When the Narcissist is the Parent.

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I’ve recently written about my experience with a narcissist, and regularly I see the same comments. “What about when the narcissist is a parent?”

As I have researched and studied this subject in depth, I have decided to write about what happens when the narcissist is a parent. I aim to provide guidance and understanding for both someone who has a narcissist parent, and someone who is co-parenting with a narcissist.

Narcissists have many sides and they choose very carefully which side they wish to show depending on how it will benefit them. Therefore, when someone enters into a relationship with a narcissist it can take some time before the narcissist’s true colours are revealed. Sadly, for some, this revelation can come far too late, when commitments such as bringing children into the world may have been entered into.

Not that anyone regrets having children; however, there may be major regrets about choosing to have a child with a narcissist, as they are not only extremely destructive in romantic partnerships, but also capable of causing extensive damage as parents.

On the other side, it may be that the narcissist is the parent of someone who is reading this now, and this can also be terribly painful and extremely difficult to accept. The sad thing is, we often have high expectations for those who are parents. We forget that they are also human beings outside of their role as a parent and that in that role of being human they can have various issues and abusive personality disorders.

We regularly turn a blind eye to the faults of our parents, and instead of looking at their behaviour we turn their words and actions inwards and believe that we must be to blame for however they are acting. It doesn’t matter whether we are a child or a grown up, we can still find it difficult to identify where the parental line starts and where the child’s line ends.

To be sure we do not absorb the negativity and toxicity that a narcissist radiates, it is imperative that we understand more about how and why they behave as they do, and also how the dynamics between the parent and child play out.

The most important thing to remember is that although it may seem as though a narcissist’s actions are cold, callous and intentional, often a narcissist is not operating from a conscious level, and these things are delivered without the narcissist realising the pain and trauma they are causing.

Narcissists are usually deeply wounded and have little clue as to how their behaviour affects and destroys other people. Narcissists may use children to reinforce their low self-esteem.

They not only struggle to have compassion and see how other people’s emotions work, they will also find it impossible to empathise when someone else is hurt and in pain.

The child of a narcissist exists solely to be of benefit to their parent, and the narcissist will see their children as an extension of themselves. They fail to realise that the child has their own emotional requirements and the narcissist will use manipulative methods to prevent the child from expressing these needs.

Narcissists view their children as possessions and often have extremely close, exclusive and possessive relationships with them. The narcissist will have complete control over their child and will feel resentful and jealous if the child wants to break free from their clutches and create a life of their own. A narcissist will put the child down to make them feel inferior and worthless so that they struggle to maintain the level of confidence needed to exist independently.

A narcissist will successfully brainwash their child during the early years and switch from kindness to meanness in a flash, so the child will feel constantly unstable and desperately cling to their parent. For young children, the parent is the main influence in their lives; the child trusts their parent and will not realise until later years, if at all, that their parent’s behaviour was abusive.

The child will often feel fearful to rock the boat with their parent, as at any moment the narcissist can unleash a torrent of aggression and anger on them, and then, within moments appear to be the most loving and caring person possible. If the child behaves and falls into line with what their parent wants, all will go smoothly, so the child keeps themselves firmly aligned with their parent through fear rather than love.

Sadly, that means that the child will grow up to be confused about what love looks like and will view love as something that has conditions placed on it. They know that to receive the narcissist parent’s love they must act accordingly and please the narcissist at all times. The moment they turn away from the narcissist all hell can seem to be breaking loose. No child, even an adult child, wants to constantly be at war with a parent, so most often the easiest thing to do is to work hard to please the parent.

If there is more than one child in the family the narcissist parent will often have a favourite who can do no wrong in their eyes. This creates even more insecurities for the child at whom the resentment is targeted. The child will feel as though they are imagining things, as it seems that everyone else around them, including their sibling, is treated very differently.

Again, the narcissist will pick and choose who sees particular sides of them depending on what it is they have to gain. When the child seeks help or support from others it can be likely that no one else sees what is really going on. The narcissist uses forms of gaslighting to blow up situations and make it look as though the child is at fault. This further affirms to the child that they are completely to blame and deserve everything that happens to them. It can also make the child feel as though they are going crazy, as no one else can identify with what it is they are going through.

The narcissist will likely choose the favourite child depending upon what it is they have to gain. If the child is easy to manipulate and doesn’t question or look closely at any of their behaviours, the narcissists will see them as an ally to their game. It is always handy for a narcissist to have many people on their side, as this ensures their charade is well-hidden and they are not going to be found out for whom they truly are.

A narcissist needs an energy feed, and if they have a child who is sensitive, it is highly likely that child will become the one who suffers the most. The narcissist will draw energy from the drama and the suffering they cause, and the easier a person is to hurt, the more likely a narcissist is to keep the dynamic going.

The dance between the narcissist and child only ends when the child removes their emotional reactions completely and refuses to continue being the victim of their abuser. This is extremely difficult for the child, because of all the people we are connected to, the most difficult one to break free from is a parent—especially when the relationship has been an abusive one.

Most often the child is fully into adulthood and has found some confidence and worked hard to maintain a healthy level of self-esteem before they have the strength to place their parent at a safe distance.

