Do you worry you might by a narcissistic mother?

Maybe you were raised by a narcissistic parent and you’re afraid you might pass on some of the damage to your own kids.

Or maybe you’re not quite sure if your upbringing fits this category, and you’re wondering if your own mom (or dad) was a narcissist.

 

“Narcissistic people are always struggling with the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around them.”Unknown

 

These are valid questions worth exploring, because having or being a narcissistic parent can cause deep wounds that take a lifetime to heal.

Children of narcissists struggle with many issues, such as:

  • Being a people-pleaser
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Codependency
  • Difficulty expressing or handling emotions
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Low self esteem and trust issues

But to put things in perspective, keep in mind that narcissism runs on a spectrum, from healthy narcissism to malignant narcissism, and there’s a lot of gray in between.

Many people can have a narcissistic trait or two without actually being a “narcissistic mother”.

True narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or what you’d call malignant narcissism, affects only about 6% of the population.

To an outsider, a narcissistic mother can appear like a real go-getter!

Narcissists want so much to be admired that they often come across as super-women; running businesses, being leaders, laying on the charm… but behind the facade is an individual who has such a highly inflated view of themselves, they have little patience or empathy for anyone else, including their own children.

Are you or someone you know a narcissistic mother?

Here are 12 signs of a narcissistic parent. See if any apply to you, your partner, or maybe even your own parents.

 

1. Trying to control kids through codependency.

Do you ever say things like, “Don’t leave me. I need you. I can’t live without you…”?  

This is a way to keep your kids from living an independent life or setting any priorities ahead of you. It’s how a narcissist keeps family tied to them, and focused on catering to their needs.

 

2. Using the Silent Treatment.

If your kids don’t do what you want, do you pull away and hit them with a wall of silence?

A narcissistic mother can withdraw her love very easily. By resorting to tactics like the silent treatment, she’s letting her children know that they’ll only be shown love and affection when they PROVE they are worth it.

This type of conditional love is one of the hallmarks of a narcissist.

 

3. Getting Even.

When your child does something “wrong”, do you feel the need to “get even” and punish them?

For example, if your child were to break your favorite vase… would you then turn around and break something of theirs to show them “how it feels”?

Related: When You’re Co-Parenting With A Narcissist

 

4. Jealousy.

Have you ever felt jealous of your kids’ accomplishments?

If your child succeeds at something, do you try and minimize it?

Or if someone compliments your child, do you take credit for their achievements?  

Do you find yourself putting the spotlight back on you by saying things like, “She gets her talent from me. I was a great dancer back in the day.”

 

5. Guilt Trips.

Do you use guilt as a means to control your kids?

Do you find yourself saying things like, “I gave up a lot for you’”, “I do everything for you”, or “you should be more grateful”?

Making people feel indebted to you, like they “owe” you something as a way to get them to do what you want is a common narcissist’s trick.

 

6. Competition.

Do you ever compete with your kids? If they get something nice as a gift, do you feel the need to get yourself something better?

If your child is telling a story about how they made a goal, do you downplay it by telling everyone about that time you won the state championship?

A narcissistic mother can get caught up in trying to “one up” her child.

Related: 9 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid

 

7. Little To No Empathy.

Do you regularly ask your kids how they’re feeling? Do you actually listen to the answer?

Or do you tune the kids out, or maybe even make fun of them for being “too sensitive”?

Are you able to put yourself in your child’s shoes and see things from their perspective? Or do you only see how events impact you?

Narcissists are not able to sympathize with the feelings of others, even their own children.

 

narcissistic mother
Getty Images

 

8. Plays Favorites.

Do you have a favorite child? A narcissistic mother will often set up a dynamic where there’s one “golden” child and a “scapegoat” child.

In other words, you see one child as perfect and capable of doing no wrong. The other child is always screwing up and causing all kinds of issues.

If you often find yourself thinking or saying “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister”, or you notice that you’re always upset at one child and wanting to spend time with the other, this can  indicate narcissistic traits.

Keep in mind, the roles your kids play can change. One year Suzy may be the golden child, then she does something to disappoint you and suddenly Matt’s the golden child and Suzy is the one always causing problems.

 

9. Gaslighting.

Another trick narcissistic people use to manipulate others is a tactic called gaslighting. This is where you deliberately bend the truth to make another person question their own memory, perception, and even sanity.

 

“Some narcissistic people go so far as to believe their own lies.” – Unknown

 

If you find yourself in situations where you re-tell stories to make yourself look better, where friends and family are always confused and saying things like “I don’t remember it happening that way” or “that isn’t how it went down”, you might be guilty of gaslighting.

 

10. Reactionary.

Narcissists do not take criticism well. When your partner or one of your kids criticizes you, what’s your general reaction?  

Do you take it all in stride? Or do you find yourself having an immediate, visceral reaction?

If you tend to react in an extreme way; being overly defensive, yelling, punishing, etc. your behavior can indicate narcissism.

 

11. You’re Never Wrong.

When was the last time you felt like you were wrong? Be honest.

Do you take accountability for mistakes? Or is it always someone else who made you late, told you the wrong thing, didn’t do their job, etc.?

 

“There’s a reason narcissists don’t learn from mistakes and that’s because they never get past the first step which is admitting that they made one.” Jeffrey Kluger

 

Narcissists rarely admit they are wrong. Instead they blame their issues on the people around them.

And if they’re caught in a mistake, they tend to deny it or point the finger at someone else. They rarely take responsibility or apologize.

 

12. Different Public Vs. Private Personas.

Narcissists care very much about what other people think of them. If you go to great lengths to be sure the people around you see you as a “perfect family”, but drop the ruse when you walk through the front door, narcissism may be at play.

 

“Mom used to love dressing me up in fancy clothes when we went out, even though it wasn’t my style. I think she felt like when I received compliments for how I looked it made her look good too.” – Anonymous daughter of a narcissistic mother

 

Narcissists can be charming and all smiles when out in the world, then become emotionally closed-off, uninterested, and manipulative behind closed doors.

 

Breaking The Cycle Of Narcissism

Whether you’re the child of a narcissistic parent trying to heal old wounds, or someone who’s worried they might be a narcissistic mother, or BOTH; just recognizing and acknowledging the presence of narcissism in your parenting life is a good first step.

If you want to love your children for who THEY ARE and give them what THEY NEED without your own ego or past hurts getting in the way, then it’s time to start shifting your thinking from your feelings to theirs.

What is my child feeling right now? What do they need right now? How can I show up for them?

Not all self-involved mothers are true narcissists. Some might just have a few narcissistic tendencies, but their children will still be affected.

By coming to terms with your parents’ and your own shortcomings, you can improve your parenting skills and create a better relationship with your kids.

If narcissism affects your family, reach out and get a consultation with a quality therapist. Healing isn’t always easy, but it is possible…especially with a therapist guiding your path to recovery.

You can break the cycle of narcissism and become a more conscious, mindful parent who nurtures their kids and watches them grow into successful, happy adults.

For a more complete narcissism evaluation, you can take the full Narcissistic Personality Quiz at Psych Central.

 

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