11 Ways to Deal With Narcissistic Parents

Narcissistic Parents Described, 17 Signs Your Mother or Father is a Narcissist & How Narcissistic Parents Affect Your Mental Health

Narcissistic Parents Defined

Narcissistic parents are incredibly possessive of their children and feel threatened by their child developing any independence. As a result, children of narcissistic parents generally experience humiliation and shame and have poor self-esteem. Often, these children become adults that are high achievers, self-saboteurs, or both. Children hurt by this type of parent will need professional help for trauma recovery.

A narcissistic parent can be defined as someone who lives through, is possessive, and engages in marginalizing competition with the offspring. Typically, the narcissistic parent perceives a child’s independence (including adult children) as a threat and coerces the offspring to exist in the parent’s shadow with unreasonable expectations. In a narcissistic parenting relationship, the child is rarely loved just for being themself.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism. [1]

17 Signs Your Mother or Father Is a Narcissist

Not all parents have a narcissistic personality disorder, but it’s not uncommon for a mother or father to display narcissistic tendencies, which can be just as damaging when rearing a child. Identifying the signs of narcissistic abuse can be difficult, but there are several common themes among narcissistic parents.

Here are 17 possible signs of a narcissistic parent:

  • Constantly needing the conversation to be about them
  • Immature and selfish behavior
  • Bragging about your achievements to others, but rarely acknowledging you or supporting you emotionally
  • Blaming others for any problems you may have that stem from their behavior
  • Being well-liked and essential to others, but controlling and harsh when no one is looking
  • Making you feel bad for not doing what they want immediately
  • Making you feel guilty by boasting about how much they have done for you
  • Harshly opinionated at home but putting up a front for other people
  • Being ruthless and unforgiving, doing anything to be on top
  • Making you feel anxious and often lowering your confidence
  •  Being absent for your life events
  • Making you engage in sports or other activities, despite your wishes
  • Failing to provide warmth and emotional nurturance in the relationship
  • Using you to attain personal gain
  • Being bothered and annoyed when you need time and attention
  • Making poor excuses to limit time together
  • Displaying sudden mood changes and volatile anger

How Narcissistic Parents Affect Your Mental Health

Being raised by a narcissist can take a severe toll on your mental wellbeing. In public, these parents are viewed as perfect and loving. But behind closed doors, they rage, scream, and criticize. As a result, the parent will control the child’s life, be possessive, and view the child as an extension of the parent [1].

11 Ways to Deal With Narcissistic Parents
Narcissistic parents are incredibly possessive of their children and feel threatened by their child developing any independence.

Here are nine common traits of adults and children who grew up with narcissistic parents[2]:

  • Indecision: Adult children of narcissistic parents fear that they will hurt someone else by choosing to do what’s right for them. They have been ‘trained’ to consider their parent’s needs first and foremost, and it is hard for them to consider their own needs without feeling selfish for doing so. This indecision and guilt can be paralyzing.
  • Internalized Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their memory, perception, or judgment. One example would be if a parent denies some experience from the past, invalidating your feelings of the event. Growing up with a narcissistic parent can leave an adult child feeling very little to offer. Growing up, their talents and skills may have been downplayed, ignored, or co-opted by the narcissistic parent who felt threatened by their child’s skills. Even when the success of the now-adult experiences, they may think that they don’t deserve it—this can give rise to impostor syndrome.
  • Loyalty & Guilt for Moving On: Even after growing up amid lies, manipulation, and abuse, it can be challenging for adult children to step away from caring for and loving their narcissistic parents. They will likely feel guilty for stepping away or setting boundaries and may even enter into relationships with partners who show narcissistic traits. This is because a love based on manipulation and conditions is known to them, whereas an unconditional love might seem terrifying.
  • No Focus on Their Own Needs: As the parent lives vicariously through their child, their goals are ignored. The child learns that their objectives and needs are not necessary. Instead, they focus on pleasing the parent to stay in their good graces. This may lead to anxiety as the child strives to be the perfect child – living up to the narcissist’s unrealistic desires. Depression may occur due to the child not meeting the parent’s expectations.
  • Chronic Self-Blame: Whether or not the parent is openly abusive to the child, they are usually emotionally unavailable. They are too preoccupied with themselves and their concerns to hear their child’s pain. Therefore, to maintain the family unit, the child shies away from blaming their parent and instead takes all the blame on themselves. This can continue into adulthood, where the adult child continues to blame things that aren’t always their fault. As a result, they become the scapegoat in many situations to keep the peace.
  • Echoism: Echoists and Narcissists complement each other, as echoists fear becoming narcissists or fear taking any attention away from them. Essentially, narcissistic parents can explode into anger or burst into tears without much warning, which forces their children to take up as little space as possible to avoid triggering one of these emotional outbursts (also fearing taking any attention away from the narcissist in the process). It can feel like walking on eggshells, trying to do everything possible to avoid their parent having a meltdown.
  • Insecure Attachment: Adult children of a narcissist are likely to become insecurely attached to their parents, never experiencing that safe base that they need to feel comfortable exploring their environment. The neglect, manipulation, or emotional absence of a parent can leave their child questioning how safe they will be able to feel in other people’s hands. This leads some adults to become fiercely independent, developing trust issues since they have no one to rely upon. However, it can lead others to cling to their partners for love and demand the attention of their significant other at all times.
  • Constant Focus on Others’ Happiness: Children who grow up with a narcissistic parent will have organized their whole life and personality around their parent’s happiness and will then grow up organizing their life around the happiness of others – many of them working in the helping profession.
  • Always on Edge: The parent’s behavior is unpredictable. They are unsure what will please the parent, thus causing feelings of being on edge. The child will feel responsible for the parent’s happiness. They will also learn that their parent’s kindness comes with conditions leaving the child feeling accountable.

