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11 Tips On How To Deal With a Narcissistic Parent

Narcissistic parents are characterized by grandiosity, self-centeredness, entitlement, and craving for admiration and attention. A narcissistic parent lacks empathy and disregards their children’s needs and concerns, viewing children as mere extensions of the parent.

Narc parents exert control and manipulation through criticism, blame, guilt, shame, and insults. In severe cases, narcissistic parents may meet the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).​1​

The 11 tips for dealing with a narcissistic parent encompass understanding the root cause, self-acceptance, setting boundaries, using “I” statements, practicing communication, avoiding arguments, maintaining distance when needed, seeking social and therapeutic support, managing expectations, and exercise self-compassion.

For those with children, protecting them from the influence of a narcissistic parent involves being a safe haven for your child, teaching them emotional regulation, and educating them about the narcissistic behavior they witness.

A mother points and scolds a young girl sitting on the couch.

How to deal with a narcissistic parent

Below are 11 tips on how to deal with a narcissistic parent as an adult and heal from a traumatic childhood. Note that the impact of a narcissistic parent may manifest differently for each child. When working on healing, focus on your unique experience and your own strength.

1. Understand to heal

Knowing the origin of your suffering is the first step in healing. Understand that the dysfunctional behavior of your narcissistic parent is not a normal or acceptable form of parenting.

Children raised by narcissists are often made to feel guilty for blaming their parents. They are urged to forgive and forget.

That kind of advice often doesn’t make the victim feel better.

It is actually okay to blame the narc parents for your pain. Blaming is not about seeking retribution or absolving yourself of your current challenges; it’s about understanding the origins of current difficulties and using this knowledge to empower yourself.

Healing and growth involve self-validation, identifying how your past has shaped your current situation, and envisioning the changes you want to make.

2. Accept yourself

Remember that your narcissistic parent’s shortcomings are not your burden to carry. The root of the issues lies with your narcissistic parent, not with you. 

Narcissists will try to blame everyone except for themselves. Do not feel responsible or guilty for the unhealthy dynamics in your family, no matter what stories they project onto you.

Challenge any voice that echoes your parent’s criticism. You are worthy of love and belonging. You have talents and strengths, even if your narc parent fails to appreciate them. 

You are not defined by their distorted perceptions or by the painful role they forced you into. You have an identity and need all your own. You can rewrite the story they imposed and step forward as your most authentic self. The human brain is adaptable, and with new experiences and a supportive environment, you can rewire your neural pathways for a better future.

3. Set boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is necessary when dealing with a narcissistic parent. It can be challenging, but you can do it with practice and preparation. Start by planning and clarifying their specific behaviors that feel harmful or controlling. Determine what healthy treatment looks like to you – how you wish to be spoken to, what information you want to keep private when you want space or quiet time. Write out those needs if helpful.

For example, you can decide to calmly communicate those boundaries to your narcissistic parent. For example, “Please don’t comment on my appearance anymore. I find it hurtful.” Or “When you raise your voice, I must end the conversation. Let’s take a break and try discussing this again later.”

4. Use more “I” than “you”

Some people find success using more “I” statements than “you” statements to avoid escalation. It is easier to convey messages by focusing on how “I” feel than “you,” which may make the receiver feel attacked.

5. Practice before delivering your message

Practice stating your boundaries in your head and out loud so you won’t forget them when your parent overwhelms you. Ask a friend to role-play with you and practice how to react. Practice taking deep breaths and staying calm and firm when that happens. Also, be prepared to walk away when it is too much.

6. Do not get into arguments

Resist being drawn into unproductive or harmful exchanges.

Narcissists often have a limited perspective, primarily viewing situations from their own point of view. Attempts to argue or convince them of your stance are likely to be unsuccessful and lead to unnecessary distress for you. 

Clearly state your boundaries and requests. If your narcissistic parent is unable or unwilling to respect these boundaries, disengage promptly. Persisting futilely to change their mind is often counterproductive and upsetting for you. Use “gray rocking” by becoming uninterested and unengaged in their behavior.

7. Keep a distance if necessary

If interacting with your parent hurts your mental health, it is time to decide whether it is worth staying in contact. Cutting the ties may be necessary if that can benefit your psychological health.

