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Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Updated on December 18, 2015
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What is a Narcissistic Parent?

A narcissistic parent is a parent who is affected by narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder. These parents have a narcissistic connection to their children. They feel that their children are their possessions rather than individuals with their own thoughts, feelings and needs.

This type of person has a strong negative effect on the children's development in a number of area's. Boundaries are crossed and the child is used more as a tool for the parent's own happiness. This is often done by manipulating the child.

A narcissistic parent often has an unrealistic sense of superiority over other's. And often feels that other's are inferior to them and that they have nothing in common with them.

Signs of a Narcissistic Parent

Here is a list of signs of a narcissistic parent.

  • The parent puts his/her own needs before the needs of the child (even basic needs).It may look as though the parent is putting the needs of the child before themselves. However, this may only be a step in making themselves look/feel better and nothing to do with the child's needs.
  • The parent may try to mold the child into someone they want them to be rather than allowing the child to explore and find himself/herself. They may do this by pushing the child to "finish" the parent's own goals and dreams that he/she was unable to as a child.
  • Taking credit for children's successes. They push their children in extreme ways to always be successful. If the children are not successful a narcissistic parent can be quite cruel and punish them for this (even the small things). However, when a child is successful this pleases the narcissistic parent. But not in the ways it would please most other parents. A narcissistic parent will take credit for this success. They believe that without them the child would have failed and feel the desire to be congratulated on the child's successes rather than the child being congratulated. They may even become jealous of the child if the child is taking the credit and they are not.
  • The parent may struggle to have an emotional connection with the child and provide unconditional love. They have an extremely difficult time recognizing and understanding their children's feelings. Their main focus is their own thoughts and feelings.
  • These types of parent's must always feel that they are in control. They try to take complete control over their children's lives.There children must think, feel and do whatever that parent tells them to. If the child becomes to independent a narcissistic parent will feel threatened. They fear that they are losing their source of happiness. Because of this a narcissistic parent will use a variety of forms of controlling behavior to prevent their children from becoming "too independent".
  • They don't take criticism well. And why would they when they are always right?
  • A narcissistic parent may force their children in sports/hobbies/ect. that interests the parent but not the child. Whether the child enjoys the activity or not is not what matters in this situation. It's what makes the parent happy.
  • They may clearly favour a child. They may favor the child that makes them look best.
  • The parent may have a longing or feel a need for their child. To the point that they need their child to fill a emotional void. They are taking more from the parent/child relationship than they are giving.

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How a Narcissistic Parent Affects the Child

To what degree a narcissist parent affects their children varies from situation to situation. However, their narcissistic behavior always has a negative effect on their children in both childhood as well as adulthood.

Ways a Narcissistic Parent May Affect Their Children

  • Children may suffer from anxiety. Always trying to please a parent is stressful. Especially when there are always consequences for not acting exactly as expected by a narcissistic parent. These consequences may be disapproval from their parent, neglect or various forms of abuse. These children may become fearful of their every action and often carry this fear with them into adulthood.
  • Children may suffer from low self esteem. These children are often hearing "you are only as good as I say you are", or "you only did well because of me". They often feel that they can't do anything right and that they are not good enough.
  • Difficulty with relationships later in life. When children are raised not knowing what unconditional love is. And not having that strong bond with their parents. A rocky relationship is what they are most familiar with and therefore is what they will seek out in a romantic partner. This is what feels "normal" to them.
  • Children become narcissistic themselves. Being raised by one or more narcissistic parent puts the child at risk of being narcissistic themselves. They learn by example.
  • Children become dependent. Children may because dependent on their parent because the parent prevents them from being independent. Constantly telling them what to do and how to do it. Children will then have difficulty thinking for themselves. And will need the guidance and approval of someone else.
  • Children may feel they aren't loved and accepted for who they are. The parent/s try to mold the children into the people they want them to be. preventing them from growing into their own people.
  • Abuse. This involves any sort of abuse.
  • Undeveloped personalities. Children are not given the chance to develop their own personalities. They are not given the chance to follow their own dreams. And may even be punished if they try to do so.
  • Difficulty making decisions. All decisions are being made for the child by the parent/s. They are not given the chance to make any decisions for themselves and therefore lack any decision making skills.
  • Sibling Rivalry. Major conflicts may arrive between siblings when one is favored over the other by a parent.

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How to Co-parent With a Narcissist

  1. Recognize that their behavior is abnormal. It is not your fault. They have a "my way or the highway" view in life. They do not want to work with you, they want to be right.
  2. Limit your contact. Separate yourself from that person as much as possible. Only communicate when absolutely necessary.
  3. Set firm boundaries. A narcissist person often over steps normal boundaries without thinking twice about it. Set firm boundaries, ensure they are aware of said boundaries and the consequences of overstepping them.
  4. You're not crazy. Do not let the narcissistic person warp your reality. This is a manipulation technique. They may tell you that they remember the situation differently than you do, making you look like the bad guy. Don't let anyone tell you how you remember things.
  5. Avoid conflict. Narcissistic people thrive on conflict situations. Keep the discussions strictly about the children. If the person becomes angry end the conversation. If the person begins to speak about something other than children bring the conversation back to being strictly about the children. If that does not work, end the conversation. Keep face to face discussions to a minimum and use email for communication instead when possible.
  6. Stay in control of your emotions.Do not let the narcissistic person get to you. Stay in control of our emotions and remain neutral. A negative reaction from you is what the narcissistic person is wanting. It makes them feel as if they are in control and they will continue to behave that way.
  7. Get everything in writing. The more proof the better. Do not trust verbal agreements.
  8. Be assertive. Not passive or aggressive.
  9. Don't admit to mistakes. Mistakes can be used as the narcissistic person against you. These mistakes can be manipulated and blown out of proportion.
  10. Put the children first. A narcissistic person will always put themselves first and you can't change that. You can however, do whats best for your children on your side of things and always put them first.
  11. Be a good role model.Your children need a good role model in their lives and they aren't getting that from their narcissistic parent.
  12. Let your children know you love them. A narcissistic parent often makes their children feel as if they are being neglected. They do not have an emotional connection with them. Let them know that they are loved.
  13. Encourage your children to be themselves. A narcissistic person encourages children to be who they want them to be. Encourage them to follow their interests, be independent, and make their own decisions.
  14. Don't give up. The truth is, the narcissistic parent is not likely to change. And it can be very exhausting to deal with them.However, your children need you and need to feel loved. You can't control the behavior of others but you can control your own behavior.

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