Have you ever heard of narcissistic parenting? Can you imagine a parent with a narcissistic personality disorder?
The word ‘narcissism’ is becoming quite a household term these days, and at times it can be used as an explanation for anything from selfishness to a temper outburst. Indeed, there is a broad spectrum of ways that narcissism can manifest along a continuum from healthy to malignant.
Healthy narcissism means having realistic self-esteem, while malignant narcissism refers to extreme self-centeredness with a very fragile, insecure sense of self and an inability to form healthy relationships. This kind of malignant narcissism has a particularly devastating effect when it is present in a parenting situation.
This article will explore some of the signs of a narcissistic parent, how the traits of a narcissist can affect their children, and how to deal with narcissistic parents, because dealing with narcissistic parents ain’t no child’s play!
What are the traits of narcissistic parents?
When a parent is narcissistic, everything is always about them, and they use their children to fulfill their dreams and desires.
An example of this would be the narcissistic father who insists that his son become a doctor, regardless of whether the son’s interests and abilities coincide with this career choice.
These narcissistic father traits are commonly prevalent, but we tend to overlook them, thinking that these traits are too common!
2. Jealousy and possessiveness
The narcissistic parent hopes and aims at keeping their offspring under their thumb forever.
So, as soon as the child begins to show maturity or individuation, making their own choices and preferences known, the parent can become furious and indignant, taking it as a personal affront and a threat.
3. Lack of empathy
Narcissists have a serious inability to take into account the thoughts and feelings of others, including their children. To them, the only thing that matters is their views and perceptions. These are the typical signs of narcissistic parenting.
Children living with narcissistic parents who experience this kind of invalidation over time often develop a false mask to accommodate the parent, or they distance themselves from their parent, while some may try to fight back.
4. Dependency and codependency
Narcissistic parenting often involves fostering a codependent relationship with the children to the extent that the parents expect the child to take care of them for the rest of their lives.
These can be typically observed as narcissistic mother traits, and children might simply tag their mother as ‘over-protective’ or ‘ possessive.’
This often involves considerable expense and personal sacrifice on the part of the child, of which the narcissist may seem completely oblivious.
You may wonder why a narcissistic parent rejects their child?
But, the narcissistic parent is a master at manipulation through punishment, threats, and withholding love in order to force compliance. They will often place false guilt on a child, as well as blaming, shaming, and exerting unreasonable pressure to perform.
Unfavorable comparisons (“why can’t you be as good as your sibling?”) and emotional coercion (“if you are a good son or daughter you will do this or that for me”) are also common tactics of narcissistic parenting.
6. Scapegoating and favoritism
When there is more than one child in the family, the narcissistic parent will often target one of them as the “golden child” who is groomed to pander to the needs and ego of the narcissist.
In narcissistic parenting, one of the other children becomes the ‘scapegoat’ who gets blamed for everything. In this way, siblings are pitted against each other, causing further havoc and chaos in this already disturbed home.
The parent who is a narcissist may choose to pursue his or her interests rather than facing the everyday demands of being a parent. They can also be workaholics. This neglectful attitude leaves the child mostly with the other parent or alone and mainly fending for themselves.
How are children affected when a narcissistic parent raises them?
They are not loved for who they are
The selfishness of narcissistic parenting does not allow the parents to see the child as they are- loveable, precious, and valued in their own right.
Instead, they are only appreciated to the extent that they meet and pander to the needs of the parent.
Siblings are pitted against one another
A certain amount of sibling rivalry is reasonable in any family, but where there is narcissistic parenting involved, this rivalry reaches dangerous levels. This is often a deliberate triangulation tactic of the narcissist to serve their own selfish needs.
The child’s needs are ignored, suppressed, or ridiculed
When the child of narcissistic parents tries to express their own needs and desires, which may differ from the parent’s, they are often put down and shamed, being made to feel that their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are invalid and worthless.
The child can feel like a partner rather than a child
In some situations, narcissistic parenting entails venting and confiding in the child, and the child is expected to comfort and meet the parent’s emotional needs.
This reversal of roles places the child in the awkward position of feeling more like a partner or confidant than a child.
The child struggles to identify their wants, needs, and goals
When the child becomes so used to meeting the narcissistic parent’s needs, deferring to all their decisions, and always agreeing with their plans and opinions, they can reach the point of no longer being aware of their thoughts and feelings.
When they are asked to give an opinion or express a desire, they may be hesitant, fearful, and undecided, weighing up what is the ‘right’ answer that is expected of them.
Watch this ted talk to get more insights into narcissistic parenting:
How can you overcome the effects of narcissistic parenting?
Information and understanding bring healing
Find out as much as you can about narcissism, and begin to understand what happened to you if a narcissistic parent raised you. Let the truth sink in and take comfort in knowing that many others have felt the same pain. You are not alone.
A grieving process is necessary
If one or both of your parents were narcissistic, you would need to grieve the loss of the parent you never had. For some time, it’s important to grieve the fact that you did not receive the nurturing love that you needed as a child.
When you can accept your losses and let go of any fantasies that the narcissist may one day genuinely love you, then you can be ready to move on with your life.
Boundaries need to be established
In your recovery from the effects of narcissistic parenting, you must develop your limits, which will distinguish you from your parents.
They will likely not take this well, but if you want to be free, you will need to persevere through the tantrums and manipulation until you are free to be who you were meant to be.
Set a limit on the time you spend with toxic people and surround yourself with healthy friends who will love and accept you as you are.
The meaning of true love must be learned
As you move away from the unhealthy influence of narcissistic parenting, you will likely experience healing taking place over time.
Then you will be able to appreciate and learn that you are indeed loveable– that you do not have to be continually performing or achieving something in order to prove your worth. You are loveable simply because you are a precious and valuable human soul.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.