Narcissistic Parents

Narcissism is characterized by extreme self-centeredness and self-absorption. Narcissists are captivated by their own attributes and crave attention and admiration from others at all times. Their worldview is unpredictable and perplexing. These people are unhappy with themselves and they tend to blame others for their swinging moods and erratic behavior. While it can be troubling to deal with a narcissist in your life, this experience is only heightened when the narcissist is your own parent. Narcissist parents are often possessive of their children and perceive their independence as a threat to their fragile egos. The denial or restriction of a sense of independent personhood for their child, even as an adult, is a defining trait of narcissistic parenting.

Narcissistic Parenting

It can be especially difficult to deal with a narcissistic parent as this process can deeply affect your upbringing, self-identity, and individuation. Signs of a narcissistic parent include:

  • Uses the child as an object for their own personal gain
  • Marginalizes, judges, or criticizes the child to elevate the parent’s own confidence
  • Has an inflated sense of self-importance
  • View themselves as superior to those around them
  • Takes pride in the admiration of others and seeks admiration
  • Gives love as a conditional reward and withholds love as a punishment
  • Desires control and lashes out when the child does not behave as expected
  • Lacks empathy for the child’s feelings or wishes
  • Acts with jealousy or possessiveness toward the child’s maturity or independence
  • Often exhibits co-dependent tendencies

Dealing with a narcissistic parent is never easy for children. They may not have the language to communicate their concerns, nor may they have the world experience to understand that the parent has a personality disorder. Daily life may feel confusing, unpredictable, and anxiety provoking. Deep longing for the emotional support and nurturing is never fulfilled. Being raised by narcissists can be traumatic and may involve emotional or psychological abuse.

For an adult, it can be difficult to recover from the wounds inflicted by a narcissistic parent and develop healthy relationship patterns, especially when a child of a narcissist becomes a parent himself or herself. It is essential that the narcissistic cycle be broken.

Adult children of a narcissist would benefit from sharing their experiences with friends, other family members and mental health professionals. After years of living in a distorted and corrupt parent-child bond, it can be extremely healing to have a therapist who can help you recognize harmful relationship patterns and co-dependent tendencies with a narcissistic parent. A therapist can empower you to begin the healing journey and develop new, healthy ways to connect with yourself and with others.