10 Things Narcissistic Mothers Say and What They Really Mean

Last Updated on November 3, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester

Do you have a narcissistic mother? If you have one, let me first start by apologizing because, no child should be raised in such an unstable, and vicious household. And second, I’d like to reassure you that none of this is your fault. 

One evening you might be having a cozy night watching movies in front of the fire, eating popcorn and marshmallows snuggled up to your mother.

The next minute, you’re being pushed onto the floor in a flood of tears because you disagreed with something she said! Unfortunately, this is your reality, and it’s a torturous one.

Narcissistic mothers are inconsistent with their speech, they rarely ever mean what they say, and there’s always an underlying message encrypted in the conversations with their children.

There is a difference in the things Narcissistic Mothers say and what they actually mean. Let’s dig in.

10 Things Narcissistic Mothers Say to Their Daughters and Sons

Narcissistic mothers can say some terrible things to their children that can cause long-lasting psychological damage. Here are ten things narcissistic mothers say to their daughters and sons, and what they really mean:

#1 “You are wasting your time in that drama class, you need to study something a bit more academic if you are going to get anywhere in life.”

Narcissistic mothers want to control every aspect of their children’s lives. Not because they want what’s best for the child, but because they want to take the credit for any success that the child might have.

Wanting to become an actor/actress is a very ambitious goal. Most people don’t make it, and for those who do, it can take an exceptionally long time.

Things Narcissistic Mothers Say Quote 1

Therefore, narcissistic parents are less likely to encourage their children to move in this direction. But with an academic subject, their chances of success are higher.

The thought process behind this statement is, “You might not become a millionaire working as an accountant, but at least you won’t be waiting tables in Los Angeles embarrassing me by begging for acting gigs!

Reading Suggestion: Maintaining Low Contact With Your Narcissistic Mother

#2 “Now that you know how to behave, I feel comfortable referring to you as my favorite child again.” 

With a statement like this, she is reminding her child that her love is conditional.

In this way, he/she will do everything they can to remain the favorite, even though their efforts will fail. 

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#3 “Your school dance is next week isn’t it? Well, I’ve been invited to a real dance at a nightclub with my work colleagues.”

Narcissistic mothers compete with their children, as random as this statement might appear, it’s loaded with underlying messages.

What she’s really saying is, “Don’t get too big for your boots honey, because you’ll never reach my level.”

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#4 “Did you see how well Mary’s son performed at practice today?”

Such statements are made to shame their children into doing better. Narcissistic mothers are notorious for placing crippling expectations on their children.

Reading Suggestion: Effects of Narcissistic Mothers on their Daughters

They expect them to be the best at everything, and if they’re not, they make them feel stupid. One way of doing this is by playing the comparison game.

In other words, “Did you see how excellent Mary’s son was today? Well, that’s the standard I’m expecting from you next time.”

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#5 “There is nowhere else for you to go, you are going to need me for the rest of your life.” 

All parents know that their children will eventually grow up and leave home. But cutting the apron strings is not an option for the children with a narcissistic mother.

Her manipulative tactics are used to break her children down so much that they will always feel dependent on their mother.

What she’s really saying here is: “Yes, you can move out, buy your own house, get married and have your own children if you please, but I’m your mother, and I will always take first place in your life”.

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#6 “I won’t be able to make it, I’ve got a hairdresser’s appointment and I can’t cancel it.” 

Narcissistic mothers are often absent from their son/daughter’s milestone life events.

Not because they genuinely can’t make it, but because they are sending a clear message to their children that they are not important.

This is something a narcissistic mother will say to her child to excuse herself from a momentous event such as a graduation ceremony.

But in the same breath, she will tell her husband to lie to the people who matter so she doesn’t look bad. 

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#7 “Our mother and daughter bond is all we need, it’s me and you against the world”. 

You’ve got a new boyfriend that you haven’t told your mother about, but your behavior has changed so she knows.

You spend a lot of time on the phone, you make more of an effort with your appearance, and you go out more.

Reading Suggestion: Can a Narcissist Change?

There is an unspoken rule with narcissistic mothers that their children are not allowed to have relationships because they will lose their source of supply.

With a statement like this, your mother is indirectly trying to tell you that you don’t need a boyfriend because you’ve got her. 

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#8 “My friends are always telling me you’re a spoiled little brat, but I defend you.”

A narcissistic mother will label her children as spoiled if they dare to express their own opinion. You are not allowed to have independent thoughts, feelings, or ideas.

If they don’t line up with her wishes, you are being defiant. So to get you to conform to her will, she’ll involve other people and say they’ve said things they haven’t said.