The road to recovery will not be an easy one, however, once we have recognised and have a good understanding of someone’s personality type, it is far easier to offer compassion and forgiveness. It is not easy to accept that this kind of abuse has taken place, but, when we remember that narcissism is a mental health disorder, we can begin to see it as something other than just nasty and vicious behaviour.

Unconditional love for a parent who is a narcissist is not at all easy, though, it is possible if we remove judgment and stop having expectations that will disappoint us every time.

As difficult as it is to see at the time, narcissists are wounded and in pain themselves. Hurt people hurt people. Although this is no excuse and I don’t think for a moment we should allow and accept this type of behaviour to infect our lives, I do think that we should open to the fact that people who are narcissists generally do not set out to deliberately cause trauma.

If they do not reach a level of understanding, it is likely that the child of a narcissist will also develop traits of a narcissist. Deeply wounded, hurt and reeling from all the abuse, they may then repeat the cycle of abuse and do unto others as they have had done to them.

A child who is now living with a narcissist parent or has grown up with one needs to do a tremendous amount of healing work to ensure that they do not either become a narcissist or that they do not attract relationships with narcissists in the future. Unfortunately we often attract that which feels most comfortable. If all we have known is narcissistic “love,” there is a high chance we will attract the illusion of “love” with a narcissist.

To heal from the abuse of a narcissist it is essential to understand that the child is not the one who has been at fault. This will take a long time to fully accept, but the more the child of a narcissist learns about the condition, the better chance they have of understanding that.

Boundaries also need to be put in place to ensure the narcissist parent does not have access to emotions that can easily be triggered. Firm, clear and tough guidelines must be set in place if the relationship is to continue. It is essential to protect other children and grandchildren to prevent them from also being in the line of fire and susceptible to similar abuse.

Independence is key to ensuring that the narcissist will not have the ability to manipulate and control the child’s life. This is not easy when the child is young; however, as an adult child it is imperative to take small steps to build a life free from the narcissist parent.

It is essential to remember that when the child has escaped the clutches they are a survivor and no longer a victim. Regular affirmations to reinforce how far the child has come and how valuable they are as an individual are both extremely important. Therapy and support from others who have gone through similar situations can also help with the recovery process.

If the child is young and is living with the narcissist parent it is beneficial to seek guidance from a mental health organisation to gain advice about the individual situation.

Traits of a narcissist parent:

Lies compulsively to their child
Neglects the child’s needs
Puts the child down and makes them feel insignificant
Acts as though they are always right
Contradicts behaviour constantly by telling the child how special they are
Tries to create a co-dependent relationship
Has to be the centre of attention
Uses manipulation and gaslighting to create drama
Totally self-absorbed, the child is seen as a nuiscance
Uses the child as a tool to gain financial wealth or material goods
Has an excuse or an explanation for everything, never takes responsibility
Rules with an iron fist so the child is in fear
Will criticise constantly but pretend it is for the child’s own benefit
There are no boundaries, the parent feels as though they own complete access to all the child’s private emails, phone calls, relationships etc.
Blames everyone else for everything that happens to them
Tries to gain sympathy by pretending they are emotionally vulnerable
Seems to take great pleasure through causing drama
Image means everything to them so they will not appreciate the child doing anything to disrupt it
Uses emotional blackmail
Extremely jealous and will sabotage their child rather than see them do well
Puts the child on display so that others think they are a great parent
Pushes the child to extreme levels to do well so they can brag to others about how well they have brought them up
Makes the child feel as though they are not good enough



Sleeping with the Enemy.


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Author: Alex Myles

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About Alex Myles

Alex Myles is a qualified yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach and also the author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. The book focuses on managing emotions, energy and relationships, particularly the toxic ones that many empaths are drawn into. Her greatest loves are books, poetry, writing and philosophy. She is a curious, inquisitive, deep thinking, intensely feeling, otherworldly intuitive being who lives for signs, synchronicities and serendipities. Inspired and influenced by Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, Anaïs Nin and Paulo Coelho, she has a deep yearning to discover many of the answers that seem to have been hidden or forgotten in today’s world. Alex's bestselling book, An Empath, is on sale now for only $.99! Connect with her on Facebook and join Alex’s Facebook group for empaths and highly sensitive people.


41 Responses to “When the Narcissist is the Parent.”

  1. Roanna says:

    Very good article. I never realised there was something so “wrong” (although I did leave home to move across the ocean at 19), until I met and started a relationship with my now husband. We started dating 2 weeks before the arrival of my parents for another of their endless month-long stays. I had never met someone who I became closer to than my mother, with whom I had a co-dependent relationshionship. The night my parents left, I had the first of a series of very traumatic dead of night panic attacks that would last about 45 minutes. My relationship with my mother has only gotten worse. I now have a 3 year old daughter. My relationship with my mother is strictly civil. I have virtually no contact with her and I’m able to read very well and quickly the odd things she says and does. Being a mother is incredibly difficult as I think about my own relationship with my mother. She has managed to swindle a 7 week visit this autumn, because I asked them to arrive earlier. That’s how it always goes. A lot of belittling and invading. I’ve thought of going completely no contact, but I don’t think it would resolve fully the issues I have with her and in myself. I’m trying not to become bitter. If I can’t have compassion for all of her hurt, I can have a little today or tomorrow or another day. The use of mediation and yoga have helped me to come much more fully into contact with myself. I never used to know what I preferred, because I was always liking things that she liked to please her or rebeling to try and break away from her. i’ve only now at 34 finally broken completely free from her control. I don’t feel inside of me that there is much she can do to hurt me or control me.

