The Narcissistic Parent

The Narcissistic Parent

Throughout our lives we will meet selfish, arrogant, angry and inconsiderate people.  We can’t change them but we can decide what part, if any, they play in our lives.  Unfortunately, children of narcissists do not have that opportunity.

The narcissistic parent may have what they see as an ideal relationship with their young child when one looks at the narcissist’s ultimate goal in every relationship, that of total power and control.  They write the rule book and the children will comply.  The children are seen as a reflection of how they, themselves, wish to be seen.  It’s each child’s duty to make mum and dad proud and to set a shining example to the outside world of the perfect child from the perfect family. Nothing is further from the truth.

The narcissistic parent will more than likely have an adverse effect on their children.  Their children often grow up without knowing what it feels like to be nurtured and loved in a normal way by a normal parent.  The controlling parent will ignore their child’s personal boundaries, influencing, manipulating and shaping them into being exactly what they want them to be.  However,  it is no easy task to fulfil the narcissistic parent’s expectations. Children look to mum and dad to learn behaviour, attitudes, moral principles, emotional attachment and how to treat others.  The narcissistic parent’s example is not a good one by any means.

As the child grows the controlling parent may feel threatened by their son or daughter’s developing independence.  The narcissist has a desperate desire to be ‘needed’ and hates what they see as their loss of control, sometimes turning against their children as a result.The narcissistic parent

There are some narcissistic parents who have no interest in their children at any age. They see their children as nothing more than a burden and a hindrance.  Their children’s feelings and emotions are ignored, being told they are overly sensitive if they complain.  They will ignore their children’s very existence behind closed doors where only the members of the dysfunctional family will see the reality of family life.

The narcissistic parent is difficult to please.  Regardless of their children’s achievements, nothing is ever quite good enough.  Some children will be constantly criticized, teased and berated with their words and actions being disguised as matters of interest and concern.  Comparing their child’s successes with those of their siblings is a subtle put down by which they minimize their son or daughter’s achievements.

However there are always exceptions to the rule. Some narcissists are known to treat each of their children in a different manner. (favouritism)  Some have what is known as a ‘golden child,’ who can do no wrong who will be encouraged to do well and be given the best of everything.  The narcissistic parent will celebrate even their most minor achievements whilst their faults and failings are swept under the carpet.  This child may receive special treatment for being the perfect child and doing everything that their parent wishes.  At the opposite end of the spectrum there is the scapegoat child who will get blamed for just about everything that goes wrong within the family.  They cannot do anything right and their achievements, no matter how great, are ignored or dismissed.  The scapegoat child is left in no doubt that they do not mean as much to the narcissistic parent as the golden child.

The majority of normal healthy parents want their children to succeed in life.  However the narcissistic parent may have unreasonable expectations way beyond their son or daughter’s capabilities.  Their children’s success is a positive reflection on them as a parent.

Sadly children of narcissists often grow up carrying the burdens that their parents have bestowed on them.  They may have been pushed into the background during their formative years so that mum or dad may take centre stage.  They may have been subjected to seemingly endless displays of parental rage.  As a result of their traumatic upbringing, children of narcissistic parents  often display low self-esteem having been constantly blamed and put down by their parent or parents.  Some may bottle up their anger, being unable to express their feelings.  They have spent all their childhood trying to please their parent and often grow into people pleasers who do everything to please others.  People who are people pleasers often pay too high a price, the cost of their own needs or wants are put on the back burner.  As a child of a narcissistic parent, they were never allowed to stand up for themselves resulting in a strong likelihood that this will continue into their adult lives.

It may be necessary to protect not only yourself, but your children, from your narcissistic parent.  It may be that you feel that you can never leave your child on their own in the company of your parent.  The disordered parent may endeavour to turn your own child against you.  Supervised visits may be the only answer.  It takes a great deal of strength to stand up to a parent but sometimes you will be left with no choice.  You may feel like you have drawn every bad card in the deck when you realize one of your parents may be a narcissist.  Depending on the severity of the abuse, the answer may be to spend less time with the controlling parent.  In some cases the only solution may be to sever all contact.  Every situation is different.  It is not being selfish to value yourself and your needs and to do what is necessary for you to grow into and be the person who you are meant to be.

Don’t feel guilty and be influenced by others outside the loop who do not understand your position.  Your parent may have fooled people on the outside into believing that they are a pillar of society, but you know the truth.  Do what is right for you in your own circumstances.