Keeping a distance ensures that they will not be able to hurt you physically and allow you to disengage psychologically. That includes phone calls, emails, and messages. Screen your calls, unfriend them on social media, and ask your mutual friends not to pass messages on to you.

If you feel guilty or if they try to make you feel guilty, acknowledge this: You have the right not to be abused. You should not feel guilty for self-preservation.

You are not “doing this to them.” If they have hurt you so much that you have to take this step to protect your mental health, then they are the ones “doing this to you,” not the other way around.

8. Seek social support

Connect with friends, family, or a support group that understands and validates your experiences for psychological support and advice. Sharing your story with the right people makes you feel truly seen and heard. It helps release the pent-up feelings of isolation, self-blame, and questioning your own reality that narcissistic abuse fosters.

However, not everyone can grasp what you’ve endured. Many who haven’t experienced narcissistic abuse may urge reconciliation or invalidate your experiences. Seek support only from people who demonstrate emotional intelligence, respect for boundaries, and care for your well-being. Be cautious about over-disclosing to those unable or unwilling to respond with compassion. Their reactions may unknowingly re-traumatize you.

While connecting with empathetic friends and fellow survivors is tremendously healing, relationships should not be one-sided. Offer compassion and emotional presence to those who show up for you, too. 

Investing in healthy, reciprocal bonds can provide stability amidst the chaos of an unhealthy home environment. With time, you can heal and thrive with the help of caring supporters who have become your chosen family.

9. Seek therapeutic support

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the situation, or if empathetic support from friends and family isn’t sufficient or available, you can turn to a licensed psychologist or counselor.

Seeking therapy is a sign of strength. It demonstrates your commitment to healing and moving towards a healthier life. Professionals specialize in helping individuals with your exact circumstances, offering guidance and tools you may not find elsewhere.

You can process painful emotions that you may feel unable to safely express at home – grief, anger, resentment, confusion, loneliness. Speaking openly allows you to release these feelings rather than turning them inward. Therapy lays the foundation for a brighter future. It helps you understand the roots of your pain, grieve in a safe space, and ultimately rebuild a stronger, more authentic sense of self.

10. Manage expectations

Accept the brutal reality that you may not change your narcissistic parent’s harmful behaviors or make them become the nurturing parent you need and deserve. A narcissist is incapable of empathizing, taking accountability, or prioritizing other’s needs.

Rather than continuing to expend emotional energy, hoping your narcissistic parent will transform into a caring, supportive one, redirect that energy towards grieving the losses caused in your childhood. Allow yourself space to process disappointment, anger, sadness, or resentment. Journaling, art, talking to a friend, or getting therapeutic support are good ways.

11. Be kind to yourself

Mental health in children of narcissistic parents is often the first to be impacted by psychological abuse. It can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and issues with self-esteem. Consider mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to address these. These activities can help center your thoughts, reduce anxiety, and improve your mood. 

Attend to physical self-care by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious anti-inflammatory foods, exercising, and spending time outdoors in nature. 

Engage in hobbies and activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Whether reading, painting, hiking or any other hobby, dedicating time to activities you love can provide a much-needed break from stress and enrich your life.

11 tips on how to handle narc parents

Use these 11 tips as a guide, but feel free to adjust them to align with your situation and preferences. Healing is not one-size-fits-all. In addition, healing is a journey, not a destination. Allow yourself time to heal. Understand that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. Be kind to yourself even when those who are supposed to are not.

How do you respond to things narcissistic mothers say?

You respond to things narcissistic mothers say by first taking breaths so you can stay composed and assess the situation calmly. Evaluate the likelihood of a productive outcome from the interaction. 

Given the challenges of communicating effectively with a narcissist, success is rare. Walk away if the conversation is veering into territory likely to cause stress or conflict without resolution. A simple “We can revisit this conversation once my boundaries are respected” will suffice to reply to things narcissistic fathers say.

What are the narcissistic parent traits?