    • Jess says:

      Your mother has managed to swindle a 7-week visit? You may have broken completely free from her control, Roanna, but for your three-year old daughter's sake I hope your mother is staying at a hotel. Protect that child's mental & emotional health the way you deserved to have been protected.

      • Fortunately we don't have the room to have them stay with us, but when I first moved in with my husband I actually had them stay with us. In my head it was normal. I never thought it was odd. I live on the other side of the ocean. Inside of me, I feel like she's not part of my life. I think for the first time I've managed to separate myself enough psychologically to hopefully not fall into the trap again.

  2. Jamie says:

    This article, among many others on elephant, hits me right in the gut, as well as other regions of the body. This was my life for me as a parent of twin daughters. As an empathetic, non-confrontational spouse and father, I and my girls experienced, and will continue to cope with a Narcissist ex and mother. The stranglehold on everyone’s lives is painful even when separated. The gaslighting and manipulation create a constant, almost daily, pall over everyone.

    The effects on a partner requires time away and a support system to regain what was taken. The effects on children are far more perniscious. One of the two most important people are harming them by creating doubt, tension and mixed messages both directly and in the way they deal with the other parent.

    The article mentions co-parenting with a Narcissist. This isn’t possible. The Narcissist, as cited, views the children as possessions and creates an atmosphere of dependency on them alone. The other parent is a nuisance and is dismissed as irrelevant. There are no limits to what a Narcissist will do to establish this as “truth” in the eyes of the children and anyone, teachers, family, friends, etc., that is in their world. They unconsciously believe the world exists for them and thus they are in control of it. The other parent has to accept this is the reality and adjust their expectations and how they cope. The sad result is the worst version of parenting, parallel parenting. Two messages without communication.

    The Narcissist becomes so domineering and uses the push/pull of emotions to develop the clinical version of Stockholm Syndrome in their kids.

    It is one thing to be an objective observer who feels empathy for all. It is a constant feeling of being on a tightrope in a hurricane for those involved.

    • Donia says:

      Great article, and also a great comment, Jamie – especially the last two lines:
      "The Narcissist becomes so domineering and uses the push/pull of emotions to develop the clinical version of Stockholm Syndrome in their kids.
      It is one thing to be an objective observer who feels empathy for all. It is a constant feeling of being on a tightrope in a hurricane for those involved."

      "…on a tightrope in a hurricane…" is a fantastic analogy, and exactly how I felt growing up. I have suffered for 30+ years from Chronic PTSD due to that tightrope/hurricane and the fact that most people are not only fooled by the Narcissist but are also only recently starting to understand/acknowledge the effects that type of abuse has on children.

      • Jamie says:


        Thank you doesn't feel appropriate as a reponse. I appreciate you took something from my comment. I don't know if there are words to offer you. The psychological warfare you endured is unique to your situation, just as mine is. One of the insidious traits of most sociopaths beside their ability to mask their true selves is no two are alike. They seem to be an amalgam of traits of several different disorders. I wish you the best in getting your ship righted. I know from my experience, the bizarre anecdotes, when shared, only further isolate you. I questioned my sanity and my memory until I found someone that shared a similar experience. I hope knowing you aren't alone helps.

    • Beth says:

      I can relate to a lot of what you wrote, Jamie. Thanks for sharing your very personal experience of interacting with a Narcissist. Like you, I would consider myself very empathic/non-confrontational, which I believe Narcissist's are drawn to; perhaps, not consciously, but on an intuitive and/or sub-conscious level. I "attempted" to co-parent with my Ex. (my daughters were 4 and 6 when I left him). As you mentioned co-parenting with a Narcissist is not possible. It's been 13 years since I left and divorced him. I mistakenly believed that once he found someone and remarried, he would improve. Sadly, that's not the case and after much reading and researching I understand why. I can only pray my daughters will find the courage and strength to stand up to him and set defined boundaries as I've had to do (and am still doing). Sending blessings your way.

  3. Michelle says:

    Thank you. While I have felt the sting and been aware of my narcissist father for years it never gets easier to deal with. This article couldn’t have found me at a better time.

    • Cg says:

      I appreciate your additional professional input in response to this article. I couldn’t help but wonder if it is appropriate for non trained therapist to be writing such articles as this one? Albeit one can write an article from research and personal experience,

      I just wonder if it’s safe to be making statments regarding the childs developmental healing process if your not a trained professional? I did like the article, and found it really informative but noticed many absolute statements regarding narcissist behavior their children, spouses and their journey. Anyway thank you for the professional lens and for mentioning that you use the articles written about narcissist for your work as well. Thanks!

