Good parenting necessitates empathy, compassion, and the willingness to delegate some of your needs — in other words, many of the characteristics that a narcissist lacks.
Triangulating or playing favorites is how narcissistic parents keep their power. They may have a golden child whom they lavishly compliment while disparaging another child in the family. This can make children feel uneasy, betrayed, and psychologically unsafe.
However, the effects of narcissism in family relationships have been observed to be on the rise, with many narcissistic traits, such as grandiosity, superiority, and entitlement, on the rise.
Narcissistic parenting does not entail boasting on social media or putting your children through rigorous extracurricular activities. It goes much deeper, and it is one of the most toxic ways to raise children. Narcissistic parents struggle to allow their children to develop as individuals or to meet their own needs.
Narcissistic parents frequently abuse their children emotionally, holding them to impossible and constantly changing expectations. Those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder are highly sensitive and defensive, with little self-awareness or empathy for others, including their children.
A pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behaviour, a lack of empathy and consideration for others, and an excessive need for admiration characterizes narcissistic personality disorder. Others frequently describe NPD sufferers as arrogant, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.
A narcissistic mother cannot unconditionally love her child. She cannot be selfless, devoted, warm, mature, or attentive to you. Instead, everything revolves around her. Her unrealistic, immature needs dominate her life.
You may be aware of a narcissistic parent but are unaware of it. Here are some common warning signs:
- They look to their child for validation.
When their children score the winning goal or get the lead role in the school play, narcissists frequently brag about them. You might notice them constantly bragging about their child’s beauty or talent online or in conversation.
The parent is checked out, detached, and disinterested in their child unless something involves their child’s achievements. They typically shame their child’s need for connection or validation, instead viewing them as a tool to meet those needs for themselves.
- They are emotionally reactive, but they are ashamed of their child’s emotions.
When they are disappointed or frustrated, narcissists frequently become angry and aggressive. They may lash out if they believe their child is being critical or defiant. These reactions can take the form of screaming, outbursts of rage, or, in more severe cases, physical violence.
Meanwhile, other people’s emotions can make narcissistic people uncomfortable, and they may dislike them. They may shame their child into not sharing their emotions by saying things like, “Get over it, it wasn’t that big of a deal,” or “Stop crying and toughen up.”
- They always prioritize their own needs.
Adults must sometimes prioritize real-world issues, such as working a late shift or doing chores for an entire afternoon. However, narcissistic parents expect their children to make sacrifices in order for them to do or have whatever they desire.
For example, if a parent enjoys shopping, their children must do so every weekend.
Or, if the parent has a regular get-together with friends, the parent will never miss it, even for something as important as a graduation ceremony.
- They have ineffective boundaries.
Parents who are narcissistic can be quite intrusive. They will not interact with the child if they do not feel like it. When they want their child to validate them, they may believe they can interrupt and ask them to do whatever they want.
They may also ask probing questions or be critical of their child in an intrusive manner, such as commenting on weight, appearance, or other characteristics that make the child feel self-conscious.
- They have favorites.
Triangulating or playing favorites is how narcissistic parents keep their power. They may have a golden child whom they lavishly compliment while disparaging another child in the family.
This can make children feel uneasy, betrayed, and psychologically unsafe. They may believe that in order to avoid the narcissistic parent’s wrath and maintain good standing in the family unit, they must agree with or impress them.
- They shift responsibility to their children.
Because narcissists need to feel perfect, they avoid taking responsibility for their own mistakes and instead blame their children. When they are criticized, they can be cruel, and their comments often sting.
“It’s your fault I’m so tired,” or “I could have had a great career if I didn’t have to deal with you,” are common refrains from narcissistic parents.
Children of narcissistic parents internalize these comments over time and begin to blame themselves, believing that “when I have needs, I make everyone else feel or perform worse.”
- They anticipate that the child will be the caregiver.
A narcissistic parent’s message to their child at a young age is that they must take care of them. This frequently continues into adulthood, where the narcissistic parent can be extremely manipulative. “I fed and clothed you, so now you owe me,” for example. Many narcissists expect their children to care for them later in life.
A narcissistic parent will frequently abuse the traditional parental role of guiding their children and being the primary decision maker in their child’s life, becoming overly possessive and controlling. The child is disempowered as a result of the parent’s possessiveness and excessive control; the child is simply an extension of the parent.