Making it appear that your mother’s friends agree with her is like having reinforcers. They become the invisible bullies that assist in coercing you into submission. 

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#9 “Don’t try to manipulate me with your tears”. 

Saying something like this is how narcissistic mothers control the emotions of their children.

Accusing you of being manipulative because you’re crying is her way of saying that your feelings are irrelevant.

Now you know not to cry in front of your mother because you’ll be punished for having emotions. 

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#10  “The only reason why I shout at you like this is because you don’t know how to behave. 

Again, narcissistic mothers will say anything to control their children. The reality is that she really doesn’t want to shout at you. What she wants is for you to act like an obedient little puppy at all times.

She has extremely unrealistic expectations, and in her world, you should be able to read her mind and pander to her every need without her having to say anything.

But since you’re human and not a robot, it’s an impossible feat. 

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Why Narcissistic Mothers Say What They Say: Manipulation and Control

Narcissistic mothers have one aim, and that’s to manipulate and control their children.

They achieve this through what they say to them. Here are some reasons why narcissistic mothers say what they say:

#1 As a Form of Emotional Blackmail

A mother with narcissistic traits can be the best parent in the world as long as her children are obedient. She will shower them with love and attention as long as they are making her feel good.

But she has a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with her son/daughter, and the moment the mother is not getting her needs met by the child, she turns into a monster.

Reading Suggestion: How to deal with a Narcissistic Mother?

The child quickly learns his or her role in the relationship, but they are left in a constant state of confusion because of the mixed signals of approval and punishment. 

#2 A Lack of Emotional Connection and Empathy

It’s easy to point the finger at a mother who treats her children in this way. However, the reality of the situation is that it’s not her fault.

Yes, she is a fully grown adult and she should know the difference between right and wrong.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t, and that’s not because she chooses to, but because she was probably raised in a similar environment, and that’s all she knows.

Oprah Winfrey once made a very profound statement when being interviewed about her mother who abandoned her.

She said, “My mother loved me the best way she knew how.” In other words, you can’t give a person what you don’t have.

For this reason, narcissistic mothers struggle with developing an emotional connection and expressing empathy towards their children.

#3 To Take Credit For Their Children’s Success

One of the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder is that the individual needs constant praise. If they’re not getting it, they feel depleted and unworthy.

One way for a narcissistic mother to get the kind of attention she craves is through her children’s success.

For example, if the child receives recognition for outstanding athletic performance, she will say something like:

“I worked double shifts Monday through Saturday to make sure he had the best equipment for his training. Every Sunday, I’d wake up early, even though I was completely exhausted, to take him to his games and support him.”

The conversation then switches to what a wonderful mother she is, and how lucky he is to have such a self-sacrificing loving mom. 

#4 To Control Their Life Choices

Narcissistic mothers tell their children how they should behave, act, and what decisions they should make.

As a result, the children become lost in who they think they should be because they’ve never had the chance to explore who they truly are.

They are afraid of their children becoming independent because she loses her source of supply. Therefore, to enforce compliance, and to ensure the child remains as the mother desires, she says things like,

“Why can’t you do anything right?”

After her son gets a ‘B’ instead of an ‘A’ in his maths class. 

What do You Say to a Narcissistic Mother? How do You Respond

Being raised by a narcissistic mother is very distressing, and it will push your mental health to the limit.

If you’re over the age of 18, and you’ve saved enough money, I would suggest moving out as the first step. In this way, you can keep her at arm’s length without her causing too much disruption to your life.

May I add, even if you do move out, you will still have challenges because narcissists don’t give up that easily.

Reading Suggestion: How are sons of Narcissistic Mothers affected later in life?

But they’ll be nowhere near as bad as they were when you were living under the same roof as your mother.

Here are some tips on the best way to respond to a narc mother:

#1 Set Boundaries

A boundary is like an invisible line drawn between you and your family, friends and loved ones.

It says, “You can’t come any further than this point.” However, as you are well aware, narcissists are very difficult to deal with, and establishing boundaries isn’t going to be an easy task, but it’s possible.

With mentally stable people, you can just tell them what your boundaries are and they’ll respect them, you don’t have this privilege with a narcissist. Instead, you’ll need to show them. Here’s how:

1.1 What Are You Willing to Tolerate?

Everyone is entitled to accept or reject certain behavior from others. What’s good for the goose is not going to be good for the gander, and it’s up to you to make that choice.

For example, you can tolerate harmless banter, but sarcasm isn’t for you. You may be okay with the passionate expressions of opinions, but bullying and name-calling are unacceptable.

If you’re having a conversation with your mother, and she resorts to the latter, say something like,

“If you keep calling me names,  we’ll have to have this conversation another time.”