  4. Elle says:

    Thank you for your articles on narcissists. As a psychotherapist, I use them with my clients some times to help them come to terms with their experiences with narcissists as partners, parents and friends. I would like to add that the current understanding of narcissism is that it is borne of developmentally damaging experiences and as such is embedded in the neurobiology of the person. That is to say, narcissists have mostly had such traumatic parenting that they have not been able to experience optimal neurobiological development. Due to the lack of safety in the parental relationship, as children they have not developed empathy, 'theory of mind' and other relational capacities. I would therefore agree that it is rarely intentional or conscious, but rather an adaptive survival response to their early conditions, to use people as they do. For this reason, it is very important that people enmeshed with narcissists focus on establishing strong boundaries, in the understanding it is unlikely the narcissist will ever change. Their narcissism is written into their very neural pathways.

  5. Jessica says:

    These articles on narcissists have helped explain a lot about what I’ve been dealing with from my ex for years. Thank you, before this I didn’t know there was a name for what i had encountered. I know i did the right thing leaving and taking our son away from a very unhealthy environment.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank you from the bottom of my broken heart ❤️ For your “spot on” article. I raised 3 children with a narcissistic father, his actions seemed to worsen the minute they became teenagers. Thats when my easy going nature reared it’s self up! I spent from ages 12-20 butting heads with him and his evil ways. I told my children that his approach to his family was NOT NORMAL. I wanted them to know this so they DIDNT BLAME THEMSELVES! Thank god my children are in their mid twenties now and all 3 are AWESOME SOULS dispute the abnormal, constant, unexpected, unwarranted, occasion ruining, manipulate, favoritism, dramatic environment he loved to create for all of us.

      In one of the replys, the woman states that she was an educated, stay at home mom, just as I was. I wasn’t aware that my husband was slowly taking away my identity and wanted to be the puppet master of us all.

      Over the years, I read MANY, MANY books, trying to figure him out. He always TWISTED every issue back to being MY FAULT. Told me I was a bad mom, didn’t set expectations for my children, called his phycodic ways TOUGH LOVE. I sought counciling, sent my children to counciling (because they needed reassurance from an outside party that it wasn’t them). My 27 year old son is still seeing his councilor every now and then, he’s known him for 11 years now.

      Deep down I always knew there was something mentally wrong with my husband, his actions magnified as the kids developed their own opinions in life. He hated that, he wanted to CONTROL. I didn’t understand why a parent wouldn’t encourage independence in his children? His cruel, unwarranted actions towards them are was what opened my eyes.

      I’m embarrassed to say that I’m still living in the same house with him, even though I told him 3 years ago not to talk to me ever again, that I had had enough of the drama!! I feel the damage he has done to me both mentally and verbally for 30 years. I’m a positive, loving person but his negative impact over the years has mentally crippled me. That’s my burden why can’t I leave my home of 34 years and finish my life the way I know I want to. I get mad at myself because my outlook has always been “we can do this”; so what then am I waiting for because this relationship is broken beyond repair.

      Thank you for your article, you have given me tremendous confirmation that my war was justified!

  6. Beth says:

    It was actually my lawyer who brought to my attention that my Ex. exhibited extreme forms of Narcissism. I then did a lot of research and was relieved to finally be able to put a name to what I had lived with for 7 years. At the time my lawyer and I were attempting a mediation with my Ex and his lawyer. His own lawyer had to correct him repeatedly and interject just to allow me to speak. I left him in 2002 and 13 yrs. out he's still relentless in regard to control. He's remarried and so am I, but that doesn't stop him from having letters sent to me via his lawyer every time he flies into town (thank God he lives half way around the world 90% of the time). He will never accept that I took our 2 very young daughters and walked out on him….I was an educated stay-at-home Mom, without an income, so he felt he had control over me due to finances, so that I could never leave. With the love and support of my family, I left with just my daughters and a few suitcases, got back on my feet, secured a great job and NEVER looked back 🙂 They are now 19 and 17 he attempts to control every aspect of their lives. He's done everything from stopping child support for 8+ mos./threatening to stop paying their cell phone bill if they don't pick up the phone when he calls i.e. lets the bill go past 3 mos. to where they're getting messages the service will be disconnected and then he pays it on the very last day. He paints terrible stories about me to them/friends anyone who will listen. He has ensured their student bank accounts are connected to his so he can control how they spend their money; telling them it's for the best as he's teaching them how to force save their earnings from their part-time jobs. Being the dutiful parent for 19yrs. I often take the brunt of the abuse, as they will not ever speak up to him, as the fallout will culminate in rants that could last an hour+…they have only attempted this via the safety of the phone, since they can hang up on him. In person, he's cornered them or not allowed them to leave a room until he's done with his rant; most of which never makes any logical sense. They complain to me constantly about him, but when he's in town for his extended visits, the brainwashing commences and within weeks he's back to Father of the Year again. My current husband and I just want peace for us (and for my daughters). There are times when it seems as if it's getting worse instead of better…never in a million years did I think I'd still be contending with his narcissistic ways 13years after leaving him. I'm an empath and it seems more vulnerable to people such as my Ex. I am now a master at picking a narcissist out of a crowd and do my best to keep moving past them 🙂

