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A narcissistic parent can cause lots of problems for a child. Here are some tips on how to stop them.

How to Recognize a Narcissistic Parent


It’s normal for a parent to show off their children or have high expectations of them at times so that they can be proud of them in the future. What isn’t normal is when this desire saps away the independence of the child. That’s the main distinguishing factor between ordinary and narcissistic parents.

Narcissistic parents perceive the independence of their child, even when they’re an adult, as being a threat. This drives them to contain their offspring within their shadow by placing unreasonable expectations upon them. It can also manifest through unhealthy competition with the child or living vicariously through their experiences and accomplishments. A narcissistic parent’s child exists to serve their selfish interests and not much else.

If you or someone you know have a custody battle against a narcissist, there are ways you can defend the child.

1: Living Through Their Child

Everybody knows what this looks like, whether you’ve seen it in your personal life or on reality TV shows. Having and raising a child is a significant investment and, while ordinary parents create a nurturing atmosphere for their child to grow and succeed, narcissistic parents want to benefit from that child’s existence in some way.

2: Marginalizing The Child

If the narcissistic parent has had their fair share of broken dreams growing up, there’s every chance that they’ll instead seek to limit their child’s potential for success. This is because the success of the child is seen as a challenge to the parent’s self-esteem, a success where the parent had previously failed.

The parent will put the child down so that they can justify a sense of superiority over them. This can manifest as the following behaviors:

  • Making unreasonable criticisms of the child and their successes, A.K.A nitpicking.
  • Making unfavorable comparisons to the child, likening them to negative entities in their life.
  • Invalidating positive emotions whenever they arise.
  • Ignorance or an outright denial and rejection of the child’s accomplishments.

3: A Superficial Act

Narcissistic parents don’t just have an inflated self-image, they also want everybody else to notice too. Of course, this self-image is usually overblown. They are narcissists, after all. This results in an extremely superficial attitude to their public relationships.

4: A Superiority Complex

The same drive that causes a narcissistic parent to have an externally superficial image is also the same one that makes them deeply grandiose internally. Their superficial image detailed above can seem like a front that’s put on because when with those they trust, their conceited nature can come through.

5: Rigid And/Or Touchy Behavior

In holding themselves and their children to such a high standard, it’s common for narcissistic parents to adopt a very rigid set of behaviors. They project those same behaviors onto the children too and can become angered when there are slight deviations. Inflexibility and stubbornness are common with narcissistic parents.

6: A Lack Of Empathy

When engaging in their narcissistic behavior, a parent can ignore the thoughts and feelings of their children. Only what the parent thinks and feels matters, which means that they can have problems empathizing with others. Whether it’s subconscious or not, a narcissistic parent often acts in ways that are self-serving and solipsistic with no regard for anybody else.

The child often responds in three different ways to such treatment:

  1. Fight – Making attempts to stand up for themselves and act rebellious.
  2. Flight – Distance or estrange themselves from their parents.
  3. Freeze – Give up and act in the roles their parent designs for them, often adopting the same narcissistic behaviors themselves.

7: Dependency/Codependency On The Child

In reducing their children to side characters in their own story, narcissistic parents might make unhealthy demands of their offspring. These often come in three different but interrelated forms – physical, emotional, and financial.

8: Possessiveness And Jealousy

Given the strong and negatively charged relationship a narcissistic parent has with their child, it only makes sense that they’d become jealous should somebody else exert influence over their children. This can remove the child from that parent’s abuse system, so independence and maturity must be strictly controlled.

9: Neglective Behavior

Often a by-product of the above behaviors, a narcissistic parent simply neglects their child. In their self-absorption, narcissistic parents find more satisfaction in taking care of themselves instead of their children. By validating themselves via personal satisfaction, through a career or social crusades, the parent fundamentally abandons the role of parenthood. If the child is lucky, there’s a spouse or a capable sibling who can take care of the child. Sadly, some children aren’t fortunate enough to have those backup influences.

10: Manipulative Behaviors

Many of the above signs influence and explain the manipulative behaviors of narcissists, so to finish off this post we’ll go through the typical signs that a narcissist is trying to manipulate somebody. The common thread with these behaviors is that affection is used as a reward given to the child when they act in line with what the narcissist wants for them. Check them out:

  1. Blaming – Laying problems at the feet of their child or a target associated with the child. “It’s your fault that X did not happen.” “It’s your fault that I’m unhappy.”
  2. Shaming – Saying that the child should be ashamed of otherwise innocuous behaviors or embarrassing for the family. “Your poor performance embarrasses us.”
  3. Pressure – Placing undue pressure on the child. “You must be the best so that you can make your family proud.”
  4. Coercion – Physical or emotional attempts at making the child do what they want them to, often via the stick instead of the carrot. “I’ll have to cut off my support if you don’t do this” or “you must do this or you’re not being a good son/daughter.”
  5. Comparisons – Negative comparisons that only serve to harm and belittle the child. “Why can’t you be as good as this person?”
  6. Guilt Trip – The classic attempt to force the child to do what they want by claiming that they’ve benefited the child in the past. “Why are you so ungrateful after everything I’ve done for you?”
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