In 2018, a study was carried out by researchers at the University of Lapland in Finland, focusing on the experiences of individuals raised by narcissistic parents. This study involved in-depth interviews with 13 women who shared detailed and personal accounts of their upbringing. The narratives provided by these adult children offered rich insights into the dynamics of being raised by a parent with narcissistic traits.​3​

The narcissistic parent traits include arrogance, a craving for attention, and a sense of entitlement, often manipulating and controlling their families. They exhibit self-esteem dysregulation, lack empathy, show contempt, and are intolerant of differences.

A child’s formative years are vital for social, psychological, and emotional development. A parent with narcissistic traits makes childhood difficult, resulting in detrimental long-term effects.

Also See: Covert Narcissistic Parent

How does growing up with a narcissistic parent shape you?

Growing up with a narcissistic parent has resulted in various effects, psychological and physical. Chronic shame is a persistent feeling that plagues you regularly. Coupled with this is a prevailing sense of depression, where sadness and negativity are constant companions.

Anxiety also manifests, stemming from a fear of making mistakes and a drive for perfection. These feelings are often rooted in the experience of growing up with a narcissistic parent, leading to low self-esteem as a result of internalizing her negative labels and demeaning language.

Consequently, you may find yourself habitually pleasing others, neglecting your own needs in the process. This tendency is reinforced by a self-critical inner voice that relentlessly reminds you of your perceived flaws.

Emotionally, you might struggle with regulating intense emotions due to underdeveloped emotional regulation skills. Decision-making becomes a challenge, as past experiences of being criticized or invalidated leave you indecisive and unsure of your desires and identity.

This background often results in a lack of trust in others and inadequate social skills, as opportunities for social development were limited. Boundary setting is another area of difficulty, as you were conditioned to be compliant and silent in your formative years. Hypersensitivity to criticism and negative feedback is another repercussion, often leading to significant distress. Additionally, these psychological challenges may manifest physically, resulting in various somatic symptoms.​4​

Is it OK to cut off a narcissistic parent?

Yes, it is OK to cut off a narcissistic parent as an adult if you find that their manipulative and self-centered behavior is harming your health or your quality of life. Prioritizing your well-being is not selfish; it’s necessary for a healthy and fulfilling life.

When contemplating this decision, assess how your interactions with your narcissistic parent affect you. Do they leave you feeling drained, belittled, or emotionally unstable? On the flip side, consider the potential repercussions of cutting ties. These may include feelings of guilt, societal judgment, or pressure from other family members. 

Also, consider the possibility of limited contact or structured interactions as an alternative to estrangement. This could involve setting firm boundaries or only engaging in certain types of communication.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on what is best for your long-term well-being and mental health. It’s often helpful to seek guidance from a mental health professional who can support and help you navigate this complex decision in your unique situation.

Should you cut off a narcissistic parent?

Deciding whether to cut off a narcissistic parent as an adult is a personal decision based on your circumstances. The critical factor to consider is the impact on your mental health and overall quality of life. Weigh whether distancing yourself will protect you from harmful interactions against potential feelings of guilt or pressure from other family members. It’s about finding what’s best for your well-being in the long run.

How do you set boundaries with a narcissistic parent?

To set boundaries, firmly apply the following 5 steps.

  1. Be clear and specific: Clearly state what behavior you will no longer accept and the consequences. For example, “If you continue criticizing my partner, I must limit our visits.”
  2. Stay firm and consistent: Calmly repeat your boundaries when tested. Narcissists will push back hard, so you must stick to your guns. You may say, “As I stated before, I will not tolerate yelling. Let’s talk when we can discuss this respectfully.”
  3. Limit emotional engagement: Avoid getting emotionally entangled in her reactions or manipulations.
  4. Reduce External Pressure: Your parent might involve others, or well-meaning friends may urge you to mend the relationship. Minimize this pressure by asking others not to intervene in this personal matter.
  5. Look for support: Seek support from empathetic friends, a counselor, or a support group.

How do you stand up to a narcissistic parent?

To stand up to a narcissistic parent, the most effective way is to cease all contact immediately. This approach involves not announcing your decision but simply refraining from engaging with her – be it through visits, emails, messages, phone calls, or any form of response.

Because anything said in interactions with a narcissist can potentially be twisted and used against you. Narcissistic parents often manipulate situations to their benefit. So, to safeguard yourself from further distress, it’s best to silently discontinue communication. This method focuses on preserving your mental well-being by quietly stepping away from the toxic dynamics.