  7. April says:

    Hi there! Just wanted to say Thank You for writing this article. I have been looking for a support group for parents who are dealing (co-parenting) w/a toxic narrissist ex. I havent had much luck, even considered starting my own support group of such. My ex has made my 2 boys feel as if they are meant to go live w/their father, and thats how it is supposed to be. They are now 14 & 19 and wont do anything to go against what Dad says. I am pretty open with expressing my feelings and at one point, asked them what I should do as their mother. They told me to just let it be, not to start trouble. And because of their input, I felt that if I were to call the police everytime he wouldnt bring them to me, and get several police reports to take to court, that my boys would turn against me, thinking Im the one starting trouble. So, I pray. And try everyday to reach out to them. Invite them everywhere I go, ask if they need anything, ect. One of the hardest things I have ever gone through… Thanks for listening 🙂

  8. Eva says:

    While your article was written with the best of intentions, as you stated this isn’t something you’ve experienced first hand. As a child of a mother who is a Narcissist; one of the most taboo topics ( since society views all mothers as inherently good/loving) I would have to say some of your article was accurate, however the themes of “they are human and therefore don’t know what they’re doing” Really? how could you “advise” readers of a situation you’ve personally never dealt with personally, to basically not hold a parent- someone who is suppose to know and love the child unconditionally- responsible for their actions? Yet just waving it off as well, they’re humans they make mistakes. Of course they make mistakes! but at the price of continually eroding the self esteem of an innocent child? and lots not get into the psychological abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse that is accompanied along with it. Why should I have to continually give my “mother” chance after chance as an adult to correct her actions, in which she doesn’t. Here’s the reason, because they don’t want to! If someone can’t self evaluate as to why their own child could loathe them, only to continually re-direct and point fingers, after a while it’s a matter of them not wanting to, not because they don’t know. Please. If it was possible, I would gladly let you see through my eyes and experience what I’ve endured, and then you can decided if its something that can be looked over. What I’ve gone through has made me stronger, especially since I’ve had to go it alone ( no siblings/other family members in my life) It’s been one of the worst hells I could imagine.

    • AlexsMyles says:

      Hi Eva, Thank you for reading this and for your comment. I have done intensive research into this subject and the studies to date state that a true diagnosed narcissist seems to be unaware of the damage that they are causing – this is what differentiates a narcissist from someone who is just cruel, mean or nasty. Narcissism is a mental health disorder, it is not just behaviour with the sole intention of destroying someone. This isn't to put light on any of their actions, it is just that when we talk about a narcissist and follow the DSM's that are outlined that make up the characteristics and traits of a narcissist the research finds that they do not have empathy and therefore have no idea of the pain and destruction they are causing.

    • Lea says:

      I have to agree with Eva. My first thought was extensive research or not – if you haven't experienced it firsthand, how can you ever understand the dynamics and the pain. I am a psychologist, I understand the DSM criteria, but it says nothing about the lived experience of being the child of a narcissistic mother.
      While I agree with much of the article, to say that the narcissist doesn't understand that what they're doing is wrong is inaccurate at best. If this is true, why then do they do most of their abuse behind closed doors, why are they pure sunshine in front of others? Because they know what they're doing is wrong.
      It is not a child's job to have compassion and empathy for an abusive parent. My mother made a choice to let her only child go rather than face her demons. I've faced mine, the ones she left me with. Like Eva, I also went through it alone. Now I have no family members at all thanks to her lies and gaslighting.
      To this day she still tells people I cut her out of my life and she's devastated – the truth, which she knows and I know – is that she got rid of me as soon as she could. She clearly has no intention of ever seeing me again. She obviously knows this is not normal so she lies about it. Again.
      There is no mental health professional who can help because narcissists don't believe there is a problem. I am sick of their victims being expected to be the bigger person.

      • Lilia says:

        "I am sick of their victims being expected to be the bigger person." This!!!

        Victims of narcissists, already suffering from doubt and low self-esteem are re-victimized by these expectations.

    • Courtney says:

      Not to be snarky, but is the research that they don’t think they do it on purpose based on the narcissist being asked? The description of their mindset and behavior is clearly indicative of a incredibly biased view, and as stated, they won’t take responsibility. My mother is a narcissist, and the traits listed above may as well be her resume as a human being. The worst part of knowing who she is is not knowing who she was when I was a child. I knew she said and did terrible things to everyone in her life, but I could never connect the behavior with a narcissist. I have learned terrible things since leaving home that I’ve made it clear to my dad and my oldest sister that I can’t know any more about my mom if they want me to even be on speaking terms with her. She led me in to a very elaborate string of lies and manipulations shortly after I became a mother. Finding out she was so difinitively terrible was enough to not see or speak to her for a year. Let me tell you, it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I protected myself, my new husband, my new baby from her and that space and ability to let in as much of her as I wanted to was life changing. Having a narcissist as a mother is incredibly drawing and discouraging, but I’m happy to have our relationship handled so my family has a good chance at being a healthy one. I won’t ever let her be a crucial part of our lives and I’m proud to say that I stick up for myself and my family and not allow her in simply on birth right. Making the choice to disconnect from a toxic parent is a hard one, but in my case, it has made all the difference.

  9. Michael says:

    Well done!! This is an excellent article and in my opinion is spot on relative to its core message. In the interest of self-disclosure, I do not have formal training, but as a divorced parent with an ex that is a narcissistic parent (NP), I have invested much time seeking professional help in trying to understand how I can help minimize the damage to my kids.

    The only thing I take exception is that I do not fully agree with the list of traits at the bottom. Not every narcissistic parent (NP) exhibits every one of these and may have others not on the list depending on the type of "narcissistic supply" the NP feels they need. The one principle that does universally apply, is that the NP is "needs reversed." Instead of providing what the child needs, they use their children to get what they feel they need. They also tend to confuse their wants as needs which can make the NP relentless in their pursuit of extracting what they want from their kids. For example, deep down my ex does not feel she is a good parent, so in a twisted way she does everything in her power to make it appear that she is the perfect parent. This includes bribing the kids with whatever they want so they don't misbehave in front of other people, especially when she wants to put them on display to make herself look good.

    As the co-parent with a NP, the only things I feel I can do is to have my kids in my care for every moment I can so I can provide my kids a safe-harbor from the storm. That harbor consists of consistent minimum-critical boundaries and an environment focused on learning (not control) so that my kids can grow into autonomous adults. The other thing that I feel is critical is to establish clear boundaries with your ex and reinforce them religiously, even though your ex will use every trick in the book to manipulate you to do something different.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I wish you were in my circle! Not many people understand the poison. I am going through the same thing as a mom trying to raise a boy who is self aware, assure, socially aware and autonomous. Every situation or issue like him forgetting to pick up our son gets completely turned around to be my fault or a story is always made about something I did. My words are no longer my words either. I have been the primary parent for his first 6 years and aim to continue. With the court actions and preventing me from getting any finances out of the house, etc, it is a really tough go. I never talk to him in person or on the phone. He makes up BS that I never even said.

  10. Karen says:

    My ex is a narcissist and manipulated our daughter to move in with him when she was 13. Our relationship has been rocky ever since. Right now she isn’t speaking to me. (She’s 18 now). I’m so afraid I’m never going to hear from her again. I haven’t been the perfect parent either. Ive dealt with major depression off and on. I just worry about all the psychological damage we’ve done to her and will she come out of this ok? I’ve been in counseling for many, many years and am improving but my ex is still the same. I want so badly to rekindle the relationship between my daughter and I. What do you think the chances are and if you have any advice for me, I’d gladly take it!


    • Jane Fate says:

      He most certainly knows your relationship with your daughter is your vulnerable spot to attack. You are very brave to own up to your own shortcomings and work on being a better, more emotionally healthy individual and mother. Your daughter unfortunately is living in the lion's den. He is close and has her in a situation that is easy for him to manipulate and control. She is probably compliant with him because he has learned to use guilt and fear to control her emotionally and she most likely feels a strong "sense of duty", put upon her by him of course to stay. Do not doubt yourself. Be strong for you and your daughter. try to help her distance herself from him in healthy ways so she can gain a perspective of her own..perhaps away to college or a trip? Do not try to sway her opinion of him in any way. This will only backfire on you and send her running towards him and defending him. Hopefully, with your love, strength and support she will find her independence and with time and hopefully some healthy distance realize the situation for what it is, toxic, unhealthy and abusive.

    • Dj Ballard says:

      Hi Karen, I have had the same exact thing happen with my child. My therapist suggested to Always remain positive with my child, NEVER speak of dad in a negative way, and constantly remind your child how much your love them. Love flows down hill…you are the parent…she is a child. I have Wonderful relationships with all 3 of my children.

  11. Nunya says:

    Hah. You described my mother in law with almost every point on that checklist. That’s why I despise being around her. I wish I could remove her presence from my life completely but I can’t force my husband to walk away from her. If MY mom treated me or my husband the same way, I wouldn’t associate with her again until she had gotten all of the crazy out of her system. Unfortunately, because I’m pretty sure my MIL has histrionic or narcissistic personality disorder, the crazy will never get out of her system (so to speak), and I just have to avoid her as much as possible and grin and bear it when I do have to be around her.

  12. Sandy says:

    Oh my gosh, welcome to my life!!! It’s taken me years to heal from this. At 45, I finally have the right boundaries set up and we’re in a comfortable place and at a comfortable distance. I’ve had to be brutally firm for about 20 years now, but I have my mother “trained”. If she oversteps the boundaries, she doesn’t hear from me at all. That’s too hard for her to handle, so she plays along. Our relationship is good now, and we both benefit from the intellectual and creative sharing that a mother and daughter should have. It can be done, maybe not for everyone, but I’m living proof that it works for some.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I could only read your article about half-way and had to stop because it was making me physically and psychologically sick. Why do you tell abused scapegoats like myself to sympathize with our abusers and that they’re not conscious of what they’re doing? They are VERY conscious of what they’re dong – because if they weren’t, they would abuse the GC on occasion and behave sympathetically towards the scapegoat on occasion. In short, they would be abusing everyone around them indiscriminately. But this does not happen. Since they are very careful regarding whom they abuse, this shows that they’re CONSCIOUS. They just enjoy being evil because it gives them a high. They could just as well choose not to be evil. And btw, I’m not going around abusing others the way my narcissistic parents abused me all of my life. Why? Because I have a choice. The sympathy should go out to the scapegoats – not their narcissistic parents.