Don’t believe the parent who tries to convince you that you aren’t good enough.  You are.  Unfortunately, many will never recognize that they are the problem and not you.

Written by Anne McCrea


Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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28 thoughts on “The Narcissistic Parent

  1. Oh, Help! that is me. It’s my controlling dad…..but that’s what I thought Dad’s were like during my childhood…how would I know any different…parents were to be obeyed and punished you if you were bad. I am now 51 yrs old and struggling with life. Looking back I have struggled all my life. I have been married twice and one long term relationship unmarried…and all three ended up being abusive. I had counselling at 21 when they picked up about my relationship with my dad…I knew then they were right but I couldn;t accept it. My dad is now 74 he is still abusive and tries to control me..but he can’t!!!!!!!!! and this is making my dad depressed…you can see it..he is withdrawing from life. you see I stopped arguing with him about 3 yrs ago and he hates it..he has no one to take his anger out on now…my mum is living a hell with putting up with him. we don’t know what to do now…she says she has always given in to him to keep an easy life. I have lived on my relationships now for 8 yrs I can’t see it ever happening again after my last husband was abusive to me for 5 yrs. Should I talk to my doctor? i’m supposed to go for talking therapy but I haven’t made the appointment yet. My doctor does say I have been through a lot. should I ask about PTSD? from the abuse for my ex husband and my father?

    1. Symptoms of PTSD may surface at the time, months or even years later. It is treatable with the correct help and support. PTSD varies from person to person and may severely impact on the sufferer’s ability to lead a normal life. A chat with your doctor may be worthwhile.

    2. Please go to the therapy read everything you can find on cluster B disorders, flying monkeys , ptsd &cptsd. It has really helped me and might help you all the best with your journey.

    3. Absolutely go to therapy. It may take a few to find one you’re really comfortable with but when you do, it will be the best thing you can do for yourself! My narcissistic and abusive mother passed away about 7 years ago but not before I suffered a complete emotional breakdown at the age of 26 due to her behavior. My body finally shut down. Therapy was a huge part in helping me to realize that I had done nothing wrong and to help me build my self-esteem. I definitely encourage you to seek out a therapist; you deserve happiness!!!

  2. Hello..
    I think I was raised with some abuse by my mother because of physical and emotional abuse she experienced as a child. Presently, we have come a loooong way and seem to have made major break through (with years of distance between us). I’ve never considered it to be narcissistic but sometimes I worry about things that come out in my parenting with my own children. I’m not sure neither if I would be considered narcissistic but because I sometimes see my children lack self-confidence, become intensely emotional when there’s an issue at hand and also seem to feel that I blame them or view them negatively in some way, I’ve been trying to narrow it down so I can incorporate more of an effective solution. I’ve always felt guilty but during interaction with them I drop the ball and battle with myself to balance my own emotions and reactions to even the simplest of problems. Can you suggest anything? I know narcs aren’t usually accountable but many of the traits I read about seem to apply. Is there a sure fire way to clearly identify if I’m a narc?

    1. Gosh Yasmine, you have had a rough time and I can relate to so much of what you have said. I have flashbacks of childhood when ‘disciplining’ my own children all the time. But you are NOT a narc parent!! The fact that you are being introspective enough to think your issues relate to yourself is the true indicator of a Non-narc!!! I am not sure what the experts would say (and I would appreciate their thoughts or advice on the concerns you gave raised), but from what you have said you seem to be an amazingly self aware parent, doing the best job that anyone can do. We all have self doubts as parents, but these are the doubts that keep us in check and promote betterment as parents. Keep up your great work as a survivor!

  3. i havent the words. i just kept repeating out loud… Oh my God. my entire LIFE my total existence… its been summed up, here… by someone who has never met me. if, if you only KNEW but its like you must have been there… sitting there quietly observing. but you werent. i have lost both my parents within the last 4 and a half months. and i have been feeling horrid, because im not grieving like i thought i should. i mean i am sad, but more than that, i have an odd feeling of freedom? i dont know if that is even the right word… but, well, just thank you. thank you.

  4. How quickly I could relate this article to my dad is scary. He was, and still is, always trying to control every aspect of my life. I haven’t told anyone before but he is the reason I don’t ever want to have children. Don’t get me wrong, I think raising a family would be a really fun and memorable thing to do but I am scared that eventually I will start to treat my kids/wife like my father treats my mother, siblings, and me. I just don’t want to risk raising kids in the type of household I was raised in where you are made to feel completely worthless each and every single day.

