How Narcissists Treat Their Mothers, Brothers, & Sisters?

Uncover the typical and complex ways narcissists treat their family members and other close relationships.

Narcissists, often demanding and cruel, view family members as extensions of themselves, and the issue begins here.

This self-centered outlook makes them expect their family to stay exclusively focused on the narcissist’s needs.

As a result, narcissistic children disrupt family dynamics with their harmful behavior, like manipulation, abuse, and emotional drama.

In everyday usage, a narcissist is someone who is arrogant and selfish. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a diagnosed condition characterized by a persistent pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, often masking a fragile sense of self-worth.

Let’s explore this complex relationship between a narcissist and his/her mom.

How Do Narcissists Treat Their Mothers?

A narcissist’s first victim is often their empathetic mother.

Narcissists, especially narcissistic men, often have an over-dominant effect on their mothers.

They will demand their mothers to give them constant praise, gratitude, and compliments. And their mother will give in to them unless they are mothers with narcissism themselves.

how narcissists treat their mothers

Here are the nine main ways a narcissist’s traits manifest in their relationship with their mother:

  1. Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance: Narcissists treat their mothers as extensions of themselves, expecting them to cater to their grandiose sense of self-importance, often forcing them to become their enablers. And they will expect her to know that she is not important enough to be reciprocated with kindness or empathy.
  2. Preoccupation with Fantasies: Their preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love can make them dismiss or belittle their mothers for not “understanding their lofty ambitions.”
  3. Belief in Being ‘Special’: This can cause them to distance their mothers, since they believe they are ‘special” and unique and can only be understood by, and should relate only with, other special, high-status people (which their mother is not).
  4. Constant Demand for Admiration: Narcissists demand constant admiration from their mothers, reacting negatively if she does not provide them with it.
  5. Sense of Entitlement: Their high sense of entitlement makes them have unreasonable expectations of their mothers. They demand favorable treatment and compliance, even when she has other people to attend to. In many households, the narcissist child often transforms their mother into a slave, catering to their every whim, and trying to keep them pleased. They expect their mother to automatically ignore or forgive all their tantrums, belittling, and insults.
  6. Exploitative Nature: Narcissists will exploit their mothers, taking advantage of them to benefit themselves without any consideration. They often seize their mother’s money, without her consent, using anger or manipulation. This may leave her insecure and dependent on others. Ironically, the narcissist will shame her when she asks others to buy the necessary things that she cannot afford.
  7. Lack of Empathy: The narcissist will deliberately fail to recognize or identify with their mother’s feelings and needs, displaying a total lack of empathy.
  8. Overpowering Envy of Others: Narcissists may project their overpowering envy onto their mothers. They often believe that their mother envies them, while secretly wishing that the narcissist loses his/her accomplishments and possessions.
  9. Oppressive Sense of Arrogance: Narcissists, especially grandiose narcissists, have an oppressive sense of arrogance. Their mothers are soft targets for practicing their haughty and patronizing behaviors and attitudes.

The narcissist may grow up having these feelings about the role their mother played in their life: confused and angry, spoiled by love and support, or neglected and abused.

When Your Adult Child is the Narcissist

That said, not all narcissists have a negative relationship with their mothers. But for those who do, it can have a deep impact on their mental health and their relationships with other women.

A narcissist’s mother is often the “enabler” (find details on this in the FAQs section below), which can influence the narcissist’s behavior and attitudes toward other women.

Therapy and support can help people with NPD better understand their relationship with their mother and work towards healthier control over their narcissistic instincts.

This paper proposes an opposite stand on gender neutrality of the narcissistic personality. Ilene Philipson (1985) argues that narcissism, both as a personality type and a pathological disorder, is primarily experienced by men.

How Does A Narcissist Manipulate Their Mother?

All love is conditional for a narcissist, even their mother’s love.

Narcissists tend to see their parents as extensions of themselves rather than as separate individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, and needs.

So, they will have unrealistic expectations from their parents, expecting them to always be available and cater to their needs, even if it means neglecting their own.

This creates a strained relationship between the two, leaving the mother feeling unappreciated and undervalued.

Moreover, narcissists can only love conditionally. They believe that people give love because they want something back, not just love.

They feel the same about their parents — that they give the narcissist love only because they meet their expectations.

How does the narcissist feel? They almost feel they have a right to treat their parents in a manipulative, controlling, and exploitative way.

Narcissists use these tactics to manipulate their mothers to get what they want:

1. Emotional Exploitation:

  • Narcissists exploit their parents for financial support, emotional validation, or other resources.
  • They disregard the impact their behaviors may have on their parents’ well-being.
  • They may use emotional blackmail to get parents to do what they want.

2. Planting Guilt or Shame:

  • They may use lies and fabricate fake stories to control their parents.
  • They make parents feel responsible for the narcissist’s problems or failures.

3. Controlling Actions & Choices:

  • Narcissists may dictate their parents’ behavior and choices.
  • They insist that parents follow their rules or conform to their idea of right or wrong.

4. Gaslighting:

5. Triangulation:

  • Narcissistic triangulation involves bringing a third party into the relationship to create tension.
  • They may talk negatively about their mother to others, causing a divide in the family.