    • Jane Fate says:

      I agree with you. They are fully conscious and aware of their behavior because I've seen them change their manipulation technique very quickly and consciously when it does not produce the desired result. I've seen tears dry up in seconds and turn to forced laughter. Anger and threats morph quickly into monetary bribes or even begging. This is NOT the work of the unconscious mind. This behavior is carefully contrived and kept hidden from the ones NOT being abused. They have to be fully aware just to keep up with their lies alone. In fact I've noticed that when they do let their guard down and act with their subconscious mind rather than their cold calculating manipulative plotting mind they generally slip up and you can catch them in a lie or two. However, don't attempt to direct their attention to their slip up because you will just zap them back to reality and they put their "act" back on. Being a control freak manipulator 24/7 requires a lot of planning, forethought and work. They will slip here and there but kid yourself NOT, they are acutely conscious of their actions and words and the affect it has on others. Everything they say and do is to produce a desired response from the target of their abuse and control so there is no possible way they cannot be cognizant of their behavior.

  14. Madeleine leidy says:

    This ment alot, I had no idea, I try to explain to people cause I know I need help, when I read this, I’m completely tearing, at times I felt this exact thing has destroyed me, and I don’t know how to stop it, thank you so much,

  15. Ame says:

    Hi everyone.

    I am currently living with a narcissistic mother. I know she is narcissistic. She is everything that has been described here and much more. She has been physically and emotionally abusive. t was hardest during my teen years (I am 17 now) when she would put me down in public like making me kneel down in a public place and beg for forgiveness or slap me or say the most hurtful things to me. When I would start crying she would say I am embarrassing her. The result of this is that I have stopped feeling almost all emotions. People describe me as stoic and coldhearted. I think this is because she has made me suppress all my emotions since childhood. Then the constant threats of not funding my education if I disobey her or leave her. Another thing which she always does is play the victim card. She had an abusive father and her relationship with my dad’s family was a rocky one. So she always, without fail plays this card to gain sympathy. I want to move out but at the same time I am afraid to. She is so emotionally dependent on me. She alternates between being very abusive to being very loving. I am scared to leave her. And I feel like I owe her something. She has struggled to raise me although we had the money it was nevertheless a struggle. I feel guilty when I even think of leaving her. But I really cannot take this emotional abuse anymore. It has left me with rock bottom self esteem, social anxiety , fear of everything under the sun (because I am afraid she would be displeased if I do something wrong).I feel personally responsible for her. I am not ungrateful to her for giving me the comfortable life I have now. But I have realized that because of her ways I am so emotionally damaged I am unable to function properly in society. The only way to save any remaining emotional sanity is by moving away from her. I am at a dilemma now. If I remain wit her she will fund my education provided I major in what she wants me to study. If I leave obviously I am entirely on my own, with no way to support myself. What do I do?

    • Judy says:

      Do you have relatives or friends you could live with while you are getting your feet on the ground – finding a job, going to school part time and majoring in what YOU want. Even if you have no one you could live with, just leave – go to another city, find a cheap apartment, get a job. Spend your time watching people so that you do not get involved with another narcissist. Take friendships VERY slowly. What you owe your mother is you becoming the best person YOU want to become. She won't see it that way, but that's it – period. She is an adult, she will find ways to manage on her own. You have to set physical and emotional boundaries with her. When she plays on your emotions or you feel guilty, say over and over to yourself – "I was not put on this earth to try to change or take care of my mother. I deserve to live my own life the way I want to live it. She will find a way to go on. I am not responsible for her well-being." All of those are true statements and is the way other relationships function. When you set and consistently maintain boundaries with her, you will begin to be able to function in society. Do it now while you are young. Get away from her, set boundaries, and know you are not responsible for her physically or emotionally. She will survive. You can do this!

    • Jane Fate says:

      Leave. The guilt you feel is not guilt. It's manipulation. She struggled to raise you? So you have to be a martyr? I don't think so. She is a mother , she was doing her duty. Are you seriously going to blame yourself for her having given birth to you and than emotionally harming you to the point you are too mentally crippled and paralyzed to leave. You will never be happy if you choose her. You owe her nothing. A proper parent wants their child to be independent and thrive and have happiness and success. If you know now, which you obviously do, that this situation is wrong, feels wrong and hurts you, you must not try to convince yourself she is in the right. Please, be happy. If I knew at your age what I am now only coming to fully realize at 42 I would run and never look back. I would choose me because the hurt only gets worse, they get worse.