How do I protect my child from a narcissistic parent?

Here are 9 ways you can protect your child from a narcissistic parent.

  1. Be your child’s safe haven: If ongoing contact with a narcissistic parent is unavoidable, you can help lessen their distress by being a steady and secure presence. Practice warm, responsive parenting and maintain household stability so your child feels secure enough to process difficult emotions from the contact.
  2. Limit contact: If possible, try to limit your child’s contact or interaction with the narcissistic parent.
  3. Do not tolerate abuse: Do not allow any abusive behavior, physical or emotional, from the narcissistic parent. Report any misconduct to the authorities or the court.
  4. Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings: Validate their feelings about the situation. Let them know it’s understandable to feel upset, angry, sad, or confused because of the narcissistic parent’s words or actions. You help your child healthily process their emotions by showing empathy and understanding. However, do not disparage the other parents or bring in adult issues.
  5. Emotion coaching: Coach your child to name their emotions. Recognizing and understanding their feelings helps the child develop emotional regulation and resilience.
  6. Teach emotional regulation: Teach your child to manage their emotions by introducing them to calming techniques like deep breathing and meditation. Encourage them to express their feelings through creative art, conversation, or writing.
  7. Provide communication tools: Help your child find respectful ways to express their feelings and needs to their narcissistic parent. Role-playing can help prepare them.
  8. Boost their self-esteem: Give them praise, encouragement, and affection to counter the criticism or manipulation they experience. Remind them of their positive qualities.
  9. Educate: When age-appropriate, teach your child skills like managing expectations of the narcissistic parent’s behavior so your child understands the situation more and feels more in control.

What happens when you ignore a narcissist parent?

Ignoring a narc parent can often exacerbate already difficult family dynamics but may be necessary for one’s well-being. But be prepared for the following 5 toxic behaviors when you stand up to her or when she realizes she cannot control you anymore.

  1. Increased attacks: She may dramatically escalate her attempts to get attention and obedience through verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, threats, guilt trips, and playing the victim.
  2. Recruiting others: She may try getting other family members and friends to pressure you on her behalf. She will play the victim role and most likely distort the truth to garner sympathy and allegiance.
  3. Smear campaigns: She may launch smear campaigns to paint you as cruel, heartless, mentally ill, etc., for “abandoning her” in this way.
  4. Threats and ultimatums: – A narcissistic parent may threaten to cut you off, write you out of the will, spread lies about you, or even retaliate in very concerning ways.
  5. Hoovering: After a period of intense attacks, she may suddenly shift to loving, flattering behavior to suck you back into the abuse cycle.

How does a narcissistic parent apologize?

A 2017 research published in the European Journal of Personality shows that narcissists rarely offer apologies.​2​ When narcissistic parents do, their motives are often self-serving. Their apologies tend to come with strings attached, typically seeking something in return.

When a narcissist apologizes, sincerity and accountability are almost always absent. They tend to portray themselves as victims, either of circumstances or of others, thereby sidestepping true accountability.

These apologies often lack sincerity and genuine remorse, serving as a tool to manipulate, remove responsibility from themselves, or shift blame elsewhere. There is no empathy for those impacted or intention to change injurious behaviors. Their priority is to preserve their self-image or get credit for the performance of an apology without doing difficult personal work to earn forgiveness.

How do you make a narcissist parent realize they are wrong?

It is tough, if not impossible, to make a narcissist parent realize they are wrong. Instead of exerting futile effort to change them, focus on healing and growing yourself.


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    Leunissen JM, Sedikides C, Wildschut T. Why Narcissists Are Unwilling to Apologize: The Role of Empathy and Guilt. Eur J Pers. Published online July 2017:385-403. doi:10.1002/per.2110
  3. 3.
    Wetzel E, Robins RW. Are parenting practices associated with the development of narcissism? Findings from a longitudinal study of Mexican-origin youth. Journal of Research in Personality. Published online August 2016:84-94. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2016.05.005
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    Dallman MF, Pecoraro NC, la Fleur SE. Chronic stress and comfort foods: self-medication and abdominal obesity☆. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Published online July 2005:275-280. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2004.11.004


    * 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. *