    1. Believe me when I tell you that you will do the exact opposite of them ! Trust me ! For example if they hit you as a s child you will never hit your children ! My mother would take our money always ! I can’t take a fine from my kids and they are grown not lunch or at the store they want to pay I just can’t

  5. I was hospitalized at 16 years old for suicidal ideation… I wanted to die. In outpatient therapy at 17, my psychiatrist told me I was presenting as a person who had been abused, but he questioned both my parents about this and both said it would have been impossible for anyone to have harmed me without their knowledge… The irony is, my abuser was sitting right in front of him and he didn’t have a clue. My mother is narcissistic and my dad knew she was ill but still allowed her full control over me and my brother. I resent them both for this! I spent 20 years thinking I was mentally ill. In and out of hospitals and clinics. I’ve been taught to never talk about my mother in a negative/sick light, that I am the one who’s sick, so even writing this here gives me anxiety, but I have to say it outloud-even if it is into the great online abyss! My mother has controlled, manipulated, and shamed me all of my life. I’m 36 and just today admitted to myself that she is sick and will never recover, and I will never have a normal, independent life as long as I allow her to be in it.

    1. I can relate to every word my mother blamed me for everything .I am the eldest of 6 children.I longed for her love and approval.I thought if I showed her enough love her heart would soften, sadly she see’s this as weakness.I was abused by my Grandfather from age 3 till I was 11. My mother constantly called me a slut I was punched and slapped around by both my father and mother.Many times I couldnt understand why. I escaped when I was 19 got married to another controler who beat me when he felt like it. I ran away after 2 years. Then I met the father of my three children he promised me the moon and the stars he made me feel wonderful. But as soon as I fell pregnant the abuse started, he cheated on me over and over again I suffered extreme rages where he would smash up the house and leave me terrified. On his return he expected everything to be back to normal.After i gave birth to my daughter he cheated a lot then the beatings started. I got the police to get him away from me and the children. I then met my husband of today he already had three children his wife had run away with another man. We soon became a family of 6 all the children are grown up now.It is just my husband and I he is a good kind husband. But I find I cant feel his love,I pretend that I feel it,but I don’t.I dont feel that I deserve to be loved.My mother is still alive she is 85 now and still controlling me she costantly reminds me that I am the runt of the litter and the cause of all her unhappiness. I am guilty of wishing her dead God Forgive me.

  6. Sunny, I myself am 40 years old and the penny dropped last night at 3am that my mother is a NM, I have tried all my life for validation from her that I was doing well when I never got it I thought I failed epically. I was never going to get it was I? My daughter has cerebral palsy my mother went into therapy as it affected her so badly, when myself and her father split up 7 years ago and for reasons we won’t go in too I left and he stayed in the paternal home with my kids. I have them a few nights a week and we parent together. My mum knew that my daughters epilepsy being uncontrollable at that time was worse with stress and she wanted to stay with dad. It broke me to do it but it was better for all this way. My mum told family I had left my kids she told me I was selfish and she managed to work full time and look after three kids, that she would never have left her children. This negative thoughts and reiterating it to me all my life has quite honestly messed me up!!! I feel I’m an awful parent, I never struggled with my daughters diagnosis I loved her whatever, my mother made me believe I wasn’t normal and that I didn’t care. She drip fed all these thoughts to me over years, not saying it outright but letting me know of her opinion on others this had happened too. All I ever had was ” her mother never had to stress about her she married well and always did the right thing” therefore making me dissect and get to the conclusion she thought those things about me. My daughters epilepsy I will admit I didn’t cope well with it, it scared me I thought she would die often. My mum used to dismiss my fear ” well she had one with me I was fine I coped” she never ever validated my thoughts or feeling I was made to feel my option and feelings didn’t matter as I was abnormal to feel that way! I’m shell shocked but happy it’s not me it’s actually her, if I said that to her she would say” you always hated me you were always jealous of everyone around you, there’s something wrong with you in the head it’s not me” I now know different.

    1. My nm is exactly the same. She details me all the time . I’ve experienced narc rage , abuse , told to reach impossible levels of achievement and was a victim of intense anger when I failed.
      I am able to see her for what she is. My kids are normal , unlike her kids. Once you become aware it helps you be a good parent.
      But I still struggle with the pain from childhood.

  7. My mother was a big time narcissist and they way my brother and I were treated by her made me never want kids. I was pretty sure I’d end up being like her. She’s dead thank the Lord so I might have a few years of peace and work on gaining some self esteem.