A narcissistic mother may feel entitled or self-important, seek admiration from others, believe she is superior to others, lack empathy, exploit her children, put others down, be hypersensitive to criticism, believe she deserves special treatment, and, most importantly, be oblivious to the harm she is causing.
Let’s look at the five types of narcissism:
Overt Narcissism (Open Narcissism).
Overt narcissism is also known by the term’s grandiose narcissism and agentic narcissism. Most people associate a narcissistic personality with this type of narcissism.
Someone with overt narcissism may appear to be:
- Exaggerating one’s self-image.
- Requiring praise and admiration.
- Empathy is lacking.
Overt narcissists are more likely to feel good about themselves and are less likely to experience unpleasant emotions such as sadness, worry, or loneliness. Overt narcissists may also overestimate their own abilities and intelligence.
Covert Narcissism (Narcissism in the shadows).
Covert narcissism, also known as vulnerable narcissism and closet narcissism, is the polar opposite of overt narcissism. While many people associate narcissism with being loud and domineering, people with covert narcissism do not fit this mould.
Instead, some common characteristics of someone with covert narcissism are:
- Low self-esteem expressions.
- Anxiety, depression, and shame are more likely to occur.
- Insecurity or a lack of confidence.
- A proclivity to feel or play the victim.
While someone with covert narcissism is still very self-centered, this is likely to clash with a deep fear or sense of not being enough. Someone with covert narcissism is likely to find it difficult to accept criticism. However, unlike someone with overt narcissism, someone with covert narcissism may internalize or interpret criticism more harshly than intended.
Covert and overt narcissism are not always mutually exclusive categories. In other words, someone with overt narcissism may experience a period in which they exhibit more signs of covert narcissism.
Antagonistic Narcissism (Narcissism that is antagonistic).
Overt narcissism is a subtype of antagonistic narcissism. The emphasis in this aspect of narcissism is on rivalry and competition. The following are some characteristics of antagonistic narcissism:
- A proclivity to take advantage of others.
- The proclivity to compete with others.
- Disagreeability or a proclivity to argue.
Those who suffer from antagonistic narcissism are less likely to forgive others than those who suffer from other types of narcissism. People with antagonistic narcissism may have less trust in others.
Communal Narcissism (Narcissism in the community).
Communal narcissism is a type of overt narcissism that is often seen as the polar opposite of antagonistic narcissism. Someone suffering from communal narcissism values fairness and may consider themselves to be altruistic, but there is a disconnect between these beliefs and the person’s behaviour. People who suffer from communal narcissism may:
- Become easily offended morally.
- They describe themselves as compassionate and generous.
- React strongly to things they perceive to be unfair.
The key difference is that people with communal narcissism place a high value on social power and self-importance. For example, while communal narcissism may cause you to claim (and believe) that you have a strong moral code or care for others, you may be unaware that the way you treat others contradicts your beliefs.
Malignant Narcissism (Narcissism that is cancerous).
There are different levels of severity for narcissism, with malignant narcissism being the most severe. It can also aggravate the person who is living with it. Malignant narcissism is more closely associated with overt narcissism than with covert narcissism. Many common narcissistic traits, such as a strong need for praise and to be elevated above others, may be present in someone with malignant narcissism. However, malignant narcissism can also manifest as:
- Sadism, or taking pleasure in the suffering of others.
- When interacting with others, aggression is displayed.
- Paranoia, or excessive concern about potential threats.
Malignant narcissism may share some characteristics with antisocial personality disorder. This means that someone with malignant narcissism is more likely to get into legal trouble or develop a substance use disorder. Those suffering from malignant narcissism have a more difficult time reducing anxiety and improving their ability to function in daily life. When it comes to treatment, narcissism can be difficult because many people who suffer from it do not feel the need to change.
Change your narcissistic parenting tendencies.
Don’t be concerned if you recognize yourself in any of the traits listed above. We are all involved in our own lives to some extent. There are, however, several strategies you can employ to alter your mindset and habits. First and foremost, do not deceive your child. Don’t say, “That’s not the case,” if they say, “You’re always angry at me.” This will only add to their confusion. Instead, express empathy to the child: “I am so sorry. Do you want to discuss it? “How are you doing?”
Another strategy is to avoid being forced to forgive. Forced forgiveness benefits the parent by covering up their bad behaviour, but it only fosters self-blame and confusion in the child. Allow the child to have their own experience.
Finally, think about going to therapy; it’s one of the best places to examine your parenting attitudes and tendencies.