What is a narcissistic parent
A narcissistic parent is a self-centered and self-absorbed parent who has an inflated self-image and thinks that 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).
9 Narcissistic Parent traits
Narcissists tend to have the following types of 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 matter2.
It is common for narcissistic 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 question3. 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 in order 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 them4.
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 blame others all the time for their mistakes5.
Often, people who feel superior think others are less deserving6. They make frequent condescending remarks about others and criticize their choices or actions. This includes their own children. Narcissistic parents constantly put down their children and nothing they do is good enough for them.
They are often jealous and envious of others and believe that everyone else is envious of them. In order to prove their superiority over others, they tend to surround themselves with people who achieve less and will agree with them 7.
They are emotionally immature parents. A threat to their positive self-image causes them to become emotionally dysregulated and react to criticism with extreme rage8. Whenever they don’t get what they want, they can explode into anger, shaming, guilting, and accusing everyone.
In order to be the center of attention, they are always roasting or bragging about their accomplishments9. 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 themselves10. 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 parents
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 narcissistic parents.
1. Low self-esteem
After being told toxic things like “you are worthless” your whole life, a child under influence of narcissistic parenting can feel incompetent and have low self-esteem11. 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 the child 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 that 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. Now, 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 yourself, maintain boundaries, or stand up for yourself.
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 the chance in adulthood, you may have a hard time making your own decisions.
9. Self-defeating thoughts
Your emotions and behavior may still be affected by your parent’s negative messages. 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 seem to cherish their families so deeply and find happiness in life.
Also See: Toxic Mother and How To Deal With Her
How to heal from narcissistic parents
It has been a difficult journey, and now’s the time to take the first step to heal from this childhood trauma.
An important step in healing is to recognize 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 a good thing 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.
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 who have had common experiences. Create a support network that can help you adopt self-supporting/coping behavior and get through tough times.
Exercise and meditation
Meditation and exercise can help lift your mood12 and strengthen your immune system13, which has been weakened by high levels of stress through the years.
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 a difficult thing 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.
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