My wife struggles with her relationship with her mother, and it's made us wonder if her mom is a narcissist. So we decided to look into all the characteristics of a narcissistic mother.
Here's what we discovered:
The characteristics of a narcissistic mother include being defensive, using fear & intimidation to control the child, being quick-tempered, blaming the child for everything, forcing the child to be the responsible one, but putting on a front to others of appearing to be a perfect family.
No parent is perfect. We all have moments where we just want our needs to come first, just for once.
However, getting what you want every once in a while when trying to balance work, life, kids and a spouse is not the same thing as being a narcissist.
So whether you're wondering if you, as a mom or parent might be a narcissist, or whether you think your own mother might be, you're in the right place.
In this post, we're diving deep into the characteristics of a narcissistic mother, how they affect us and those around them.
What are the traits of a narcissistic mother?
If you have seen the Disney movie Tangled, the character Mother Gothel, the non-birth mother of Rapunzel, is an excellent example of a narcissistic mother.
Mother Gothel shows us her true colors while being hidden from Rapunzel for most of the movie. We'll get into all 27 characteristics of a narcissistic mother below, but here is a quick overview of some of the most common traits of a narcissistic mother:
|Narcissistic Trait||How It Shows Up|
|Won't admit fault||Never apologizes, blames others|
|Lacks empathy for others||Seemingly oblivious to how her actions affect others, uncaring|
|Creates co-dependency||Uses fear & manipulation to ensure you remain dependent on her|
|Switches from happy to angry quickly||Driven by ego and a need to control, the narcissist can explode quickly when things don't go their way|
How does a narcissistic mother behave?
A narcissistic mother or parent is affected by narcissism, sometimes called narcissistic personality disorder.
Usually, narcissistic parents are uncomfortably close to their kids in an unhealthy way. They may also be jealous of or threatened by, the child growing up and starting their own life.
As I said, none of us are perfect, but just by identifying an underlying issue, we're now halfway to fixing it.
In the case of almost any mental health issue, getting to the root cause is crucial. Then, and only then, can we begin to move forward with healing from it.
If you are the child of a narcissistic parent then learning how to set boundaries is crucial.
For the narcissist themselves, working with a therapist and finding ways to take responsibility for past actions is also crucial.
Emotional abuse is a key component of this relationship.
Narcissistic mothers strive to control the child and everything they do, using fear, guilt, and manipulation to achieve that control.
Ultimately the narcissistic parent is driven by low self-esteem.
They seek to inflate their own feelings of self-worth at the expense of the child and others around them.
They tend to lack empathy and have a general lack of concern for how their own actions affect those around them.
The narcissistic parent may also employ the Authoritarian Parenting Style (click to read my article of the signs), which can also be driven by low self-esteem.
That parenting style, arguably the most damaging way to parent, is identified by a very top-down, command and control style that leaves little room for flexibility or creativity with the child.
How do you deal with a narcissistic mother?
The key here is boundaries.
Let me say that again. Boundaries. Boundaries are crucial for your own sanity, mental health, and overall well-being.
Remember, you can't change your narcissistic mother (or father). In fact, you can't change ANYONE. The only thing you can really change in this world is your own actions, statements, and thoughts.
The idea of having control over anything else is an illusion.
You may well love your narcissistic mother. And you hope she loves you. But if we're talking about a true narcissist, there's literally nothing you can do that's going to change them.
So you have to be strong.
You have to understand that there will be times she uses some of the following tools to manipulate you:
She may well play the martyr ("no one loves me"), or say things like "you never want to spend time with me". Those things will tug at your heart-strings. They WILL make you feel guilty.
You have to train yourself to recognize those signs and to limit your interaction with her. In some cases, it may even mean cutting them out of your life.
Dave Ramsey once said, and he was talking about personal finance but it applies here: "to be clear is to be kind".
Tell your mother what behaviors you are not willing to tolerate. Let her know the consequences if she behaves that way. Then stick to your guns and follow through. You won't cure her narcissism, but she can learn to not push you away.
What is malicious mother syndrome?
— Mick Ogden (@mick_ogden) February 6, 2018
This is a term often used to describe a mother (or either parent) during divorce proceedings.
The term was first coined by psychologist Ira Turkat in describing a pattern of unusual behavior during a divorce.
That being said, the term malicious mother syndrome is not currently recognized by mental health professionals as an official diagnosis. So more often it is simply a legal or descriptive term.
Malicious Mother Syndrome or Malicious Parent Syndrome has 4 major identifying points:
- They attempt to punish the other parent in the divorce by alienating the children from the other parent
- These parents may work through the courts to limit or deny custody or even visitation to the other parent
- A Malicious mother may lie to their children about the other parent
- Malicious parents have no other underlying conditions on which to excuse this behavior
Ultimately the narcissistic mother and the malicious mother share some commonalities.
In both cases, they want what they want at everyone else's expense and they are oblivious to how their own actions and needs impact the lives of others, especially their child.
