Korean mothers are renowned for their strict discipline and the relentless way they drive their children to succeed. Many children report long term trauma because of this “helicopter parenting” style. But, how do you know if you Korean mother is actually a narcissist, and what do you do about it?
Is Your Helicopter Mother a Narcissist?
Narcissist mothers have particular traits that set them apart from other parents:
- Narcissistic mothers are never wrong
- Narcissistic mothers see their children’s accomplishments as a personal success
- Narcissistic mothers are competitive with their children (“When I was your age…”)
- Narcissistic mothers are emotionally unavailable
However, the most important factor in narcissistic personality disorder is that a narcissist has developed a poor sense of self esteem. True narcissists only feel valuable when other people see them as such.
Another good sign of narcissism is the use of triangulation in Narcissistic Families.
Unfortunately, narcissism is thought to be developed as a child either due to overly strict (or overly lax) parenting. For more details on where narcissism comes from see: “Why Some People are Narcissists | How One Gets a Narcissistic Personality”
What Happens to Children of Narcissistic Korean Mothers
Children of narcissists are more likely to develop narcissism themselves. Additionally, as a parent the children of narcissists are likely to emulate their parent’s — and especially their mother’s — behavior, making their own children more like to be narcissists.
For this reason, narcissism tends to run in families.
Helicopter parenting, which isn’t necessarily only associated with narcissism, also has a lasting effect. Research shows Korean helicopter parents cause depressive symptoms due to higher levels of parental career expectations. However, this effects are not all bad, and some Korean children report higher levels of satisfaction and social adjustment as well.
Are Korean Mothers More Likely to be Narcissists?
While I have not found definitive research to support the prevalence of narcissism in Korean mothers vs the rest of the world, there is some evidence to support the fact that Koreans in general are less likely to be narcissists than in Western countries.
Research shows investment in social roles decreases prevalence of narcissism and other personality disorders. The prevalence and effectiveness of Korean advertising that promotes products based on their utility in fulfilling social roles seems to indicate Koreans, on average, hold their social responsibilities in higher regard than similar age groups in Western countries, who tend to respond to more individualistic messages.
So, while Korean mothers may be less narcissistic than average, Korean customs define proper roles for parents and children in a way the tends to engender narcissist like behavior out of mothers who are acting to fulfill their social obligations rather than from selfish desire.
What Causes Asian Parents to Seem Narcissistic
Several elements of traditional East Asian culture, and Korean culture in particular, seem to be most responsible for narcissist like behavior in mothers.
Demand for Filial Piety
Korean children must respect and love their parents, no matter what their parents do. This type of unconditional respect is something that a narcissist dreams of, and will be demanded in a narcissistic household as well as a traditionally Asian one.
Children’s Obligation to Support Their Parents
In traditional Asian cultures, children are their parent’s retirement plans. This means:
- It is expected for parents to demand their children succeed financially
- A child success is their parent’s success, creating a selfish motivation
Where a narcissist wants their children to do well to make the parent look good, Korean parents have a similar motivation because they will depend on their children in their old age. Dissecting the root motivation from almost identical behavior is very difficult to do, and makes all Korean parents seem narcissistic.
Shame Based Discipline vs Guilt Based
It is said that Asian cultures motive children mostly through shame, where Western cultures tend more towards guilt. The difference is that you are only shamed if people catch you, but you are guilty no matter what.
This leads to Korean parents teaching their children to be more conscious of perception when compared to Western children. Again, because narcissistic parents are also extremely conscious of perception due to their own developmental deficiencies, it can be hard to tell between traditional Asian culture and narcissism.
A Pragmatic Sense of Morality
Similarly, Korean culture tends to put less value on morality for the sake of morality. Rather, whatever succeeds is right and failure is wrong. A type of relative vs absolute morality.
While not intrinsically wrong, it does open the door to narcissist like behaviors such as:
- Lying or exaggeration
- Projection of faults on to other people
- Spreading rumors
Respect for Those in Power
Another hallmark of Korean culture than mimics narcissism is a profound respect for people and institutions of power.
There is a general attitude of appeasement and the feeling that, “It can’t be helped,” in the face of authority figures. In particular, in the face of family and parents.
Because narcissist also seek to manipulate and eventually dominate their children, so that everything the parent’s do is right, inevitable, and unquestionable, both causes lead to a very similar result.
How to Deal with Narcissistic Mothers
I recommend a five step plan when dealing with a narcissistic mother. Although this is applicable to victims of similarly destructive parenting from non-narcissistic helicopter parents.
- Seek out help and support from knowledgeable coaches or therapists
- Identify how narcissism (or helicopter parenting) affected you
- Practice techniques to reform your personality and fill emotional deficiencies
- Set proper boundaries with your parents
- Learn when and how to separate yourself from their manipulation and abuse
I provide additional resources for victims of narcissistic mothers here:
- Help! My Mother is a Narcissist | Surviving a Narcissistic Caregiver
- Narcissistic Family Structures | Identifying and Overcoming Toxic Families
Getting Help with a Narcissist Korean Mother
Dealing with childhood trauma due to narcissistic mothers or helicopter parenting is extremely difficult alone, because you don’t know what is “normal” in a healthy parent child relationship. For this reason, I recommend those who were victims as a child seek out professional help to overcome their individual trauma.
For victims of narcissistic Korean mothers, I offer individual coaching, as well as recommend a number of trainings, courses, and books to help you through your journey: