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The Consequences of Narcissistic Parenting

by on July 19, 2020

Ideally, a child is given the freedom to explore and express their individuality so they can develop into a confident and well-balanced adult. This nurturing environment prioritizes the needs of the child over the parent without overindulgence. But this is not the case when one parent is a narcissist.

Most children are unaware of their dysfunctional narcissistic parent as they naturally accept the parent’s false perception of reality. However, when critical thinking kicks in combined with the increased influence of peer relationships around age twelve, things begin to change. A parent with healthy practices views this process as a natural progression of becoming an adult, but a narcissistic parent views the transformation as threatening.

As a result, the narcissistic parent will either withdraw completely or they attempt to control the teen through degradation or humiliation. But this is just the start. When the teen becomes an adult, the years of narcissistic parenting reveal far more devastating consequences. Using the symptoms of a narcissist as the starting point, here are the results of dysfunctional parenting:

  • Grandiosity breeds criticalness. A narcissistic parent (NP) magnifies their accomplishments to the point the child believes they are super-human. The child desperately tries to live up to the image of the NP. However, whenever they manage to come close, the NP raises the bar again to keep it just out of reach of the child. Internally, the child becomes overly critical of their actions, believing they need to be perfect. When they can’t reach perfectionism they shut down entirely and engage in self-harming behaviors.
  • Idealism breeds despair.NPS create their own fantasy world where they are all-powerful, successful, brilliant, or beautiful. Children of narcissists are expected to be physical extensions of the NP. So, if the child is intelligent, the NP takes the credit. When the child achieves a reward, it is as if the NP got it instead. Since no success is solely at the hands of the child, they lose hope that their accomplishments matter. This generates feelings of despair and despondency.
  • Superiority breeds inferiority. For an NP, being average is as bad as below average. Since narcissists believe they are superior and can only associate with other superior people, their children by extension must also be exceptional. This pressure is overwhelming to a child who may realize they are not extraordinary in everything they do. As a result, this unrealistic expectation set by the NP generates feelings of inferiority in the child. “I can never be good enough,” is a common thought of the child.
  • Attention-seeking breeds anxiety. A narcissist needs daily feeding of attention, affection, affirmation, or admiration. When the child is small, they learn that the quickest way to get their needs met is to fill these needs of the NP first. This is behavioral conditioning at its finest. However, anxiety in the child manifests as they constantly try to anticipate and meet the needs of the NP to prevent an emotion explosion or backlash.
  • Entitlement breeds shame. By nature of being a parent, the NP expects the child to go along with whatever the NP wants. The wants or desires of the child are constantly overshadowed or belittled by the NP. This generates feelings of shame in the child as they begin to invalidate their own likes and dislikes in favor of the NP. Consequently, the child becomes a shell believing their uniqueness and individuality are shameful.
  • Selfishness breeds mistrust. In the pursuit of self-preservation, the NP will justify taking advantage of others, including their own children. The child’s self-centered behaviors are met with swift and severe punishment despite the NP’s consistent modeling of the same. The NP abuses their parental role by diverting attention from the NP’s selfishness and instead highlights the deficiencies of the child. This propagates mistrust in the child as they ascertain the NP to be an unsafe and untrustworthy person.
  • Indifference breeds over responsibility. Even when the child is excitedly talking about a new adventure, the NP will tune them out or divert the conversation to make it about the NP. Worse yet, when the child is in pain, either emotional or physical, there is no empathy or understanding. Sadly, the child doesn’t see this as a problem of the NP; rather the child assumes the responsibility that, somehow, they were in the wrong. The result is an internal nagging of needing to take responsibility for the flaws or faults of others.
  • Materialism breeds dissatisfaction. Narcissists use material possessions as a way of elevating themselves over others and controlling behavior. For instance, an NP will use gifting as a way of demanding performance from the child. If the child does what is expected, they get elaborate and expensive gifts. But if the child does not live up to expectations, they might not get a gift at all. The use of material objects in this manner steels the joy of item as the child is in constant fear that the gift will be revoked for lack of performance.
  • Arrogance breeds inauthenticity. While the NP puts on a show of snootiness to everyone outside of the home, those inside, especially children, see the deep-rooted insecurity that lies beneath the façade. However, if the child dares to expose the insecurity, they are swiftly gaslighted as the NP makes the child look crazy. This teaches the child never to reveal their own uncertainties resulting in a lack of genuineness.

Fortunately, these childhood patterns can be reversed through an understanding of narcissism, awareness of false truths, and a more accurate perception of reality. Counseling is extremely beneficial and necessary in exposing and eradicating the lies of narcissistic parenting.

Posted under: Narcissism Parenting Writings from Christine

10 comment on The Consequences of Narcissistic Parenting

  1.  

    Oh my gosh this is amazing and so true what happened in my environment

  2.  

    The more I read and listen from you about an NP is breaking my heart. I am 62 and cannot believe that all the therapy since I was 13 has not highlighted, it was my mother all along. I have a lost life and a cruel mother. But now I can tell my therapist, this is what we were missing a Nacissistic Mother. But, apart from distancing, what do I do now she is now 89. I have to arrange her care and the eventual arrangements??

  3.  

    Very Helpful

  4.  

    Thank you very much Christine for your articles. Since I discovered your articles, it is like a veil was lifted and cleared my confusion. I live with a narcisstic husband and we have a 7 year old boy. For many reasons, I can’t leave my husband now, but I want to know which messages should I transmit to my son about his father conditional love, grandiosity, selfishness and arrogance. My child started to understand and disaprove the sick dance my husband is playing with me, but his words and behaviours still influence my son.

    •  

      I’m so happy to hear it has helped. The less the better, you don’t want to be accused of parental alienation.

  5.  

    Hi Christine,

    This is a great article, thankyou.

    I do have a question about the parental alientation though. I have 2 daughters 10 and 13. They are both completely aware that there is something wrong with their Mother as her narcissistic behavour is completely in your face.

    My approach has been to tell them the truth – I.e. that their Mother has NPD (older daughter) and a personality disorder (younger daughter).

    I.e. that the behavour that they see is well known and can be described by labels – is explainable in some way.

    I feel that this is the only intelligent way to deal with the situation. However does this mean that I could be accused of parental alienation?

    Thanks!

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