If she continues with her aggressive behavior, walk away, or hang up the phone. 

1.2 Don’t Explain, Defend, or Justify Yourself

The more information you give to narcissists, the easier it is for them to control you. One aspect of boundary setting is understanding that you have the right to decide what you share with others.

Regardless of the fact that she’s your mother, you don’t need to justify your actions, thoughts, or feelings to her. Quite frankly, it’s none of her business.

If she comes at you with a negative remark, respond with something like: “I respect your opinion, and I’ll give it some thought.” Knowing full well that it went in one ear and out of the next.

If your mother demands an explanation, say, “It’s personal, and I’d rather not talk about it right now.”

Again, knowing full well that you’re never going to talk about it, but it will deescalate the situation and get her to leave you alone. 

1.3 Walk Away From The Situation

You don’t need anyone’s permission to remove yourself from a toxic and unhealthy interaction.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re no longer a child, which means your mother has no right to determine what’s healthy for you, that’s your choice.

When things start getting uncomfortable, look at your watch and saying,

“Sorry, I’ve got to leave, I have a meeting at 4 pm. We’ll finish this conversation another time.”

You could also pretend as if you’ve got to make an important phone call. The bottom line is whatever you need to do to get out of the situation, do it. 

1.4 Play the Sidestepping Game

If you’re not sure how to play the sidestepping game, watch a few politicians in action.

During interviews, when they don’t want to answer intrusive questions, they’ll skillfully maneuver around them by answering a question they would have preferred the journalist asked that would help promote their agenda.

In other words, they change the subject. You can use the same strategy with your narcissistic mother by gracefully changing the subject.

Reading Suggestion: 21 Signs of a Narcissistic Mother

One of the most effective ways to do this is to get her to talk about herself because narcissists love it when the spotlight is on them. 

1.5 Call Her Out

Now, this one is risky, because she might go on a verbal rampage. But since you’ve probably heard it all before, you’ve really got nothing to lose. Narcissists always test their victims to see what they can get away with.

They do this because they’re desperate for approval and attention to mask their feelings of unworthiness and emptiness.

However, narcissists don’t like strong-willed people who are not going to put up with their nonsense. One of the requirements for narcissistic supply is a weak-minded victim.

When you start naming your mother’s behavior, it will strike an uncomfortable chord within her which may trigger narcissistic rage (I’ll get into this shortly, but eventually, when she realizes that she can no longer bully you, she’ll look for someone else to pick on.

Calling her out might look like this, “Are you trying to hurt my feelings, or belittle me?” Or, “I’ve noticed that when I start talking about what’s going on with me, you shut me down and direct the conversation towards yourself.” Say it with confidence, and in such a matter-of-fact way that it shocks her into silence. 

1.6 Enforce the Consequences

Setting boundaries involves knowing what consequences you’re going to enforce if your boundaries are violated.

Thinking about what consequences to enforce after the violation has occurred won’t work.

You need to make up your mind about them beforehand so that when your mother ignores the boundary (which she will), you can enforce the consequence immediately.

If not, your mother will continue to think that she can walk all over you. 

#2 Don’t Argue Back – Ever!

Narcissists get their fix from negative energy; they love gaslighting, manipulating, insulting, humiliating, and criticizing others. Narcissists take advantage of people who are emotionally, and mentally vulnerable.

The narcissist will break you down further when they see you’ve got a fragile state of mind.

Since your mother created you physically and mentally, she’s fully aware that you are weak, she loves the fact that she can control you and drive the conversation in the direction that she desires.

There is absolutely no point in trying to argue with your narcissistic mother, here’s why:


2.1 She Lacks Empathy

No matter how hard you try to get her to see things from your point of view, she never will. Not only does she lack empathy, which means she is incapable of understanding how you feel.

According to relationship consultant Carrie Wynn, narcissists don’t care about your point of view, and so they won’t even bother trying to understand it.

It’s in your own best interests not to engage in a heated discussion with a narcissist because you’ll walk away feeling depleted, and emotionally exhausted. 


2.2 Narcissists Are Difficult to Communicate With

Don’t underestimate the power of a narcissist, they are masters at deception and hate to lose. Therefore, your mother will use every trick in the book to avoid communicating with you.

She will do things like dominating the conversation by talking in circles and saying things that don’t make any sense. She will change the subject completely and use projection to make you feel guilty.

In most cases, you won’t notice the conversation has changed until you realize you’ve taken the bait and you’re now discussing something that’s completely unrelated.

This strategy is used to confuse and derail you so that you become so frustrated you end the argument by agreeing, and your narcissistic mother will feel like she’s won. 

