Skip to Content

11 Effects of Narcissistic Parents and How To Deal With Them

What is a narcissistic parent

A narcissistic parent is a self-centered and self-absorbed parent with an inflated self-image and thinks they are better than others. They often disregard other people’s needs and concerns, including their children’s, because they believe their needs and feelings are the most important. In severe cases, they suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

dad yells at daughter

9 Narcissistic Parent traits

Here are some narcissistic parent signs and characteristic behaviors.​1​


Grandiosity is the core characteristic of narcissism. A narcissist parent has an inflated sense of their own importance and fantasizes about unlimited power, superiority, uniqueness, and perfection. They believe their opinions and ideas are better than anyone else’s and the only ones that matter.​2​


It is common for narcissist parents to be overly preoccupied with their own emotional needs, believing that they should always come first, and expecting others to meet their needs instantly without question.​3​ Everyone else is just there to satisfy their needs and be under their control. They expect preferential treatment and believe their needs should take precedence over those of their children.

Furthermore, they are controlling parents who see themselves as entitled to manipulate their kids or take unfair advantage of them to get what they want. To control their children, they often use shaming, guilt-tripping, and yelling.

Lack of empathy

Narcissists are cold, critical, demanding, and unresponsive to the needs of others. They are indifferent to the negative impacts of their narcissistic behavior and demeaning remarks on others but expect others to empathize with them.​4​


They think they are superior to others and talk down to them. They make sure others know that and refer to their superiority frequently. Narcissists believe they are never wrong and always blame others for their mistakes.​5​


Often, people who feel superior think others are less deserving.​6​ They make frequent condescending remarks about others and criticize their choices or actions. This includes their own children. Selfish parents constantly put down their children and nothing they do is good enough for them.

Intense envy

They are often jealous of others and believe everyone else is envious of them. To prove their superiority over others, they tend to surround themselves with people who achieve less and will agree with them.​7​

Self-esteem dysregulation

They are emotionally immature parents. A threat to their positive self-image causes them to become emotionally dysregulated and react to criticism with extreme rage.​8​ They can explode into anger, shaming, guilting, and accusing everyone whenever they don’t get what they want.

Attention seeking

To be the center of attention, they are always roasting or bragging about their accomplishments.​9​ They crave signals of superiority and compliments so much that even insincere flattery is not recognized.

When narcissistic father or mother shows attention-seeking behavior, they portray themselves as loving, caring parents who have sacrificed a lot for their children.

Intolerant to child’s differences in values, opinions, and needs

Not allowing differences in ideas is one of the most common themes of covert narcissistic parents because their children are seen as extensions of themselves.​10​ Disagreements are viewed as personal attacks that infuriate them. The parent will belittle and dismiss anything that does not match their point of view.

11 effects of narcissistic parenting

Children of narcissists are negatively affected in many ways. The formative years play a vital role in a child’s social, psychological, and emotional development. Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) can have detrimental long-term effects.

Here are some of the traits of children of narc parents.

1. Low self-esteem

After being told toxic things like “you are worthless” your whole life, a child under the influence of a narcissistic parenting style can feel incompetent and have low self-esteem.​11​ While you may not be consciously aware of these difficult feelings, they can run in the background and have a profound effect on your everyday life. 

2. Crave approval and validation from others

Narcissistic parents use their children to fulfill their unsatisfied needs for admiration, praise, recognition, and achievement, driving the child to constantly search for approval from them. Even as an adult, an inner critic keeps telling you you’re not good enough because your parents had set impossible standards for you. You may become dependent on others for validation and reassurance.

3. Chronic shame

You may be suffering from chronic shame. Narcissists project their toxic shame onto others, particularly their children. Children are often ridiculed or humiliated for having their own opinions or feelings. The effects of shame can be debilitating and cause issues in adulthood.

4. People pleaser

The adult child remains trapped in the roles they assumed as a child of a narcissistic parent and does not possess a strong sense of self. These individuals are extremely self-sacrificing in their romantic relationships. They are people-pleasers who don’t have their own opinions, desires, or dreams because they were muted as children to please their parents. You may strive to please others, even if it hurts you in some way.

5. Struggle with expressing or regulating emotions

You have learned not to express your needs and emotions because you repressed them throughout childhood. Additionally, you never learned how to control your negative emotions. You find it difficult to regulate negative feelings, such as anger or sadness.

6. Difficulty forming healthy relationships

Most likely, you have attachment issues with your parents growing up. An insecure attachment affects how you view yourself and others and your ability to form a healthy adult relationship. You may find it difficult to maintain a close relationship. You are also more prone to having unhealthy patterns of relationships including domestic violence.

7. Lack of boundaries

You were taught as a child to follow instructions and never speak your mind. No opportunity was given to assert your independence or rights. Now you have no idea how to assert, maintain boundaries, or stand up for yourself.