  8. I have a Narc mom, a golden child sister, a “puppet” baby sister ,and I am the scapegoat. Only God knows what I’ve been thru. The most hurtful thing is other family members who refuse to believe they do any wrong since the abuse is unseen by others. It’s so sad. I have been married twice, no children, 50 yrs old and alone. No confidence. Broken. No contact began this year and feel better already. It’s the only way for me. Feeling stronger everyday. My dad only had 10 years to deal with this psycho, I’ve wasted 50. No more. Don’t even want to go to her funeral when she dies, because she never loved me. Thanks it’s good to know I’m not alone.

    1. I’m def in the same boat w/ my Covert Narc Mom. Going now contact is the only solution and stick with it. I was stuck w/ the same situation pondering the what-if dilemma if she passes. I found this website helpful in determining my decision.

  9. Has anyone had a ex-spouse as a narcissit and turned your children into narcissists? My ex alienated my oldest child from me and I haven’t had a relationship with him in 14 years. My second. Hold was with me until age 18 and went to visit her father and brother and never came back. It’s almost been 5 years. She and I don’t have a relationship now because my ex narc husband brainwashed her and told her all kinds of lies about me. Now she acts just like her father. I’ve tried reaching out to my eldest over and over and he’s treated me so badly as well. I can’t take the abuse from all three and just ready to go no contact with my children because they are so verbally abusive and downright cruel. I’ve never been so hurt by anyone in my life than my own children. I just can’t take it any longer. I’ve been in therapy and wondered what I’ve done wrong but the truth is I haven’t done anything but be here if they needed me. My youngest calls when she wants money than goes back to calling me names and being abusive. I’ve accepted I can’t have a normal relationship with them as long as they are being influenced by the narc feeding them lies. But other than that I’m torn about going total no contact. But I don’t know if my heart can take much more.

  10. Thank you for this article. I’m a 25 year old guy living with my parents who basically control everything i do. I have gained a little independence by sheer “talking back” attitude. But i feel i’m still under their thumb because my relationships and my career are closely observed by them to the point they dont want me to chose a girl or job of my taste. Both of them were respected in their careers and they are exerting that power on me now. Its frustrating because i cant win an argument with them and they keep telling i’m a bad child for arguing with someone who gave me so many things. I really dont know what to do anymore. at a complete loss here…

    1. Been there, done that. When people decide to have children, giving them ‘things’ is part of the deal. You are NOT a bad child. You are a VICTIM! Get out and move on with your life, and live it the way that you choose. Do not feel guilty, either. Trust me, I know.

    2. Trust me at 50 years old it doesnt get any better.

      I live with something simular to what you are experiencing. Now i have two children and an awesome wife that all feel the pain and are affected by the abuse. Some of it is from who i became and lots from the current living abuser.
      I have much guilt for staying under the spell and not recognizing it sooner. Also have guilt for not going no contact.
      Get out as fast as you can. Find a way

    3. Leave their house, as long as you live with them they will always have a way to hold you back for control. Be careful, don’t tell them about your personal life starting now. If they can’t control you they’ll try using other people against you. Move out get your own life so they don’t have control over you. They are your parents they are supposed to take care of you and give you things but not guilt trip on you either.