6. Blame-Shifting:

  • Narcissists avoid responsibility by blaming their mothers for their mistakes or shortcomings.
  • This makes the mother feel guilty and responsible for their problems.

7. Dictating & Aggressive Behavior:

  • Narcissists may try to control their parents by dictating their behavior and choices.
  • They may insist that parents follow their rules or conform to the narcissist’s idea of right or wrong.

Overall, narcissistic behavior towards parents can be damaging and hurtful. It can strain the relationship between parent and child, and lead to feelings of resentment, anger, and frustration.

How Does Narcissism Affect A Narcissist’s Relationships?

Some ways that a narcissist struggles in their relationships:

  1. Struggle with Empathy: Narcissists often find it hard to understand and express love and compassion, even towards close family members like their mother.
  2. Difficulty in Maintaining Healthy Relationships: Unrealistic expectations and constant demands for admiration can lead to short-lived relationships and a lack of genuine connection with others, including romantic partners.
  3. Development of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): Research indicates that NPD often stems from adverse childhood experiences, such as a lack of emotional support or an overemphasis on achievement.
  4. Grandiose Self-Image: Narcissists may develop a belief that they are superior to others, leading to entitlement and special treatment expectations.
  5. Impact on Family Dynamics: Narcissistic behavior can strain relationships within the family, especially between the narcissist and their mother, leading to dysfunction.
  6. Emotional Abuse Towards the Mother: Lack of empathy may lead narcissists to manipulate or exploit their mother’s emotions, causing hurt and confusion.
  7. Effects on Other Family Members: The narcissist’s behavior can create tension within the family, such as showing favoritism or using emotional manipulation to control children.
  8. Varied Impact: While not all narcissists exhibit abusive behavior, the influence of narcissistic traits on family dynamics can be significant, even without outright abuse.

How Narcissists Treat Their Brothers & Sisters?

Narcissistic individuals often have complex relationships with their siblings.

  1. Competition and Resentment: Narcissists often see their siblings as rivals for attention and resources, leading to jealousy and efforts to undermine or belittle their siblings’ achievements.
  2. Enabling Behavior by Family Members: The dynamics between narcissists and their siblings can be influenced by other family members, such as a codependent parent favoring the narcissistic child, causing neglect and resentment among the other siblings.
  3. Negative Outcomes for Siblings: Siblings of narcissistic individuals may suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
  4. Coping Strategies: Some siblings may develop ways to deal with their narcissistic sibling’s extreme rivalry, creating conflicts and relationship breaks.
  5. Complex and Challenging Relationships: Narcissists treat their siblings in a way that they would treat any other person, using them, taking from them, and insulting them, affecting the mental well-being of everyone in the family.

Seeking support and resources is vital for those dealing with these dynamics to navigate the complex relationships with a narcissistic sibling.

How Does A Narcissist’s Relationship With Their Mother Shape Their Behavior?

  1. Need for Attention: The adult narcissist may have grown up feeling the need to be the center of attention for validation. The mother’s availability was often conditional, based on the child’s behavior.
  2. Concessions to Keep Peace: The narcissist might have learned to suppress true feelings or desires to avoid conflict with their mother. This pattern may become so ingrained that they continue it unconsciously as an adult.
  3. Moments of Introspection: Despite these patterns, the adult narcissist may have moments of calm and introspection. They may recognize how their relationship with their mother has shaped their behavior.
  4. Potential for Growth: In recognizing these patterns, the adult narcissist may take steps to break free from old habits and develop healthier relationships with others.
  5. Influence on Other Relationships: The dynamics of the relationship with their mother may extend to how the adult narcissist interacts with others. The patterns learned in childhood, such as seeking attention or suppressing feelings, may be replicated in other relationships, leading to similar challenges and conflicts.

FAQs

  1. What does it mean to be a narcissist’s “enabler”?

    In the context of narcissism, an “enabler” refers to a person who indirectly allows or supports the narcissist’s toxic behavior, often without intending to do so.

    Narcissists often view their mothers (or other close family members) as extensions of themselves. This means they expect their mothers to reflect and support their grandiose sense of self-importance, aligning with their exaggerated self-image and desires.

    When the mother (or another family member) complies with these expectations, even if it’s out of love, fear, or a sense of obligation, she becomes an “enabler.” This means she is indirectly supporting or facilitating the narcissist’s behavior by not challenging or confronting it.

    The enabler-mother might continually praise the child, fulfill unreasonable demands, or overlook disrespectful behavior. This reinforcement can further entrench the narcissist’s beliefs and behaviors, making it more challenging to address or correct them in the long run.

  2. What are the characteristics of an adolescent narcissist?

    During adolescence, narcissistic tendencies become more pronounced. Narcissists often have a grandiose self-image, leading to entitlement and a lack of empathy, particularly towards parents. They may view parents as objects for their benefit and engage in manipulative behaviors like guilt-tripping or gaslighting.

    Feelings of insecurity and anxiety might be masked with a facade of confidence. They often struggle with forming stable relationships, tending towards shallow connections.

