Narcissism in parenting can be a difficult topic to discuss, but it is important to understand the effects it can have on children. Narcissistic parents are self-absorbed and put their own needs before their children’s. Instead of cherishing and encouraging their children, these parents have unrealistic expectations of their children and often use them as a means to boost their own self-esteem.
How Narcissism Impacts Parenting
The impact of narcissism on parenting can have deep and lasting effects on the emotional health and development of the children.
Understanding this impact and seeking professional support can help the children unravel the damage caused by their toxic parents and find peace.
Narcissism & Parenting – Lack of Empathy
Narcissistic parents often struggle to understand the perspective of their children or their emotional needs.
They may neglect their child’s emotional needs or dismiss their feelings outright.
Children of narcissistic parents come to believe that their parent doesn’t care about them on a deeper level, which can result in feelings of loneliness, sadness, and a lack of intimacy in relationships.
Narcissism & Parenting – Grandiosity
Narcissistic parents display a sense of grandiosity and believe that they are superior to others, including their own children.
This attitude can manifest in a number of ways. For example, the narcissistic parent may feel entitled to criticize and belittle their child or may brag about their own accomplishments while disregarding their child’s achievements.
Narcissism & Parenting – Control
Narcissistic parents try to control the lives of their children, micromanaging their daily routines, interfering in their social life or relationships, and placing unrealistic expectations or demands on them.
In some cases, the parent may use emotional or mental manipulation tactics to maintain control over their child’s behavior and decisions.
This can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear, or guilt in the child and can be difficult to break away from as they grow older.
Narcissism & Parenting – Manipulation
A narcissistic parent will not hesitate to use emotional manipulation to control their children.
They will manipulate their child’s emotions, inducing fear, guilt or anxiety, to get them to do what they want.
Their tactics may include threats or passive-aggressive behaviour, all designed to make their child feel responsible for the parent’s emotional state.
Narcissism & Parenting – Criticism
Narcissistic parents are often highly critical of their children, especially if they feel that their child has failed to live up to their lofty expectations and are not reflecting well on them.
They will focus on their child’s flaws and failures, rather than their achievements, which inevitably leads to feelings of shame and inadequacy in the child.
Narcissism & Parenting – Lack of Boundaries
Narcissistic parents have no respect for the personal boundaries of their children.
They will not hesitate to intrude on their child’s privacy, read their mail or journals or eavesdrop on their conversations.
They may also ignore their child’s requests for space or time alone. In fact they may even become angry or aggressive if their child tries to set boundaries.
This can make it difficult for the child to develop a sense of autonomy and can lead to the development of codependency, which can impact the child’s relationships well into adulthood.
Narcissism & Parenting – Projection
A narcissistic parent will project their own insecurities and emotional issues onto their children.
This often leads to them blaming their children for things that are way out of any child’s control.
In addition, they may try to ‘live through their child’ pushing them to succeed in areas the parent feels they failed.
In such a situation children end up feeling that their only value comes from pleasing their parent and living the life their parent would have liked to live.
As a result of this constant pressure, children raised by narcissists feel anxious, depressed, or constantly on guard due to the unending stress associated with living in such an unhealthy family system.
They almost inevitably develop issues with self-confidence, and may withdraw and become socially isolated from their peers.
The Intergenerational Cycle of Narcissism
When individuals who were raised by narcissistic parents become parents themselves, there is the risk that they will unconsciously perpetuate an intergenerational cycle of narcissism.
They may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and may inadvertently project these negative emotions onto their own children.
They may also use some of the same tactics and patterns of behaviour that their own parents used, which can create a similar environment of emotional abuse and control.
Breaking this cycle of abuse can be challenging, but it is possible.
It often involves a deep level of self-reflection and awareness, as well as a willingness to seek help and support.
By taking steps to heal their own emotional wounds, parents can break the cycle of narcissism.
This will make it possible to give their own children a healthier environment in which to grow and thrive.
Therapy, support groups, and self-help books can provide valuable guidance for people looking to break the cycle of intergenerational narcissism.
Ultimately, it is important for individuals to take responsibility for their own emotional wellbeing. This will enable them to work toward creating a positive, healthy family dynamic for themselves and their children.
How Can the Children of Narcissistic Parents Heal?
If you’re an adult child of a narcissistic parent, you will know that healing from the effects of a narcissistic parent can be a difficult and complex process, but it is possible.
The following are some strategies for healing and moving forward from the trauma of narcissistic parenting.
Recognize the Problem
The first step in healing from the effects of a narcissistic parent is to acknowledge that there is a problem.
Many children of narcissistic parents struggle with feelings of guilt or shame.
This is why understanding that the behaviour of your parent is not your fault is essential to moving forward.
Narcissistic parents often lack boundaries. It is therefore very important for children of narcissistic parents to learn how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
This may mean limiting contact with the parent, or clearly communicating what behaviour is not acceptable.
It can be difficult to heal from the effects of narcissistic parenting without help.
Seeking the support of a therapist, support group, or trusted friends and family can help provide the tools and encouragement needed to move forward.
Children of narcissistic parents may struggle with feelings of low self-worth or self-doubt.
Practicing self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies that bring joy and fulfilment can help boost self-esteem and provide a sense of purpose.
Process Past Trauma
Experiences with a narcissistic parent can be traumatic, and it’s important for children of narcissistic parents to process and work through that trauma.
Therapy or other trauma-focused treatments can help provide the tools needed to move forward.
Release Perfectionism and Embrace Vulnerability
Children of narcissistic parents may have learned to hide their feelings or put on a façade of perfectionism to gain approval from their parent.
Embracing vulnerability and authenticity can help build healthy relationships and increase feelings of self-worth.
Give Yourself Permission to Grieve
Healing from the effects of a narcissistic parent can involve a grieving process.
Allowing yourself space to grieve and process any lost childhood or missed opportunities can help in the healing process.
Accept That You Can’t Change Your Parent
It’s important for children of narcissistic parents to recognize that they cannot change their parent’s behaviour or actions.
Accepting that you can’t change the past can help shift focus to building a fulfilling present and future.
Recovery from the effects of narcissistic parenting can be a long and sometimes bumpy road.
Celebrating successes, even small ones, can help provide motivation and an important sense of accomplishment.
Be Kind to Yourself
Healing from the effects of narcissistic parenting takes time and patience. It’s important to be kind to yourself throughout the process, and to remember that you are deserving of love, respect, and a fulfilling life.
Final Thoughts about Narcissism and Parenting
When you combine narcissism and parenting you end up with a toxic situation that leaves long-lasting emotional and psychological effects on children.
However, all is not lost. It is important for individuals who were raised by narcissistic parents to understand that it is possible to heal and break the cycle of intergenerational narcissism with the help of therapy, support groups and self-reflection.