Do narcissists love their children?
Have you spent much of your life trying to please mom instead of following your heart? https://t.co/2PCWnNTaV5 via @daughterrising #MotherIssues #motheranddaughter #Parentingdaughters #mothertodaughter #narcissisticmother pic.twitter.com/KucJQiaeN3
— Katherine Fabrizio (@daughterrising) July 24, 2018
Ultimately the answer is no. A narcissistic mother or parent cannot truly love another person.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a narcissistic personality disorder is "a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.
But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
A key component to love is empathy; the ability to truly put ourselves in the shoes of another and identify with how they feel.
Thus since one of the characteristics of a narcissistic mother is the lack of the ability to empathize with how others are feeling, they ultimately lack the ability to love.
If you aren't sure how to cultivate empathy, start by developing Empathetic Listening Skills (click to read my article). That can truly serve you in your family, work and all relationships.
Can a narcissist feel guilty?
After treating adult Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers for 30 years, the daughter, trapped in the role of the “good daughter” can be the hardest to spot and the trickiest to treat. https://t.co/ffwYbB7ufd via @daughterrising #MotherIssues #motheranddaughter #Parentingdaughters pic.twitter.com/lYMXFq0Buw
— Katherine Fabrizio (@daughterrising) July 26, 2018
While the characteristics of a narcissistic mother may include the ability to feel regret, they often lack the ability to feel remorse.
What’s the difference between remorse & regret?
Regret simply means you wish you hadn’t done or said a particular thing. In other words, the narcissistic may regret having done something, and they may recognize their actions hurt someone else.
But ultimately their sense of regret has nothing to do with the pain they caused another.
They feel regret because the action ultimately somehow hurt or inconvenienced themselves. Remorse, on the other hand, is tied closely with empathy.
Remorse is understanding and feeling how our own actions affected another.
When you feel remorse you truly wish you hadn't taken the action that caused the other pain because you truly understand and feel how it affected them.
As we said above, the characteristics of a narcissistic mother include a lack of empathy. So, the narcissistic parent never really feels true remorse.
Do narcissists get jealous?
Yes is the short answer.
But they use it as a manipulation tactic. It's not truly driven out of fear and insecurity the way it would in the rest of us.
Remember, a true narcissist is incapable of true love. It doesn't register. So every relationship they have, be it with family, friends or their children is more of a transaction. Just like at the store, they pay something and want something in return.
They don't enter relationships out of a need for companionship.
It's to gain control, boost ego, or to appear "normal". So if the child of a narcissist suddenly starts to assert their independence, the parent will appear jealous.
In truth, the parent isn't jealous. They are just angry that their child isn't doing precisely what they wanted them to do. They fear losing control and it's an ego blow; nothing more.
How do you tell if your parents are narcissistic?
Ultimately if you are wondering if your mom or dad (or both) are narcissists, you'll see some, but probably not all, of the 27 characteristics I outline below.
But some of the most common ways to tell include:
- They exaggerate their own accomplishments (to make themselves look more successful)
- Setting goals for you are driven by their own desires (without regard for what you want)
- They love to play the martyr ("oh, don't worry about me")
- Criticizing you just enough so you always know they are boss (which boosts their own self-esteem)
- They use guilt to manipulate you into doing things
- There is little flexibility with their rules and they see any questions as a threat
But I encourage you to review all 27 signs below to get a better understanding of whether your mother or father is a narcissist.
So let's review the . . .
27 Characteristics of a Narcissistic Mother You Probably Didn't Know
1. They damage any relationships you have with others
Whether friends or romantic partners, the characteristics of a narcissistic mother definitely include sabotaging all your relationships. This ensures that no one becomes more important to you than her.
2. The narcissistic mother puts themselves above everyone else
Their own needs come first, always and without exception.
3. They blame the child (or others) for everything wrong in their life
They can justify any action and are quick to deflect blame onto others (often the child).
4. This parent often has unachievable expectations for the child
They often set goals and expectations that are completely unrealistic, thereby ensuring the child will fail to achieve them.
5. Her feelings are the only feelings that really matter
Lacking empathy, the characteristics of a narcissistic mother definitely include a lack of caring for what others think or feel.
6. The narcissistic parent can justify any decision
They become masters of manipulation and always justify any decision they make.
7. She believes she is incapable of making mistakes
Along those same lines, the narcissistic parent truly believes they don't make mistakes.
8. She routinely invades your personal space
This parent doesn't respect boundaries and creates insecurity in her children by invading personal space.
9. This parent projects their own mistakes, insecurities, and issues onto others
Everything bad is always someone else's fault; often the child or the other parent. No matter what the scenario, they become masters of projecting issues onto others.
10. In cases with more than one child, the narcissistic parent may well favor one child over another
Favoritism among children is common as it creates insecurity in one and a false sense of security in the other. Ultimately that makes both children easier to control.