11 Ways to Deal With a Narcissistic Parents

Confronting a narcissistic parent head-on will lead to a battle. Pointing out a narcissistic parent’s negative or undesired behavior challenges the perfect world created in their mind, resulting in feelings of shame and vulnerability. Remember, however, that your feelings and point of view are also important when dealing with a narcissist.

Here are 11 tips for how to deal with a narcissistic parent:

  • Realize What Is Happening: You will never win with a narcissist. A narcissistic parent thrives on their sense of control, and you will pay dearly if you do not bend to their will. Getting their needs met is more valuable than having a functional family structure. If you try to compromise, they will only manipulate the situation in their favor. You need to realize that this is not normal behavior.
  • Accept & Let Go: Changing a narcissist is nearly impossible unless the narcissist wants to change. Accepting who they are will reduce your anxiety. Remember, the negative words and actions aimed at you are projections of how they feel about themselves, and they are deeply wounded people.
  • Resist Gaslighting Attempts: Unfortunately, it is common for narcissistic parents to make their children feel crazy or delusional. For example, a narcissistic parent will tell you it’s sunny outside during a hurricane. Ignoring these attempts and working on your self-esteem and confidence is key to survival.
  • Be Compassionate: Though they may not show it, the narcissistic parent cares about you deep down. Yet, under that hard exterior is a compassionate individual that needs compassion and empathy from you.
  • Prioritize Self-Compassion: After having a difficult childhood that most likely lacked compassion, it is time you give that compassion to yourself—Pat yourself on the back for making it through this abusive parent-child relationship. Learn to self-soothe and give yourself all the mercy your parent couldn’t give you. Recovering from such a childhood is not an easy process. It will take time. So, be patient and forgive yourself. It is okay to put your needs first. It is okay to take time for yourself. It is okay if you do not have the energy to support others. It is okay to say no without explaining.
  • Lean on Other Support Systems: Children of narcissistic parents may often have difficulty validating their children. Therefore, seeking out the support of others is vital. Create your social network through friends, co-workers, social clubs, etc. It may also be helpful to join a support group with others who have narcissistic parents.
  • Develop Confidence & Self-Worth: It is essential to recognize your self-worth despite the insults from your narcissistic parent. In addition, finding activities that increase your skills and abilities will help boost your confidence.
  • Assert Your Boundaries: A narcissistic parent will often test and cross your boundaries to prove that they can. For example, they may show up uninvited to your home, break family rules to get you angry, or play favorites with your children. Therefore, you must set firm boundaries and enforce consequences when they are crossed. It may feel like you are disciplining a child, but be firm and clear about why you are putting your foot down. You may even need to give them a timeout by asking them to leave if they do not follow the rules.
  • Be Transparent With Your Plans: You may be tempted into subtle or sneaky behaviors with your narcissistic parent, but try to avoid the practice. You may be better off stating your plans and intentions clearly and concisely. Let them know that you recognize their undesirable or harmful behaviors, and express your course of action. This practice will eliminate their ability to act surprised by your reactions, and it will reduce the risk of feeling guilty or regretful about your decisions later.
  • Predict Their Next Moves: Narcissists are complicated and complex, but their behaviors are expected and predictable at times. Help yourself deal with a narcissistic parent by making predictions of their following action and how you’d like to react. Even if you are inaccurate, there is some benefit to being prepared for their next move. First, it’s unlikely their narcissistic traits will stop, so staying thoughtful can help limit the future damage.
  • Walk Away: There is tremendous societal pressure to maintain family relationships, but these bonds may do more bad than good. Spend some time fully considering the prospect of ending the relationship temporarily or permanently. In some cases, it may be the only practical option. All of these tips are easier said than done. It’s hard to deal with a narcissistic parent on your own. This is why finding a therapist committed to your wellbeing is so important. If you’re ready to get the support you deserve, find a therapist who specializes in working with children of narcissistic parents. 
Narcissistic parents are possessively close to their young children.
We Level Up FL offers comprehensive mental health treatment to approach trauma and depression.

