Our parents are the key players in the early stages of our development, and they continue to have a huge impact on us even as we, too, grow into adults.
How they choose to behave towards us – the language they use and the physical treatment they adopt – will help shape our characters and personalities for the rest of our lives.
Both parents exert their influence on children, but this article will focus primarily on the role of the mother and the ways in which narcissism, when present, dictates the interactions that take place.
Narcissistic mothers rarely epitomize the stereotype of a warm, caring, loving provider.
Instead, they struggle to integrate their needs and desires with those of their children, who they might see as mere objects or burdens with which they have to deal.
Identifying a mother suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a matter of spotting the various traits that are likely to be present.
There are many signs for both children (when they grow old enough to understand) and external parties (such as friends, other family members, and local authorities) to be vigilant for.
Here are 10 signs of a narcissistic mother:
1. She’ll Use The Child As An Extension Of Herself
One of the primary goals of a narcissist is to create and maintain the appearance and feeling of superiority, particularly when in a public setting. They strive to be the most successful, most intelligent, most witty, and most desirable person in the room. They want other people to look at them with envy so that they may openly congratulate themselves.
A narcissistic mother has a problem, however, because she will now also face judgement over her child and her parenting skills. To counter this threat, she begins to see her child as an extension of herself, one that she can assert absolute control over to preserve her grandiose facade.
She will treat her child as an accessory, a tool to be utilized, and a way to prove her worthiness to others. To this end, she will manage every element of her child’s life like the director of a film would treat his actors.
She will dress them up, tell them what to say and how to behave, force them into hobbies and sports, and push them excessively hard to excel in school.
She will not care for their individuality, their enjoyment, or their emotional development, so long as they do not shatter the vision of perfection she wishes others to see.
It’s her way or the highway, and there’s zero chance of her backing down from something once she has taken a stand.
2. She Won’t Share The Spotlight
Much of the above talk about using a child as an extension of oneself stems from the underlying need all narcissists have to monopolize the spotlight.
They are so desperate for attention, that they are unwilling to share it with anyone, not even their own child.
This presents a challenge because children – especially when young – often become default focal points when groups of family or friends meet.
To counter this threat, she will try to dominate all discussions involving her child, speaking for them or about them rather than to and with them.
She will boast about their achievements while making it very clear of the vital role she played in them.
She will dress them up and show them off, but only so as to take credit for their appearance.
She will take it upon herself to answer any questions that are posed to the child, just so that she can ensure the right answer is given (the right answer being the one that sheds the best light on her).
Even in situations that don’t involve external cast members, she will seek to extract as much attention as she can from her child.
This becomes all the more apparent when the child grows up and flies the nest; at this point, she will find or fabricate reasons for the adult child to return to her on a staggeringly regular basis.
If they refuse, she bemoans how little they care and love for her in order to get attention that way.
3. She Will Separate Children Into “Favorites” And “Bad Eggs”
If there are two or more children in the family, the narcissistic mother will often favor one/some over the others.
There is rarely any concrete justification for this, but she likes to split them up in an attempt to set them against each other. In this way, they are unlikely to band together and challenge her position of dominance.
Her favorites are liable to be used as extensions as discussed above, and she will teach them to think and act like she does by nurturing an “us against them” mentality.
She will keep them on her side so that they can team up when criticizing, manipulating, or attacking the remaining children.
As for the bad eggs, the outcasts, the scapegoats — she will treat them will far less love and charity.
This can manifest itself in myriad ways, including the food she gives them, the clothes they are forced to wear, the comforts they enjoy, and the language she uses with them.
From the mother’s point of view, the spoilt child can do no wrong, whereas the rest are always to blame. Where the favorite is cared for diligently, the outcasts are forced to do the caring.
While the chosen one is given everything they need, those who are marginalized have things taken away in retribution for disobedience.
4. She Always Takes Priority Over The Child
A narcissist is most concerned with themselves and this holds true when one becomes a mother. Unless she sees it in her own best interests, she will refuse to attend to the needs of her children if they interfere with her own plans.
Unless a favored child is involved, don’t expect to see her making sacrifices in terms of her time, energy, and attention. She will always make sure she gets what she wants even if it leaves a child unhappy.
She might treat them to a meal out for their birthday, but they won’t get to choose the restaurant.
She might even buy them a present, but little thought or effort will go into it; after all, she is so busy with her own affairs that she won’t know what her child really wants.
5. She Insists Her Child Is The Cause Of All Her Problems
When faced with failure, disappointment, or some other problem, a narcissistic mother will almost certainly point the finger of blame at her children.