2.3 She Will Stonewall You

Have you ever tried speaking to a brick wall? Probably not, but you’d imagine that it was impossible considering the fact that it’s a piece of material devoid of the ability to communicate.

Well, arguing with a narcissist can be like speaking to a brick wall when they decide to stonewall you. This tactic involves refusing to listen or cooperate with you.

Your mother might walk out of the room, or hang the phone up, and then freeze you out for days. If you live in the same house as her, she’ll literally act as if you’re not there.

You’ll knock on her door, she won’t answer, you’ll see her in the kitchen and ask if you can talk, and she’ll act as if she hasn’t heard a word you’ve said.

You’ll call her back to back, and she won’t answer the phone. When your mother starts acting like this, just know you’ve been stonewalled! 

2.4 Narcissists Don’t Take Responsibility For Their Actions

Most arguments are about trying to determine who is at fault. Two rational people having this type of debate can typically come to an amicable compromise, and admit the role they’ve both played in the situation.

You won’t get this from a narcissist because they believe they’re always in the right. If you even so much as attempt to insinuate that your mother is to blame, she’ll play the deflection game, and narcissists are masters at this.

You may have caught her in the most blatant of lies, but she’ll deny it until hell freezes over.

Narcissists do this to irritate you, confuse the situation, and cause overwhelm because when you feel like this, you’ll eventually surrender. 


2.5 Narcissists Are Bullies

Your mother will do everything in her power to intimidate and bully you. It is impossible to win an argument with a narcissist because they don’t fight fair.

She’ll pull out every weapon in her arsenal to shut you down. She’ll call you names, bring up your past, and may even start a physical fight. Any form of self-defense from you will lead to emotional abuse in the form of accusations of being too sensitive. 


2.6 You Are Fighting an Illogical Argument

Narcissists are the most illogical people you’ll ever meet. Nothing they say or do makes any sense. To them it makes perfect sense, but to the outsider looking in, it’s complete foolishness.

Case in point…you walk in on your mother stealing from your purse. You actually see her taking the money out of your bag and putting it into her pocket.

She will argue tooth and nail that you were seeing things, and that she was just moving your bag because it was in her way.

Why are you going to waste your time arguing with someone who is determined to convince you that you’re the crazy one because you’re seeing something that didn’t happen? 

#3 Don’t Try to Heal or Fix Her

You will get to the point where you desperately want to change your mother. Not only do you want her to be happy, but you want the same loving, caring, mother your friends seem to have been blessed with.

It’s very noble of you to want to change your mother, but the reality is that there is a possibility that she’ll never change.

3.1 Therapy

According to psychologist Mark Ettensohn, as with all personality disorders, the journey to healing is a difficult one.

Your mother will need therapy with a qualified mental health professional to help her understand how her upbringing and life experiences have contributed to her disorder. 

In terms of the empathy deficit, studies have found that narcissists do have the ability to see and feel things from another person’s perspective, but it will take time.

3.2 Their Own Narcissism

Additionally, the narcissist’s greatest barrier to healing is their own narcissism.

As the old adage goes, “Admittance is the first step to cure.” Unfortunately, it is very rare for a narcissist to look within, evaluate their life, and come to the conclusion that they need help.

Finally, even if they do make it into a therapist’s office, it will be a mammoth task to keep them there because of their strong desire for instant gratification. Your mother will find it difficult to put in the work required to change. 

3.3 Narcissistic Rage

Don’t ever make the mistake of recommending therapy to your mother, this will infuriate her, and trigger narcissistic rage.

Narcissistic rage happens when they feel that their self-worth or self-esteem has been injured.

Despite their show of confidence, narcissistic people are terribly insecure, and they live carefully constructed lives to ensure that their true selves are never revealed.

By telling your mother you think she needs therapy, you are basically saying that you can see through her act, and that is her worst fear.

Even though you’re trying to help her, her reaction to this will be narcissistic rage. This rage could manifest as yelling and screaming, or passive-aggressive avoidance and selective silence.

Instead of expending all your energy trying to heal or fix her, send good thoughts her way, pray that she’ll one day get sick and tired of carrying the burden of narcissism.

But don’t attempt to remove that burden from her yourself. 

Final Thought

As difficult as it is being raised by a narcissistic mother, you can’t allow it to define you. Your mother may never know the meaning of true love because she’s never experienced it.

So instead of expecting her to give it to you, give it to yourself. The voice that will have the most impact in your life is yours, so shut out hers, and tune into the power of your inner consciousness.

Get into the habit of speaking kindly to yourself daily. Regardless of what you’ve heard all your life, you are worthy, magnificent, and you were born for a purpose. Now let that sink in! 

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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

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