critical. A narcissistic mother convinces herself that something is wrong with the very being of her children and goes out of her way to communicate that. Children of such mothers have little self-esteem and are often plagued by self-destructive tendencies. They participate in the rejection of their very selves and often wish they had never been born.

  1. The child of a narcissistic mother often acts as her mediator in her transient relationships.

A narcissistic mother tends to be likable and charismatic. That is until you get to know her. Then suddenly conflicts and misunderstandings begin to arise. The child is often put in the place of her advocate against an unfair world. Such a child must try to smooth over the relationships or attempt to make amends for the wrongs of their parent.

This often results in a highly parentified child, one who must be the caretaker of the parent. One easy way to spot a narcissist is if they constantly recount the number of times that others have done them wrong. They don’t seem to realize that the only constant in their equation is themselves.

  1. She gaslights her own kids.

A narcissistic mother has a selective memory. Common phrases are I never said that! That never happened. You made that up! It’s just your imagination. At every turn, she revises history and turns the words of her children against them. The goal here is not necessarily self-defense. The goal is to make her children sonarcissistic mother doubt themselves that they will trust her word over theirs. She is attempting to separate her children from their very selves to turn them into extensions of herself, with her version of life.

The tragic result of this is that the children of a narcissistic mother doubt their feelings and thoughts. They are forced to live a life of cognitive dissonance where their minds had to block out their feelings. Divided against themselves, children of narcissists often turn to self-destructive measures to numb the pain or they become dissociative. Survival depended on disconnecting from themselves.

I remember reading C.S. Lewis say that writing The Screwtape Letters was a terrible experience. Delving into the depths of demonic strategy led him on a pretty dark journey. I sympathize with him. My body tensed while writing this, and I felt so sad. I was blessed with a mother who loved me, but the pain of the victims of narcissistic mothers is very real to me. I have seen Jesus heal these wounds but they always take a lot of time and reconstruction of the self. I am so grateful that Jesus never abandons anyone, but takes the time and care needed to build up a hurting soul.


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8 Replies to “Seven Signs of a Narcissistic Mother”

  1. Sadly these traits are common in any narcissist. Very well written article.

  2. So sadly true! This is a well written and organized piece on narcissistic mothers. Learning the mindset and manipulations of a narcissist does leave one feeling icky! I hope those struggling with this situation take comfort in knowing that they have a Parent who loves them deeply.

  3. […] Seven Signs of a Narcissistic Mother […]

  4. Sheri Traxler says: Reply

    Wow. Clearly written. I will share with a friend who needs this.

  5. Donna Miller says: Reply

    Such a well written post. I pray that my children are not suffering from any of my failings as a mother, which are so many! ❤

  6. susanhomeschooling says: Reply

    I wish parents realized that focusing on themselves does so much harm to their children!

  7. Rachel Mayew says: Reply

    Thank you for all you do to encourage parents/adult children in their journey. You’re doing a great work!

  8. What a wonderfully written article. Dead on and such a struggle! Im very sad that I will never have a real relationship with her or ever really feel a mothers love. I was lucky to have a loving Grandma while I did… it explains why I was soo devastated and went through other things when she died… that was my Mother. My real one has no empathy and does and says some very awful things. She is cold, calculated cares only about her image and self and yes I was always trying to please her to the point of almost deleting myself permantently…No affection in my family. Just punishing me for everything… going to big lengths to cut off my career as well or anything in life I was successful at. I never gave up trying.
    For the last 8 years I havent had a bday celebration or any wish or gift… she deleted me from Christmas and then says she doesnt..
    your article enlists all the things she does and has said to me!
    There is some comfort in knowing there is someone else out there that understands my pain. I also only attract narcissists in my relationships as well. The joy in life has vanished… ive felt like this since she cut off every avenue i took to create a good life for myself with respect to my career relationships etc….and yep pinned my brother against me by using my dad… ie telling him lies about me that werent true and then he would tell my brother and create the constant divide that we still have to this day. It takes a hell of a lot to get through this. I pray everyday. I write and I continue to read as much as I possibly can on this topic. Thank you for writing such a great article for the world to immerse themselves in. God Bless!

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