With such astronomical faith and belief in herself, she is simply unable to see any fault in her actions.
This leaves her with external forces as they only possible explanation for any predicament she may face. Since a child is likely to be present much of the time, particularly when young, they will make an easy target for her rage.
The actual cause of her woes and the culpability of the child is inconsequential; the function of the child is, as far as she sees it, an outlet for her frustrations.
6. She Is Always Right
Another manifestation of her inflated self-image is that she is unable to accept she might be wrong about something. This is particularly true when her child gets a bit older and is able to argue their point; she will deny them any ground and insist they are mistaken.
One of the primary points of conflict is the recalling of events from each party’s perspective. The mother, suffering from the delusions of narcissism, will often remember something in quite a different way to the child.
As hard as the child might make their case, and as much evidence as they can produce to support it, the mother will flatly deny such a recollection.
This pattern is not restricted to past events, but also the opinions and beliefs each of them hold. The child may express their views on something, but unless they match those of the mother, they will be rebuffed with a measure of disdain designed to force them onto the back foot.
7. She Rarely Offers A Kind Word To Her Child
Favorite children aside, narcissistic mothers are extremely stingy with regards to the nice things they say.
Compliments, genuine encouragement, and declarations of affection are rarities because the mother chooses to focus her energies on the things her child has done wrong.
She will often criticize them whether they deserve it or not, and even if a softer approach is what’s needed to help. She will demean and degrade their own sense of self worth by flinging regular insults at them, often covertly disguised as neutral comments.
She might talk openly with (or in front of) the child about how much she enjoys the company of other people, but never of the child itself. She doesn’t want them to believe in themselves as fun individuals, but rather as troublesome, unsuccessful people who are nothing but a thorn in her side.
She’ll make general statements about people that contain not-so-subtle messages for her child. She’ll say “nobody loves me” and “people are so selfish” to indirectly accuse her child of these things, while retaining her ability to deflect the statements onto others if the child protests.
8. She Will Grow Envious Of The Child In Later Life
As her child grows up and begins to live an independent life of their own, the narcissistic mother will become envious of the new people, experiences, and things she sees.
Believing herself to be superior to her child, she suffers greatly to see them become happy, content individuals. In a bid to prevent them from outshining her, she will seek to sabotage things in whatever way she can.
She will start demanding more time and attention from the child in order to stifle their new-found life, and she may even ask for money in an attempt to put a strain on their finances.
Any new relationships – particularly romantic ones, but also friendships – will be seen as a challenge to her dominant place in the child’s life. She will do everything in her power to drive a wedge between them and their new friends and lovers.
She will fabricate stories to humiliate her child, she will make snide remarks about their new acquaintances, and she might even outright declare her disdain for them in a bid to make her child choose between them.
She will not be content to sit back and watch her child find happiness without her.
9. She Is Devoid Of Empathy
One of the key traits of narcissists is that they are almost completely devoid of empathy.
They struggle to see things from anyone’s perspective other than their own and they believe that other people feel, think and act as they do. In other words, they have very poor theory of mind.
For mothers like this, it means not being able to understand why their child behaves the way it does.
The response is often one of anger, even if the child is clearly upset, sad or frightened because she is unable to see through their eyes and understand where these feelings are coming from. All she sees is a petulant, ungrateful, trouble-making child.
She won’t comfort them in her arms, cheer them up when they are blue, or give a reassuring word in their ear to ease their pain. In fact, she’ll probably do the complete opposite because it’s all she knows.
10. She Will Manipulate Her Child
The ability and will to manipulate others is another thing that is present in every single narcissist out there.
The means of manipulation are many and varied; they could fill many books in their own right when explored in detail.
Suffice to say that much of what has already been discussed constitutes manipulation, and the general theme is one of control and obedience.
A narcissistic mother will seek to silence their child’s own voice, dictate their every move, and smother any shoots of individualism.
She will abuse her position and exploit her child for her own satisfaction and profit.
Mind games, lies, and trickery are just some of the tools designed to confuse the child and weaken their self-belief to a point where they can be mentally and emotionally enslaved.
Sadly, the ten points above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many signs of a narcissistic mother. Some traits might not be present in all narcissists, and not everyone who exhibits one of these traits should be labelled as a narcissist.
The more of them you can identify, the greater chance you’re dealing with one. So be watchful and tread with caution if you believe you may have come across a mother suffering from narcissism.
Steve Waller is the founder of A Conscious Rethink – an exciting new website dedicated to the world of psychology, philosophy, lifestyle and living. If you are keen to learn more about the language used by narcissists, he has written a detailed article on the subject which you can read here.