How to Heal From Narcissistic Parents

Most people will not understand the emotional toll you experience with a narcissistic parent. Seeking help from people with no experience of narcissism will only leave you feeling silly. Even if they tell you about problematic family members, it will not compare. It is hard to put into words your experiences in a way that others can understand.

If you’re the child of a narcissist, you will likely struggle with these problems:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Codependency in other relationships
  • Poor boundaries
  • Being a people-pleaser
  • Inability to say “no”

Treatment for adult children of narcissists is very personal, so it is essential to work with a provider who understands your experience and makes you feel safe. In addition, make sure they understand narcissistic personality disorder and recovery from narcissistic abuse or trauma.

If you’ve had trouble in the past finding a therapist you connect with, consider scheduling a free consultation by contacting us here at We Level Up. We are mental health professionals who will listen to what you’re looking for and introduce you to a couple of therapists who are experienced in working with people with NPD and those raised by narcissistic parents.

Is Having a Narcissistic Parents All Bad?

Indeed, most people would not actively choose to have a parent with narcissistic personality disorder, but if you are a combination of resilient and fortunate, positives could emerge.

Some of the possible benefits of having a narcissistic parent include:

  • Better awareness of personality disorders. Navigating life with a personality-disordered parent will serve as an excellent education in the world of mental health. This process can help you identify and manage issues in your friendships, romantic relationships, and the workplace.
  • The ability to distinguish someone’s words from their behaviors. A narcissistic parent may often say one thing and do the other. The incongruence can be jarring to a child, but learning how people display this inconsistency can encourage you to seek out stable and reliable people.
  • Increased thoughtfulness. Narcissistic parents can hurt by trying to make their wants your wants. When you can shed this burden, you can spend more time thinking about what you truly want and what direction you’d like to take your life.
  • Improved sense of self. Similarly, narcissistic parents may think they know you better than yourself. Without their influence, you can identify who you are apart from them and their impact.
  • Independence. Personality disorders are frequently about control. Once you find freedom, you will never again put yourself in that situation. The autonomy you find will feel so compelling and rewarding.

Spinning a negative situation into a positive one is not easy, and some will never have the opportunity to do so. If you can break away from the selfish influence, seek the good to minimize the past.

How to Support a Loved One Dealing With Narcissistic Parents

Children of narcissistic parents are unaware of the life-long effect that will disrupt their life if left untreated. To support a loved one dealing with narcissistic parents or narcissistic abuse, you must first educate yourself on the disorder. Read articles and watch videos on the topic.

Here are some ways to support a loved one who has narcissistic parents:

  • Avoid blaming them, as they are the victim in the scenario
  • Be compassionate and listen to their story
  • Validate their feelings
  • Please help them to create a safe space to share their experience
  • Remember that they have been trained to accept this behavior
  • Be patient with them during their healing process

We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about the narcissistic parents and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

Sources

[1] McBride, K. (2009). Will I ever be good enough?; Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers. Atria Books. ISBN-10: 1439129436

[2] Malkin, C. (2015). Rethinking Narcissism: The secret to recognizing and coping with narcissists. Harper Collins.

[3] NIMH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/search-nimh?q=Narcissistic+Parents