    • Jessica says:

      Leave. It will be the best thing you will ever do for yourself. I was in a very similar situation with my mother. With the help of a therapist, I gained the self-confidence to leave. I'm not ashamed to admit that I stayed as long as I did for the money – I was SO scared of being on my own. You take a crappy job, get loans for school and work hard. It is WORTH IT. You only get one life, do you want to spend it there? Do you want someone else to choose your major? You will be so disappointed. You can do this. It's amazing on the other side! It's a process to get there, but SO great to be yourself!!!! You can do it. I know you can. You know you can. You've got this. Lots of colleges have free therapists, too. There's help out there, there are people who will help you. Hugs.

  16. Been there! says:

    Oh, boy do I know how this is. 🙁 My ex has said (behind closed doors) that his son was a punishment from God and then turned around pretending to be father of the year on the internet. I have no doubt that he is an NP. He tries to blame me for everything, never apologizes, and generally overreacts to even my slightest mistakes (being a few minutes late, etc.). He was so mad at my son for being a mouthy teenager that he uninvited from his 3rd wedding. Who does that? Yet, he is never wrong. He has never tried to help discipline him. There have been many, many weekends he “switched” or did not insist on getting him. He’s given up a lot of visitation time, but you bet he posted all about it for the world to see when he did finally do what he should.

    Then…… our son got sick with cancer. Oh, how he wanted the world to think he was a good father and receive some sympathy. even though he had seen him like twice in a year’s time. Nightmare!

  17. FRA says:

    Anyone there with a narcisist father who can give some advice? I dont know how to deal with mine. He is just continuously pushing me away with his attitudes and I completely pity my mother who tolerates him 24/7

    • Judy says:

      Don't put yourself in positions where he can push you away. It sounds like you are still hoping he will change and finally love and accept you in the way we each deserve from our parents. Coming to terms with the fact that this will never happen is the most difficult part of this process. It's a grief process. Stop hoping and grieve what is and will always be. Then you can move forward with setting physical and emotional boundaries. Your mother has chosen to stay with him. If you wish, find ways to cultivate a relationship with her without your father around. Call her. Take her out to eat. You'll think of other ways.

  18. Denise says:

    Hi FRA
    I don't have a narcissist father, but a narcissist mother, and a father who endured her reign of terror for 46 years before he died. My Dad was kind, patient, warm. Everything my Mother wasn't, and so we all kind of clung to him for strength and love growing up.
    The fact is though, as hard as it is to come to terms with, that my Dad also out us in a daily position of vitriol and abuse. So while your Mother tolerates him, she is a grown woman and your parent, and thus, depending on your age, may be trying to protect you from him. It is more important that you find a way to protect yourself first, and then worry about your Mother. You need to get away from him, get therapy and then figure out how to have a relationship with your Mother. Remember, you are or were, the child in this relationship, and your Mother wasn't. She has stayed with your Dad for reasons you may never understand, but that is not something you need to know now, if at all. First, get yourself help, then worry about your Mother. Reserve the pity for you. You were and are the abused.

  19. Nicole says:

    Thank you!!! I am so thankful that you wrote this. I am blessed that a friend shared it with me or I wouldn’t have learned so much from your writing. I am an adult co-paren’t of a narcissist. I hope you realize how helpful this has been for me. I learned about this narcissism and boundaries just before our divorce. My children and I lived many years with this, not even aware of what was wrong in our family. Most of the things you said about the child was the way I was treated. I was the one this emotional trauma and manipulation was aimed at and affected most. Although I have always been mindful of the affect on our children and tried to counter it with uncondional love, acceptance, validation and tried to help them with a good sense of self-esteem. As I myself saw a destructive behavior pattern …I wanted to protect my children but, was fearful myself to leave this situation, knowing the backlash would be extremely abusive! I didn’t even realize it was abuse until reading several articles that explained abuse was more than just physical. I have 2 younger children that this will be very important to share with because of the affect of divorce on them as well. Again I thank you for your very valuable information.

  20. Sonia says:

    Hi all. this is a great article. I would say I have highly Narcissistic Mother. I have been subjected to a lot of abuse, I had a gem of a father – who also suffered the wrath of my mother. My older brother – had a breakdown at 21 and slowly dissapppeared into a world of sever mental illness. I was a support to him, as my mother couldn’t really accept it. Then my father developed Parkinson’s – I had left home, and I moved back to be with him – and care for him, as my mother was incapable of providing any emotional support to him. I have an older sister – who is totally manipulated by my mother and sides with her all the time. I will say – that, all you dear people who have suffered from the actions of Narcissistic people – and especially mothers, must remember that you are more than just the son/daughter/partner of someone who is a Narcissist. That s the only way I got though it all – and even get through it now. What ever I do – I do for goodness sake, not to please her, not to rescue myself… because I am more than how she choses to define me. I am just coming to terms with losing my dad – its been three years. I am making plans to move on again – even though my mother has a plan to disinherit me! I do know – that absolutely no-one can take away your inner goodness and strength. Believe in You – the best piece of advice I ever got was ‘ don’t be messured by what has been done to you’. Peace to all – shine on!

  21. Rhonda Anderson says:

    Narcissists do, in fact LOVE the drama, and they are well aware of the hurt they cause! There is really nothing to 'understand' about these monsters. They are filled with hate, and strive to destroy their scapegoat. They also destroy the golden child. There is only one way to deal with a narcissist, and that is to completely remove them from your life!

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