8. Indecisive

As a child, you were always forced to follow your parents’ orders and were not allowed to have an opinion of your own. As a result, even when given a chance in adulthood, you may have difficulty making your own decisions.

9. Self-defeating thoughts

Your parent’s negative messages may still affect your emotions and behavior. Self-defeating thoughts can cripple your ability to function as an adult.

10. Health issues

Physical health or mental health conditions could be affecting you. Continuous stress caused by abusive behavior over time can result in physical illness. A wide range of mental disorders may also be present, such as anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc.

11. Wonder why others treasure their families so much

A narcissistic family is more of a source of pain for you than a place of safety. You may find it inconceivable that others cherish their families so deeply and find happiness in life.

Also See: Toxic Mom

How to deal with a narcissistic parent

It has been a difficult journey, and now’s the time to take the first step to healing from this childhood trauma. 

Also See: Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adulthood

Recognize narcissism

An important step in dealing with narcissistic parents is recognizing that you are not responsible for the emotional abuse you suffered as a child. No matter how much your parents try to manipulate and claim otherwise, abused children are not at fault.

Set healthy boundaries with narcissistic parents

Adult children of narcissistic parents must learn to establish healthy boundaries and respectful connections. It may be necessary or even good for you to end the abusive relationship with your toxic parents for your own mental well-being. You do not have to endure unpleasant parent-child interactions.

Also See: 50+ Things Controlling Parents Say

Build your support network

Those who haven’t experienced this usually don’t understand what it’s like to be raised by narcissists. Your friends may try to help but end up saying things that hurt you even more. So the best way to find social support is to look for local support groups and people with common experiences. Create a support network to help you adopt self-supporting/coping behavior and overcome tough times.

Exercise and meditation

Meditation and exercise can help lift your mood​12​ and strengthen your immune system,​13​ which has been weakened by high stress levels created by narcissistic parenting.

Do not try to change them

Narcissists cannot see themselves as they are. In their entire lives, they believe they are right and everyone who disagrees with them is wrong. Trying to change them will likely cause you more pain.

Do not try to get an apology

You won’t get one. Period.

Get professional help

A lifetime of abuse can be difficult to deal with on your own. The good news is there is help for you. Look for an experienced therapist for support. They can help you develop your own identity, a healthy sense of self, and good self-esteem that your actual parents didn’t provide.

Check Out: Free Therapy




  1. 1.
  2. 2.
    Overview: narcissistic personality disorder. AJP. Published online January 1982:12-20. doi:10.1176/ajp.139.1.12
  3. 3.
    Ackerman RA, Donnellan MB. Evaluating Self-Report Measures of Narcissistic Entitlement. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. Published online March 27, 2013:460-474. doi:10.1007/s10862-013-9352-7
  4. 4.
    Baskin-Sommers A, Krusemark E, Ronningstam E. Empathy in narcissistic personality disorder: From clinical and empirical perspectives. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment. Published online 2014:323-333. doi:10.1037/per0000061
  5. 5.
    Carlson EN. Honestly Arrogant or Simply Misunderstood? Narcissists’ Awareness of their Narcissism. Self and Identity. Published online May 2013:259-277. doi:10.1080/15298868.2012.659427
  6. 6.
    Ronningstam E. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Practice. Published online March 2011:89-99. doi:10.1097/01.pra.0000396060.67150.40
  7. 7.
    Pincus AL, Lukowitsky MR. Pathological Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. Published online March 1, 2010:421-446. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.121208.131215
  8. 8.
    Ronningstam E. Narcissistic Personality Disorder: A Current Review. Curr Psychiatry Rep. Published online January 8, 2010:68-75. doi:10.1007/s11920-009-0084-z
  9. 9.
    Skodol AE, Bender DS, Morey LC. Narcissistic personality disorder in DSM-5. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment. Published online October 2014:422-427. doi:10.1037/per0000023
  10. 10.
    Atlas GD, Them MA. Narcissism and Sensitivity to Criticism: A Preliminary Investigation. Curr Psychol. Published online February 16, 2008:62-76. doi:10.1007/s12144-008-9023-0
  11. 11.
    Munich RL, Munich MA. Overparenting and the Narcissistic Pursuit of Attachment. Psychiatr Ann. Published online April 2009. doi:10.3928/00485713-20090401-04
  12. 12.
    Mikkelsen K, Stojanovska L, Polenakovic M, Bosevski M, Apostolopoulos V. Exercise and mental health. Maturitas. Published online December 2017:48-56. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.09.003
  13. 13.
    Pedersen BK, Hoffman-Goetz L. Exercise and the Immune System: Regulation, Integration, and Adaptation. Physiological Reviews. Published online July 1, 2000:1055-1081. doi:10.1152/physrev.2000.80.3.1055


    * All information on is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *