Narcissists take a heavy toll on all relationships—particularly the parent-child relationship. We asked a panel of professionals to share their thoughts on how narcissistic parents affect their kids. Read on to learn more.
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A narcissistic parent tends to abuse the normal parental role that they have. They often try to control their children with threats and emotional abuse, which affects the children’s development, reasoning, emotions, behavior, and attitude. As a mental health professional, I admit, it is not easy to detect narcissistic parents, because anyone can display an image of what and how they want to be seen.
It is both emotionally and mentally abusive to be raised by a narcissistic parent because they can never be accountable for their mistakes. The child would always feel that they are the ones at fault and that they failed at something. There are innumerable results of narcissistic parenting; for instance, if a child is being raised by a narcissistic parent, they may feel that they are never heard, seen, or acknowledged. They will feel like they’re just an accessory to the parent rather than a person. It would be too hard for them to trust their feelings, and they would grow up doubting their abilities. They would live in fear and would not learn to trust others. The child would grow up feeling not good enough and wouldn’t learn to self-care. The worst is they may end up seeking external validation instead of internal validation, which is not good for their emotional and mental health so they would eventually suffer from depression and anxiety.
Dysfunctional Understanding of Love
The impact of narcissistic parenting can be seen in multiple facets of a person’s life but most so in their relationships. A child of a narcissist will learn a dysfunctional love model. The narcissistic parent will teach their child that they are of less value, need to consider other people’s feelings before their own and that they are not good enough. A narcissistic parent will not help a child develop proper independence because they thrive off of dependents. Therefore, the grown child of a narcissist can find themselves choosing narcissistic partners in the future as well as not reaching their full potential in friendship or work. Because the narcissistic parent is not interested in the happiness [of others], their first concern is how their child reflects on them and serves them.
Often, the child of a narcissist will display codependent traits although the opposite can happen as well; they can mimic the parent and become a narcissist themselves. The narcissistic model of parenting is one that is built on fear. Fear of betrayal and loss. Fear of not being good enough. This is the message they pass on to the next generation in multiple forms. The child of a narcissist will need to work on independence, self-love, finding positive role models, and setting healthy boundaries to break the cycle.
Tiffany Schneider Raff
Cycle of narcissistic parenting
Narcissistic parenting can result in deeply insecure children. As they grow, they can become overly sensitive, hyper-aware of what others think of them, and unable to see themselves as good, worthy, and lovable.
And when these children become parents themselves, they can unintentionally start exhibiting the same behavior that caused them pain.
Parents can end the cycle of Narcissistic Parenting by becoming aware of what it looks like. Not only will this help them in their efforts to be more intentional parents, but it will also help them as they heal and become confident in their own identity.
Here are 5 ways parents can avoid Narcissistic Parenting:
- Choose your praise carefully. Rather than focusing on external traits, praise your child’s effort. This will help them develop pride in their own achievements and resilience when things get hard.
- Try to see things from your child’s perspective. Empathy and narcissism are incompatible. Empathizing with your child will validate their own feelings and help them trust you with their vulnerabilities.
- Don’t over-critique. Try to see yourself as a coach, rather than an enforcer. Be understanding, take notice of little improvements, and know that learning takes time and a lot of repetition.
- Make sure your child knows your love is unconditional. Narcissistic parents tend to withhold love and affection as punishment. Find other ways to discipline that help your child know that you’re still on their side – no matter what.
- Take care of your needs. When our own cup is full, power struggles are easier to manage with our children. Learning how Narcissistic Parenting has affected you will help you in your healing.
By being more intentional in our approach, we can create strong relationships with our children and help them become independent and resilient.
Lack of love, and understanding
Adult children of narcissistic parenting may forever grapple with the excruciatingly raw lie that they are not good enough. Abandoned again and again throughout their childhood and beyond, they may become convinced that they never will be valuable, worthy, capable, or powerful.
Narcissistic parents’ laser focus on self and creation of life situations where people, things, and situations must reflect them only in the brightest light, and where they are the king/queen and are to be served, lauded, and the only voice heard, may create adult children who truly believe that they must continue to exist small and in others’ shadows. Simultaneously, they may desperately yearn for the attention and love that they very tragically did not receive from their parent(s).
As a result, they may not connect with, love, understand, nor honor themselves. This disconnect from self can significantly negatively affect every area of their lives as they recreate what is familiar. They may marry a spouse who controls them or partner in business with someone who rarely considers their thoughts, pull back from sharing opinions with friends, and continually operate way below their potential, talents, and life’s purpose.
Their opportunities, though, are so great, when they are ready and willing, they can heal and take back their power, their voice, and their lives.
Anahid Lisa Derbabian
Grows up never feeling enough
Children grow up with a sense of obligation, guilt, and fear
When children are raised by a narcissist who makes them feel guilty for having their friends, or not living up to their expectations, the child will feel a constant source of dread, worry, an overblown sense of guilt, obligation, and worry in other relationships in their life. These children grow up fearful and with anxiety, or they rebel and grow up to wall people off and tell themselves they don’t care.
Children grow up to be perfectionists
When a parent teaches a child that they are only loved when they follow their rules, are pretty enough, athletic enough, or when they live up to high expectations, children drive themselves to be perfect and never feel good enough.
Children grow up thinking and feeling that they need to please
Children of narcissists carry tremendous anxiety and guilt because they had to make their parents happy or feel the pain of being rejected, neglected, or criticized.
Children of a narcissistic parent grow up feeling shame
Children raised by a narcissist never feel good enough; they feel stupid, or that something is wrong with them because their parent used toxic shame to abuse them.
A narcissistic person is selfish and puts their own needs above their children. As a result, the child grows up never feeling enough, always pushing to try harder and not ever knowing their own needs.
Live to please people
Since you grew up living out the expectations of your parents, you will always want to please them. You always fed their craving for profound attention when you excelled in school, sports, or other activities that made them feel like they were better than anybody.
Since I was an extended reflection of my parents, being a high-achiever meant everything. I carried this mentality up until my adulthood. To feel accepted and validated, I needed to be great at everything, even if it took losing my individuality just to please my parents or the people around me.
I mastered faking my confidence and emotions. In the facade, I would look happy in achieving goals (even if they were not mine). I would feel safe around people who just used me because I could do a lot of great things for them. Basically, I became a doormat, submitting to others without considering what I wanted. I would feel worse whenever I couldn’t keep up with the desires and expectations of my parents or other people. I was trapped in this cycle for so many years, and it had detrimental effects on my relationships, my career, and my mental health.
It took me a lot of time, effort, resources, and a robust support system to get out of this. The result of narcissistic parenting doesn’t stop and focus only on childhood. You will carry it into your adulthood until you have the courage and strength to stop it.
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