11. The narcissistic parent creates a co-dependent relationship with the child
Co-dependency is defined as having an unhealthy emotional dependence on another. In this case, the narcissistic parent makes the child completely dependent on them through fear, manipulation, and guilt.
— Life Advancer (@LifeAdvancer) July 18, 2018
12. They discipline the child not to teach a lesson but to get even
The characteristics of a narcissistic mother definitely include being mean, vindictive and petty. They often punish the child to get even and not as a consequence or lesson.
13. This parent often will take credit for your accomplishments
To keep the child down, the parent often takes credit for good grades, talent or sporting achievements.
14. The narcissistic parent may open credit accounts in your name or otherwise legally take advantage of you without your consent
Not caring about anyone but themselves, and perhaps justifying that you somehow owe them, this parent may open credit or bank accounts in your name or otherwise fraudulently conduct transactions in your name. If they do tell the child, they will justify why it was necessary or why they had the right.
15. She is constantly putting down or criticizing her children
Shame and ridicule are common tactics used by narcissistic parents.
The more they damage the Child's Self-Esteem (click to read my article on how to improve it), the easier the child is to manipulate and control.
16. They use fear and intimidation to control the child
The characteristics of a narcissistic mother often include controlling the child through fear tactics. Being mean, yelling and constantly belittling are all normal behaviors for this parent.
17. You were forced to take on the parental responsibility in the house
Many children of narcissistic parents often find themselves having to be the adult in the house. While the narcissist definitely is in charge, the child may be the one having to pay bills, look after other siblings and do whatever is necessary to keep the house running.
18. They get defensive quickly and often
The narcissistic parent is very quick to take any statement the wrong way. They may respond explosively to even the slightest suggestion of fault or wrongdoing.
19. The narcissistic parent often pushes their child to achieve their own dreams instead of what the child wants
Many a narcissistic parent puts their own failed or unrealized goals and dreams onto the child. In this process, the child's own desires are intentionally ignored or ridiculed.
20. She will make you think you are the crazy one using a manipulation tactic called gaslighting
Gaslighting is a process of manipulation where the parent uses emotional abuse to get the child to question their own sanity. They may deny remembering events or actions in an attempt to sow seeds of doubt in the mind of the child.
21. This parent puts up a front of the "perfect family" to all outsiders
Having the appearance of a perfect family is of utmost importance to the narcissist. Whether the family is actually well-functioning matters little as long as it appears that way to educators, clergy, and neighbors.
22. The narcissistic mother teases and makes fun of her children
The characteristics of a narcissistic mother also include putting her children down by mocking, making fun of and teasing them in a cruel way.
23. She will lie to her children or others routinely
It should go without saying that a narcissistic parent will lie to her children or anyone else to get what she wants. Everything is secondary to her own needs and she will do whatever is necessary to get what she wants.
24. They lack empathy
Empathy is truly feeling what someone else feels; to figuratively walk in their shoes. A narcissist lacks the ability to really do that. Thus they never really understand or care about how others feel.
25. The narcissistic parent loses their temper quickly
Because the narcissist is driven both by insecurity and a need to control others, they have a tendency to lose their temper quickly when things don't go exactly as they planned.
26. She only doles out affection as a reward for your compliance
The narcissistic mother doesn't truly love her kids as we do.
But she will show affection when it is a means to an end. In other words, she will be affectionate as a reward for the child behaving the way she wants. But she will do this infrequently enough to where the child is ultimately starved for genuine affection and connection.
27. The narcissist uses guilt trips to get the child to comply
Guilt is a close ally of a narcissistic parent. Guilt is a form of manipulation where the parent says things to the child that make them regret an action or a choice. Ultimately it damages the child's self-esteem and makes them easier to control.
Did I cover everything you wanted to know about the characteristics of a narcissistic mother?
In this post, we reviewed the characteristics of a narcissistic mother. But we also looked at some of the big questions that come along with that, such as:
- Can a narcissist mother love their child?
- Can a narcissist feel guilty?
- What is a narcissistic mother?
It's not easy living with a narcissistic parent, but it's also not easy being the narcissist. Healing, boundaries and clear communication all play a crucial role in working through a parent-child relationship with a narcissistic mother or parent.
Ultimately as the child of a narcissist identifying how the Traits of a Toxic Person (click to read my article) affect you is crucial to your own health, healing, and well-being.
Do you have a narcissistic mother?
I am not a doctor, a psychiatrist or mental health professional. I do, however, have decades of managing hundreds of people, am both a son and a parent, and do have direct experience in dealing with narcissists. This post, like all my posts, is based on my research, opinions, and observations. If you need medical or professional advice you should seek out a qualified professional in your area.
Photo credits which require attribution:
DFDC Rapunzel and Mother Gothel Doll Set by Mary Hung is licensed by CC2.0
Which outfit do you like more? (Rapunzel & Mother Gothel) by Adele Blancsec is licensed by CC2.0