  11. You are describing my situation to a tee.
    My mother told my dad when she found she was pregnant (they were married) that if it was a boy she would hate it, and she did!
    She considered having me adopted out because I was a male and not prefect in her eyes. Her sister was a midwife and was present in the hospital when I was born. My mother handed me over to her saying “you take him, hes so ugly!” My aunty told my mother exactly how it was, abd asked how she would feel if in later years she saw me down the street.
    I found out after my mother died that my aunty looked after me for the first six months of my life.
    My mother emotionally abused me. She told me that when I was born the Dr’s told her I was mentally retarded and she should leave me in the hospital and go home without me. She said this over and over, but never in the presence of anyone else.
    Nothing I did was ever good enough, or right.
    I was blamed for anything that went wrong even if I was not even present when said thing happened.
    I wasn’t nurtured at all. She only ever touched me to smack me. No hugs or kisses at all.
    When I was six my parents adopted a girl. My mother didn’t want to risk her figure by getting pregnant again and heaven forbid have another boy!
    My sister was the golden child. I was sent to boarding school at age 10, 80 miles away from home.
    I hated it and didn’t fit in. Because I had been ill I missed a year of school, so was a year older than my peers. I was bullied and basically kept myself to myself without any friends.
    I told my mother I didn’t want to go back, and explained I was being bullied, but she just belittled me.
    By the time I came home to go to secondary school I didn’t fit in anywhere, certainly not at home.
    Everything was conditional. My parents gave me a watch for the Xmas when I left boarding school, but by new year my mother had confiscated it because of an argument. This went on all the time.
    The family was totally dysfunctional. My sister could do no wrong, but I could do no right.
    For the five years of my secondary education it was a battle because I was fighting for survival.
    I ended up six months into my secondary education, going to talk to one of the teachers about it. But the school itself did nothing. I ended up staying with this teacher and his wife several times supposedly so I could study, but actually it was a break from all the crap.
    My dad was a veterinary surgeon and had a business partner. The partner decided to leave and set up on his own about 2km away. I was blamed for this by my mother and my dad backed her up even though it was a blatant lie.
    At the end of my 4th year of secondary school I went to stay with the teacher and his wife so I could study for exams. In reality it was a waste of time because I was so stressed I couldn’t concentrate. Needless to say I failed.
    After this happened I decided I wasn’t going back home because if I did I knew I would end up killing her!!
    My parents told the teacher and his wife they would not pay board and expected them to throw me out. I told them they could do that, but I still wouldn’t go home. They ended up keeping me for my last year at school, while my dad paid the school fees to the private school. It didn’t really sort anything as whenever I needed money I had to approach them.
    My mother objected to me having anything . I needed a spare spare of glasses as I was blind with9ut them, but she objected as she claimed poverty after the partnership split. I fought back and was told to apologise or they wouldn’t pay. I refused. I believe the optician sent dad the account which would have been paid without my mother knowing.
    SHe refused to feed me for a week to starve an apology out of me, having taken my wages form my holiday job.
    I had to apologise for something to get Xmas presents!
    Because I spent my teenage years fighting to survive, while thinking I was going mad, I never got to experience the things that teenagers do that set them up for life. No dating, no experience of how to interact with others. No self esteem, believing I was thick, etc etc.
    This all happened back in the 1970’s when Narcissism didn’t have a name or diagnosis.
    When I was 21 my dad decided to leave and my mother tried to get me to change his mind promising she would change, but he wouldn’t. He was a broken man and spent the rest of his life alone.
    I have suffered depression, lack of self esteem, PTSD all my life .
    My dad thought I should be a photographer as I was interested in it. He paid for me to go the Photo school and bought me a business even though I didn’t want it. It was undercapitalised and I had to go to him for money. He was brainwashed into blaming me for everything that went wrong and didn’t really trust my judgement. It didn’t help my self esteem.
    I spent 8 years no contact with my mother but had some contact after my dad died. At one stage she asked if I was upset when my father died, just a couple of months after he had died. I made sure she was ok after the earthquakes here in Chch but that was wrong because it was only duty.
    When I was told she died a couple of years ago, it was a sense of relief and no grief.
    My sister shares some of her traits and got married back in April but didn’t tell me the date. SO I cut contact.
    I have been seeing a psychologist for five years and have made some progress, but still am on my own and find it easier to do things on my own.
    I keep away from people as its easier, but it is lonely.
    Narcissists are evil and destroy everything in their way for their own gains. I have been reading lots about narcissists to understand what happened to me, but really it hasn’t made it easier. It just makes me realise what I missed.

  12. Iam always victim of narcisstic
    sorround Ing Its sad to till to anybody my sad experience I feel List for so man years what I did to anybody for help nothing back only hurting ne and break my heart I feel bullx for people no heart and Soul I can Not touch the heart of them I save money and i give it and support altough for m xself I dont spend just to get there need howner when they get what they want they dont need me anymore they are User and abuser my heart to play
    all the years Its happen to ne now u Realize that I must to protect mx self.with the Power of Angel since I saw in heaven. now I learn to walk away with the People to bring me in darkness now Iam thankful that Iam not victim of narcisstic I accepted to my self worth I love what I do to sing to dance to psint and to help people for my Asia wellness massage positive energy I give Power to mx self all the People victim of narcisstic pls dont give up Change your mind in positive to be strong to face life light.survival is to be Happy ones again to Realize that love in your heart to be love what you do to find your self and ypu have to be back your self
    I experience to everybody to be Heald and i Share my real experience to awake the mind in light healthy mind body and Soul dont forget to love your self and to find your self worth and God bless you…

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