    While some may struggle with academics due to a sense of superiority, it’s not a direct correlation, and not all narcissistic adolescents face academic challenges.

  3. How do narcissists typically view their mothers?

    Narcissists often view their mothers as objects to be used for their own benefit, seeing them as extensions of themselves rather than individuals with unique needs and desires.

    This perspective reflects the narcissist’s inflated sense of self-importance and need for praise, as well as their fragile self-esteem that can be easily threatened by criticism or rejection.

    The narcissist’s relationship with their mother can be complex, with mothers either idealized or devalued. If the mother provides admiration and attention, the narcissist may idealize her, putting her on a pedestal.

    However, if the mother fails to meet the narcissist’s needs, she may be devalued and treated with contempt.

  4. Why does a narcissist need the approval of others?

    A narcissist’s need for approval and admiration from others, including their mothers, stems from deep-seated insecurity and fragile self-esteem. They seek validation and attention to bolster their self-image, often feeling entitled to special treatment and constant praise.

    However, this need is often insatiable, leading to demanding and critical behavior, especially towards their mothers. The mother may become a source of narcissistic supply, providing the attention and validation craved.

    This constant need for approval can be exhausting for those around the narcissist and reflects their underlying emotional vulnerability.

  5. Why does the narcissist feel superior to others?

    The narcissist’s feeling of superiority often stems from a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement. It is rooted in their belief that they are special and unique, and deserving of special treatment and recognition. It can manifest in various ways, such as an insatiable need for attention or a disregard for others’ feelings and needs.

    Some have linked this sense of superiority to the narcissist’s relationship with their mother. The mother may have either reinforced the belief of being special or been critical, leading to a compensatory sense of entitlement.

    Regardless of the cause, this feeling of superiority affects a narcissist’s relationships, making them overly critical or dismissive of others, and reactive when their sense of superiority is challenged.

  6. How do narcissists react to criticism?

    Narcissists generally react poorly to criticism, particularly from close relationships like their mothers.

    This reaction can include defensiveness, anger, or hostility, stemming from a fragile sense of self-esteem and sensitivity to perceived threats to their self-image.

    Criticism seems to trigger feelings of inadequacy in the narcissist, leading to negative behaviors like lashing out, blaming others, or withdrawing.

    Narcissists often struggle to accept responsibility, attempting to shift blame instead. Their reactions to criticism can vary, with some being more open to feedback, while others resist any form of criticism or self-improvement.

    The underlying issue is a complex interplay of self-perception, emotional response, and relationship dynamics.

  7. How do narcissists view love?

    Narcissists often view love through a distorted lens, particularly in their relationship with their mother. Their expression of love may seem genuine but is often self-serving, aimed at gaining something they want or need.

    They tend to idealize their mother, placing her on a pedestal and expecting her to meet unrealistic standards, leading to anger or resentment if she falls short.

    Their expression of love may include manipulative behaviors like showering gifts or compliments to gain favor or using their mother as a source of validation.

    Due to their limited capacity for empathy, narcissists may struggle to understand or relate to their mother’s emotions, making it challenging to express genuine love or affection.

    Their perception of love is often tied to their own needs and self-esteem, rather than a true understanding of their mother’s needs and emotions.

  8. How do narcissists fare in society?

    Narcissists, characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy, navigate society in unique ways.

    In friendships, they often have limited close connections, viewing relationships mainly as a means to boost their self-esteem or gain benefits.

    Romantic relationships may be challenging, as they often view partners as extensions of themselves and may struggle with long-term commitment.

    In the workplace, they may be drawn to positions of power but find collaboration difficult due to their self-centered tendencies.

    Even in entertainment preferences, they may favor themes that reflect their grandiose view of themselves.

  9. How does narcissism affect mental health?

    Narcissism can greatly impact mental health, creating challenges both for the narcissist and those around them. Their excessive self-importance and lack of empathic concern can lead to strained relationships, as narcissists may prioritize their own needs over others.

    Narcissism has been linked to various mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and certain personality disorders like borderline and antisocial personality disorder. Their struggle to form meaningful connections and empathize with others can lead to isolation and loneliness.

    Despite their outward confidence, narcissists have feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. This creates a cycle of seeking validation and attention, which can cause an unsatisfied life.

  10. What is “The Narcissist’s Unheard Voice”?

    “The Narcissist’s Unheard Voice” is a concept that describes the feelings of being overlooked and unacknowledged by their mothers, often experienced by narcissists. This sense of neglect can lead them to develop a strong sense of entitlement and a craving for attention and validation from others. The resulting feelings of anger and resentment may further complicate their relationships, especially with their mothers, and can manifest in a demanding and sometimes cruel attitude.

Final Words

The very definition of narcissism reveals the problematic behaviors of narcissists: blaming, manipulation, nullification, and self-sufficiency to hide one’s own low self-esteem.

Parents must not hesitate to seek professional help to deal with their problematic child to protect their own well-being and build a healthy relationship with their child.

It just doesn’t help the child if the parent victim of a narcissistic child keeps defending or punishing their misbehavior.

The child must learn how to stand up for themselves without hurting other people’s feelings and emotions.


Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher.

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